Make Believe

Piper is known for her play. She has an incredible imagination. She can make a game out of anything, anywhere. Her best material, though, probably comes from life.

Right now she’s in the living room sorting through the leftover plastic junk that we often toss into the footstool, which is supposed to be a toy box. Our cleaning is sporadic and mostly of the quick-hide-as-much-as-you-can-there’s-someone-at-the-door variety. You can imagine the footstool bits. You may even remember that I once found Piper stuffing her dirty socks in there in her best hoarder move yet. (You can refresh your memory here)

Her game today involves a wooden doll, three Legos, a dishtowel, a stuffed chihuahua, and seventeen pieces of broken Happy Meal plastic parts.

“You guys want to play all day?” the wooden doll yells.

“We do!” the chorus of bits replies.

“But what about your chores?” prods the wooden doll, raising her voice. “How come I have to be the bad guy?”

The chorus has no good answer. If the wooden doll could move her wooden arms to her wooden hips, she would.

Piper’s voice is now shrieking. “Don’t you think I want to play too?  But no. I’m the bad guy. You know you have chores to do. Why do you always make me be the bad guy?”

The chorus throws themselves one by one back into their foot stool. Piper makes the wooden doll mumble loudly to herself about how she has to tell everyone around here everything to do when they really should be doing it themselves. Grumble. Grumble.

It doesn’t sound like make believe anymore.

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Hoarding for Beginners

Please send help.  Call one of those hoarding shows.  We have a problem.  During a perfectly lovely playdate this afternoon my friend’s baby pulled himself up on the ottoman in our living room and moved the lid ever so slightly.  Just enough for me to discover what Piper had been hiding inside:

Yes, those are dirty socks hoarded away in the ottoman.  And a few pairs of underwear for good measure.  The culprit is clear. The rainbow puppy paw prints on the size 4T undies really gave it away. Apparently, when you’re watching TV on the couch in our house and feeling…shall we say…constricted… you strip off the offending clothing and stuff it in our ottoman.  For weeks. You can put your leftover cereal in there, too, rather than walk the ten feet to the kitchen. Do I need to tell you about the smell?  I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask. “Piper, why did you stuff your dirty clothes and leftover food in there?”

“I’m saving it.”

“For what?”

“Later.”

I understand that kids hoard. They collect stuff, like trash. Some even do so for a useful purpose.  Maybe even like this:

This is what Piper’s big sister does with her own hoarding.  She creates sockfits, which is a full line of Barbie clothing made out of mismatched socks. She designs and sews them herself. Somehow, this hobby has moved my response from reproachful disdain to admirable frugality. Our friends now save the orphaned socks from their laundry and bring them over to our house for fashionable recycling. Piper’s hoarding, though, hasn’t yet evolved.  She’s still in the denial phase.  She doesn’t have a problem.  Isn’t it normal to sleep in a bed with 34 stuffed animals? And doesn’t everyone need seven baby blankets to keep warm at night? There’s hardly a spare inch in the bed for the little hoarder.  And that’s exactly as she likes it.

The Feel of Trash

Piper may very well grow up to be a trash collector or a professional recycler or a bag lady. The jury is still out.  The kid will pick up anything, anywhere.  Chewed gum. Discarded napkins if they are shiny in any way. Rocks. She hoards trash in her closet in baskets. And tonight, she picked up this in a parking lot.

It’s plastic.  It’s dirty.  It’s broken on the back.  To Piper, all of that equals perfection.  It’s not as if we don’t buy this kid plenty of real toys.  She doesn’t really need to troll the parking lot looking for things to play with.  But this thing she just couldn’t resist. As I tried to wrestle the filthy football from her hand, Piper protested, “It’s sure dirty but it doesn’t feel like trash.”  I didn’t ask what that meant.  I don’t think her explanation would have been convincing. I did what any semi-rational mom would do.  I took her newly coveted trash to the bathroom to sanitize it.  For the rest of the night, the broken plastic football was her best friend.  He (yes, the football declared its gender) talked to her in the backseat.  She introduced him to Pinky, her lovey. And when her sister climbed into the car Piper used her best manners.  “Sissy,” she said, “I’d like you to meet my new friend.  Football.  He’s in my shoe.  With my foot.”