Suzanne Tobias

October 7, 2010

Kids coping nicely with Toymaggedon

I've said it. You've probably said it. Kim Keehn said it, too, one too many times:

I've said it. You've probably said it. Kim Keehn said it, too, one too many times:

"So help me, kids, if you don't pick these toys up off the floor, we're getting rid of every single one, and you'll never see them again! I mean it!"

But Kim wasn't kidding.

One day last week, while her daughters were at school and her son was at Grandma's, the Wichita mom packed up every single toy in the house — the Barbies, the stuffed animals, the dress-up clothes and board games — and carried them to "an undisclosed location."

It took her all day. She hauled two large boxes of toys to Goodwill and labeled 12 boxes of keepers before putting them away. Then she watched as her children, ages 8, 6 and 3, came home to a shockingly empty play room and bedrooms.

"That's when the screaming began," Kim said. "They were like, 'Mom! You gave every one of our toys away?!' "

Not exactly, she told them. But they're put away, and it's going to be a long time before you earn them back. "You didn't take responsibility for picking up after yourselves," she explained, "and I don't want to do it anymore."

That was a week ago. Since then, Kim has told other moms about Toymaggedon 2010. Their initial reaction?

"'You must be crazy,' " she said. "They think I'm making it hard on myself, that it's going to be miserable."

So far, though, that's not the case. Sure there's some whining, she says, but, "I love having the house neater." The only toys left out are a train set and some puzzles for 3-year-old Patrick, who stays home with Kim all day. The girls have crayons, markers, paper and a shelf full of books.

One of the books is "Little House on the Prairie," which Kim has been reading to the kids at bedtime.

"Here are these two little girls who came across the prairie in a wagon, and all they had was one rag doll," she said. "Nice lesson there."

Sorting and packing up her children's massive toy collection was "a sickening feeling," Kim said. "It was obscene, the amount of money that had been spent on these toys — and about 90 percent of them never even get touched.

"But one of them would get something, and they'd all fight over that one. Literally thousands of toys, and they're fighting and arguing. ... I just got tired of it."

Now Caroline and Sasha read, draw or play outside. Kim plans to return the toys slowly, one per week, depending on the girls' behavior and whether they keep their rooms picked up. If they fight or complain, the toys will disappear again.

At church on Sunday, when a teacher asked the girls to write about something they'd like to discuss with God, they wrote about the toy tragedy. At least a dozen times since that fateful day, the girls have begged for their playthings back, Kim says.

"I told them, 'You better hope God is a better listener than me,' " she said, laughing.

Wait, was that an evil laugh?

"I guess it sounds sinister, but I'm loving this," she said. "I just keep thinking, 'Why did I wait so long?' "

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