The stuff of my wife’s childhood is alive and well in the hands of our children, and I’m so jealous.

I tease my wife’s parents for their inability to throw anything away. Their basement is filled with artifacts from decades long since gone. 

And while it’s true that they are a little obsessive when it comes to saving things, I’m also envious of the results.

My children love to go to their grandparents’ house and play with the questionably safe toys from my wife’s childhood. I can’t imagine how it must feel for my wife to be able to watch her kids play with some of her favorite toys from her youth.

A baby blanket from her childhood recently made its way into our home, and even though it’s a simple, pink blanket, our kids love it. When my daughter isn’t snuggling with it, our son is using it to play peek-a-boo.

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The idea that my children are playing with a blanket that my wife once slept under as a child in unfathomable to me.

The only thing I own from my pre-adult life is a stuffed dog resembling Snoopy that I was given on the day I was born. It’s wearing a shirt that I stole from one of my sister’s dolls.

It’s ancient, fragile, and can no longer be played with. It sits atop a dresser in our bedroom alongside a teddy bear that my wife was given as a baby.

The stuffed dog is all I’ve got. The combination of an unexpected divorce, sudden financial ruin, an evil stepfather, the foreclosure of the family home, and a general lack of sentimentality in my parents have left me without treasures from my childhood.

Instead, I watch my children play with my wife’s childhood treasures and try to imagine how that must feel for both her and them.

Toys don't mean as much when you're not allowed to play indoors.

My siblings and I did not take good care of our toys.

We did not keep track of pieces. We were never careful with fragile parts. We smashed and crashed and broke our toys at every turn.

We would throw our toys out of our second floor bedroom window onto the driveway just to see what would happen. We would tie rope to action figures and drag them along the road as our mother drove down the highway.

Considering that we had very little growing up, this has always surprised me. I’ve often wondered why we didn’t take better care of the little we had.


I watch the way that my wife takes care of our children’s toys today, trying to keep every piece of every train set and Lego set together and repairing toys when they break, and it makes me wonder about my childhood even more.  

It has baffled me. Why were children with so little so careless?

Then I had a thought.

As children, we played outdoors at every moment possible. We were sent outside after breakfast and invited back inside only for lunch and dinner. We were sent out in the rain and the snow. Only extreme weather kept us indoors.

We has few restrictions on where we could go, so the world was our playground. We had fields and orchards to sprint across, trees to climb, forests to explore and ponds and rivers and streams to splash through. We had a barn in our backyard that we used as a clubhouse, a poorly maintained pool for swimming and bicycles that could take us anywhere.

We never had time for toys. When you are required to play outside all the time, toys quickly lose their meaning. Action figures, stuffed animals, board games, and Matchbox cars are nothing compared to a fishing pole, a bicycle, a length of rope, a baseball glove and acres of unsupervised forest and field.

Perhaps we didn’t take great care for our toys because we never had time to play with them the way my wife did as a child and my children do today. We were so rarely inside our home that we never even saw most of our toys on a daily basis.

Maybe we threw toys out of our bedroom windows in the same way that our parents tossed us out of the house everyday.

This makes sense to me. It feels right. I think I’ve found an answer.

Sentimentality has its benefits.

I’m not a sentimental person when it comes to physical objects. I rarely attach meaning to things, even when given to me for specific reasons and by specific people.

Truthfully, I rarely recall how or where I acquired a possession. While my four year-old daughter can often tell me the origin of  each of her toys and much of her clothing, I can’t come close to doing so with almost everything I own. I often can’t recall if I purchased an item or it was given to me as a gift.

My wife could not be more dissimilar to me in this regard. She comes from a home where nothing was ever thrown away, which I would find mind-numbing, except that she can now watch our children play with toys that she adored as a child. My daughter loves playing with those toys, and presumably my son will, too.

I can’t begin to imagine what that must feel like.

To be able to give your daughter your favorite childhood stuffed animal when her tummy is upset, as she did recently, must be amazing.

I think there is a lot of benefits to avoiding attaching meaning to physical objects. The ability to dispose of items that have ceased to have value in your life is liberating. I’m convinced that my ability to eliminate clutter from my life makes me more efficient. I’m also rarely upset when one of my possession is damaged or destroyed.

But all of this may pale in comparison to a moment like this, when your daughter is cuddling with the same teddy bear that you cuddled with as a child. 


The Wizard of Oz versus Star Wars

Late last week I “stirred up a hornet’s nest” by writing a piece arguing that the reason Hasbro markets Easy Bake Ovens solely to girls is because the vast majority of children who want an Easy Bake Oven are girls, and the company has no obligation to the minority of boys who might want one.

This was not a chicken-or-egg debate over why more girls prefer the Easy Bake Oven than boys (though some wanted to make it one). I was simply arguing the logic behind Hasbro’s decision from a business perspective.  

But the chicken-or-egg debate is an interesting one as well, and one worth discussing. In terms of why more girls than boys prefer this toy, I thought this TED Talk was the perfect place to begin thinking about the issue: