Another piece of sage advice that I disregarded: Never, under any circumstances buy toys in a child's presence.
The idea is that if you NEVER buy toys or candy or colorful trinkets while your kids are with you, even if they're NOT begging for them, they will eventually understand that you are the brick wall between consumerism and their overflowing toy chests, and that asking is futile.
My resolve to this parenting style lasted all the way up until Ittybit learned to talk, and asked oh-so-syrupy sweetly for a stuffed cat. She named him Fudgy and my fate was sealed.
I am a pushover.
So when we recently visited an apple orchard — that for some strange reason (possibly a result of the fact that farmers don't live by apples alone. ... You know since China surpassed our apple production in the '90s) harbors an entire gift shop of overpriced toys and novelties that have nothing whatsoever to do with apples — and Ittybit started begging and pleading for a stuffed cow that chimes moo (three times) when you press its middle, we struck a bargain.
If we bought the $10 bovine she would choose two toys in her collection that we would ship to an underprivileged kid somewhere in the world. She quickly agreed.
Back at home, and before her afternoon nap, we make room for Moo on her bed. Buffy Bunny and two more of Bunny's friends (Ittybit was insistent they travel in threes) are selected for a second chance at love, and we box them up.
"Where are they doing to do, Mama?"
"Well, babe, there's this nice woman in Iraq who is collected toys for kids who don't have anything. We're going to ship them to her in the mail,"
"That will make somebody very happy, right?"
As she drifts off to sleep, clutching Moo, I am relieved that the transaction went so smoothly. However, what I didn't count on was just how big this notion would grow inside her preschooler mind, taking over all of her bedtime thoughts.
That evening at bedtime: (This is the part in the story when most parents will realize that preschoolers don't read fine print.)
"Mama? Where's Kermit?"
"Don't you remember, we're sending him, Zoe and Buffy Bunny to Iraq so they can make some children happy."
"Because you have so much and there are some boys and girls there who have nothing."
"Because there's something called a war there, and it's very bad. Some of the children who live in Iraq are alone and scared. Your toys might help cheer and comfort them."
Are they standing up or sitting down?"
"Um ... standing up? What do you mean?"
"We dotta put that in a cage!"
"Uh. ... What I don't understand?"
"We have to get that raccoon out of there so the kids can play with Kermit. We need a cage to put him in."
"Honey? ... What raccoon?"
"You said we're sending Kermit to a raccoon for a childrens because they're lost and lonely. Isn't that what you said?"
"I said e-rack, not 'a raccoon.' We're sending toys to Iraq. It's a country in the middle ... oh, never mind. We'll talk about this when you're three, OK?"
The next morning while looking at the box, which is now addressed and ready for shipping, the excerise starts again.
"Ma-ma. Is Kermit in there? Where is they going?"
"They ARE going to Iraq. Remember. We discussed this yesterday."
"Oh, right, right. But I don't shink the raccoon needs any something. We need to send them to the big giant moose."
NOTE TO SELF: Invest in a world map.
Do a good deed today: United States Army Corp of Engineers Officer Edmay Mayers is taking it upon herself to distribute playthings to impoverished children in Iraq. Until recently she's been buying stuffed animals and candy with her own means, but the need has overwhelmed her resources. If you have gently used toys that need children to love, send them to her here: Edmay Mayers, USACE-GRS, APO AE 09331.