I run a fairly tight ship at home, or at least I thought I did. My children, at 2 and 5, listen as good as can be expected, mind their manners, and take care of their possessions. Perhaps take care of their possessions is a bit of a loose term. So to be more clear, they play with their toys like I would expect little boys to play, they share with each other like I expect them to, and they pick up their toys and put them away.
Or so I thought, until spring cleaning.
I am somewhat familiar with the habits of chipmunks. I spent a number of summers at my cottage nestled on the border of Eastern and Central Ontario, where we had a small community of chipmunks that we feed peanuts. These little hoarders would spend all day coming and going from the peanut stash we supplied, to squirrel it away in a stash of their choosing. It wasn’t overly surprising to accidentally dig up a cluster of peanuts when weeding the flower planters, or the garden. It was always mildly amusing to find, and certainly relaxing to watch these little critters in action.
However, I had no idea that later in life, when I become a mother, my time spent participating and monitoring chipmunk’s hoarding habits would suddenly materialize in the form of tiny humans and toy stashes. I didn’t draw any connections to the comfort I felt watching my children coming and going from the room with one toy after the other. I certainly didn’t think much of brief squabbles over a toy that ended sometimes in the disappearance of child and toy from the room, or the return of said child looking satisfied but toy less.
All that said, when the question about the location of a toy is brought to the forefront I now look at my house as a chipmunk’s garden. Here are 3 things that I have unearthed about toy stashes:
- Toys are no longer in the toys bin. They are stashed in every crook and corner that surround it. The yellow, and green bins in the John Deere storage stand in my son’s room is no longer an obvious spot to look for toys. Said storage is now more like a magic puzzle box capable of concealing toys in crafty and devious ways. Similar to searching for chipmunk hoarding damage, when viewing this storage stand I assess for structural and foundational damage. Are the bins sitting properly, or are they slightly lifted and skewed? Is the stand itself flush to the wall, and resting firmly on the floor? I try to explain to the child the dangers of having the stand sitting half on the floor and half on a partially hidden toy, but it is akin to telling the chipmunk that burrowing under the house isn’t good for the cottage or safe for the chipmunk.
- Floor vents are not built to hold toys, regardless they make for great hoards. Much like weeding that garden and coming across a stash of peanuts, in my house opening a floor vent can result in finding a stash of toys. It is typically always the same vent, one in our living area under a window. I’m not sure if this vent became the prime spot because of its easy access and warmth from the sunshine, but I do know that the first time I stumbled upon the hoard I felt like I had opened Mary Poppins’ bag! Toy after toy, after toy came out, and they were shapes and sizes that left me puzzled and marveling. First, how did I not see this happening right under my nose, and second how did this particular toy fit because it was hard enough to get out, let alone put in.
- If I hide it here nobody will find it. I understand not wanting to share that special toy with your younger brother. It goes without saying that when I ask the hider about his actions, he will respond that he is hiding this toy because he doesn’t want brother to play with it while he races to get a juice box. However, tossing it under the sofa hardly seems like a challenging spot to hide something. Yet, five minutes later when said toy is right where it was hidden, and the hider can’t find it then I guess I was wrong. That fast slide under the sofa is such a challenging hiding spot that the hider has managed to successful hide that toy from even himself. It follows that mom is going to be called upon for its whereabouts. This is when it becomes of utmost importance to be aware of the places that toys are stashed because if mom can’t unearth the location of the missing toys the hider will ask in a voice that suggests the toy hasn’t been seen in weeks (like a chipmunks shrill rapid chirping sound) if mom threw it in the trash!
Now, using the lense of seeing my house as a chipmunk garden I see more clearly the possibilities for toy hoards when I see uprooted household objects, any opening that a child can fit a hand into, pieces of furniture sitting funny, changes in the general shape of carpets, towels, blankets, and etcetera, as well as anything a child might be able to burrow an object into like the laundry. Furthermore, I have learned to be honest with myself; my children are lively, speedy critters with pudgy cheeks, large eyes, and hoarding habits much like the chipmunks that fascinated my summers.
By Shari Marshall – 2016