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"Honey, Christmas threw up in the living room."

If you couldn’t tell by the mountains of wrapping-paper-filled trash bags lining the curbs and the abrupt increase in “BRAND NEW” descriptions in the toy category on Craigslist, Christmas is officially over.  If you’re a parent like me, the holiday’s conclusion is made quite clear by the fact that your house looks like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza got wasted and threw up all over the place.  Presents line the walls like oddly-shaped, multi-colored baseboards.  Remnants of tissue paper and ribbon cling to strands of carpet like the needles of your Christmas tree that will remain no matter how many times you run the vacuum.

The day may have come and gone, but the aftermath will linger for weeks, maybe months.  For those without miniature versions of yourself running around the house, Christmas leaves only new clothes, a few movies or video games, and possibly some electronic equipment in its wake.  For parents however, the nightmares that have kept you awake for the past several weeks have become reality.  The commercials that have delighted and tantalized your children, but left you shuttering with uneasiness have done their job.  All those letters to Santa that you hoped would be lost in the mail, found their way to the big guy in the red suit.

That’s right, new toys have arrived like your half-baked cousin that needs a place to crash while he looks for a new roommate that’s not so uptight about things like “paying rent” and “personal hygiene”.  You hoped he wouldn’t show up at your door, but knowing your luck, his arrival was inevitable.  So now that the dust has cleared, its time to take a step back and survey the situation.  The abundance of newly opened toys seems daunting at first, but not all of them are bad news for us parents.  There are baby dolls, some action figures, and maybe a stuffed animal or two that are genuinely harmless.  Promote these items as much as possible and life will be much simpler for you.

But then there are those toys that make you cringe.  The ones that landed the gift giver on your s***list.  The ones that your kids will love and you will ultimately grow to hate.  Here are a few examples of the “drives parents insane” category of toys.

Musical Instruments: This category encompasses everything from a set of those wooden castanets your friend brought back from her trip to Barbados, to the 5-piece drum kit from your Dad who, after seeing little Timmy beating the dog with a stick, felt the kid showed potential.  Thanks soon-to-be-shunned family member/former best friend.  These tools of auditory destruction will become your child’s best friend and your worst enemy.

Erector Sets: I looked into classic children’s toy in the hopes that perhaps the company had gone under due to hard economic times.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  It appears they are surviving thanks to patrons who purchase these bundles of sharp, metallic, injuries-waiting-to-happen for the children of people they pretend to like, but secretly despise.  You won’t be singing “Deck The Halls” when you step on a stray wingnut while you walk barefoot to the bathroom at 2:00am, I’ll tell you that!  My children are a bit young for Erector sets right now, so I’m hoping they’ll go the way of the Dodo Bird by the time they hit that age.  If not, at least I’ll be able to distinguish my real friends from my frenemies when Jake unwraps a 735-piece box of booby-traps.

Play-Doh: Remember how much fun play-doh was when you were a kid?  You popped it out of those little plastic tubs, rolled it around in your hands…oh, and that intoxicating smell.  The world of play-doh was your oyster and you could make it whatever you wanted.  Fast forward 20 years and now you’re the parent.  The more your kids with play with these technologically engineered balls of “dough”, the less capable they are of maintaining the properties of a solid.  They start to crumble and you start to find little pieces smashed into your carpet.  Your oak-stained kitchen table is now stained a different color and that intoxicating smell…it won’t come out of the couch cushions.  What a difference a couple of decades make.

Forts, Tents, Playhouses, etc. NOT designed for outdoor use: The key here is “NOT designed for outdoor use”.  If you want to buy my kids a playground for the backyard or a swing set or anything that gives them the freedom to wear themselves out, be my guest.  But Cinderella’s castle, made of sheer vinyl and support twigs has to find a home within the confines of my 300 square foot basement.  I’d like to add to this category, having received and set one up, inflatable ball pits (Thanks Jeff and Karen).

WrestleMania for Kids - Live from the Ball Pit

Bubbles: I know they seem harmless, but bubbles are a parent’s worst nightmare. Everything they touch becomes slimy and then permanently sticky.  And as if that combination wasn’t bad enough, some genius came up with colored bubbles.  Now my couch looks like a rainbow exploded.

Small toys that play music or make noise: We have a fair amount of these around our house thanks to having two children under three years old.  These are go-to gifts for those who are somehow stumped by what to give a toddler.  The problem is once these gizmos turn on, it takes some sort of nuclear codes to disarm them.  Plus, if one of these toys ends up at the bottom of a toy chest or bucket, all it takes is one wrong move to set it off.  Then you’ll spend the next 10 minutes trying to determine where “If You’re Happy And You Know It…” is coming from.

"Alright 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes', where are you?"

Toy vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers: If I ever come across the person who came up with this little number, I’ll be sure to thank him with a crane kick to the twig and berries.  The low-pitched, monotonous hum that these toys make is so annoying, my dogs can’t even be in the same room with them.  And these are the same idiot dogs that once chewed through drywall and enjoy eating their own poop!

Moon Sand: I have yet to come face to face with moon sand, but from what I’ve heard, it’s the spawn of Satan.  After a brief moment of research, I can explain its evil in one sentence: It’s slightly wet sand that you can play with indoors.  I don’t believe any further explanation is needed.  What’s worse?  After checking the website’s frequently asked questions, I came across this:

Q: What is the lifespan of Moon Sand?

A: The lifespan of Moon Sand is endless with proper care.

“Endless.” “ENDLESS.” You know who else has an endless lifespan?  The Devil!

I’ve only listed a few of the toys kids love but parents hate.  I’m sure the list could go on and on, much like Moon Sand (with proper care of course), so what am I missing?  Come on parents, chime in!

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