Between animated movies and reality television shows, separation anxieties are here to stay.
Toy Story 3 brings children and adults to tears, as college-bound Andy is forced to part with his playthings, while Hoarders: Buried Alive follows the obsessive behaviors of people who “house” excessive quantities of items to which they have unnatural connections. If holding onto the past isn’t crippling enough, deciding what to keep and what to toss drives boys and girls (of all ages) to the edge of mental collapse, fueled by the crushing weight of guilt and Beanie Babies.
Perhaps producers from A&E and Disney should join forces to create a new show, such as “Toddler Hoarders (Part One of Three)”. I just might have the perfect child to star in their first episode.
My four-year-old daughter is one of the most loving children you will ever meet, to the point that she treasures everything. Stringy cheese wrapper? Better save it…there’s a smiling cow in the logo. Half-eaten peanut butter sandwich? Better hang on to that…Woody and Buzz Lightyear are watching from the Sara Lee bread bag. Broken Ken doll? Better hide him under the couch so he can recuperate from a dislocated hip.
Out of fairness to Disney and Arts & Entertainment (and TLC and Nick Jr., and…), it’s important to point out that the children’s literature market is identically involved. After reading The Velveteen Rabbit, my older daughter cried off and on for two days.
Why is the rabbit in a trash bag? The parents are going to burn all of the little boy’s toys because they’re covered in germs that could kill him!
Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse is an equally distressing tale, as a furry gray rodent wishes his mechanical counterpart real so it can scurry out of a box of toys sentenced to the trash can. Commercials are getting into the act, too. A pediatric cough syrup advertisement features stuffed animals and dolls sitting around a table, fretting that “she’s not coming today because she has a fever”.
While ibuprofen and acetaminophen tend to wipe out a pesky temperature, what’s the remedy for eliminating an alarming number of toys?
If you’ve tried to smuggle them out of the house lately, you’ve probably had to smuggle them back in after being turned away from thrift stores and preschools. Hard toys may have been painted with harmful chemicals or contain parts that pose choking hazards, and plush toys can’t be cleaned effectively to kill dust mites or…lice.
The short answer is to stop buying toys and dolls altogether, but that’s not what manufacturers want to see or hear. As the adult consumer, we’re supposed to keep accumulating, keep ordering, keep collecting, and keep spending. Children, however, are supposed to learn to let go. Have you ever noticed that Disney usually kills a parent in the first few minutes of a movie? Even Huey, Duey and Louie were raised by an uncle! It seems as though the creative goal is to make children face up to their fears of being left alone or left behind, and to muster the superhuman strength to overcome the odds through a 60-minute bout of courage.
Yet after the movie or book ends, we’ll feel compelled to shop for a plastic action figure or fluffy stuffed version of our child’s new hero, which will help keep the memory alive (and with us) forever.