Our son turned sixteen at the weekend and was delighted to be given his own PC from us. No more fighting over the home computer for his slot to do homework, play games or watch YouTube.
Sixteen and approaching manhood. All gifts are now either computer or gadget-based with the odd book, deodorant or clothes thrown in for good measure.
So let me take you on a tour of the house that we share with this teen. I’d heartily recommend a hard hat and steel capped boots. Also, if you’re an asthma sufferer, please make sure you have medication with you as vast quantities of dust will be involved.
Let’s start with the kitchen/diner - to our left you’ll see a green toy box under the stairs. Let’s have a closer look inside shall we? Ooh, two hundred matchbox cars and assorted bits of ‘very important tat’ accumulated for over a decade and never touched.
Cupboard to the right - a fairy princess castle (!), a ‘dig your own fossil’ kit (unused), boxes of magic tricks, a dozen or so board games and a popcorn maker. Once moved, none of this goes back as successfully as it came out and will usually result in a few choice expletives. (us not him)
Welsh dresser cupboards - numerous sticker and colouring-in books, a second tranche of board games, dried up felt tip pens and a cardboard puppet theatre.
Welsh dresser drawer - every Kinder egg toy known to man circa 1997 - 2003, McDonalds toys and assorted trashy party bag gifts i.e.: rubbers, yo-yos, bouncy balls.
Kitchen cupboards one, two and three - Play dough and cutters, paints, glitter, glue, feathers, beads, balloons, painting by numbers, more felt tips and various incomplete works of art.
Upstairs to the sitting room and all looks fairly normal - TV, Playstation 3, new PC … but look behind the door. Another bigger toy box filled to the gunnels with trains, cars, puppets, more yo-yos and things with tangled wires that hold the whole mish mash of stuff together in an unruly heap (I’m sure most of you can relate to an uncoiled Slinky which pulls everything into its grasp). There’s also a shelf filled with DVDs and PS3 games which involve shooting blood from zombies and severed limbs from soldiers. But if you just move one slightly to the left you’ll see they nestle incongruously with ‘Sooty’ and ‘Rugrats’ videos.
Up to the top floor and his bedroom also looks like that of a normal teenage boy - guitar, keyboard, amp, socks, rolled up bits of paper and general junk. Until you notice the bulging cupboard doors, behind which lurk every baby-toy, puzzle, game and teddy ever bought or given. Not to mention under the bed, boxes of Lego, marbles, more trains and dressing up gear - even every school exercise book he’s ever completed.
Add to this approximately 200 reading books (takes after his mother!) and over 300 Beano comics and that just about sums up our little hoarder.
We’ve obviously done what every self respecting parent does at some point in their journey through parenthood, known as the ‘the sneaky chuck’, but we have a particular breed of hoarder on our hands - the one with the memory of an elephant. Every gift, large or small, is readily recalled by him - who gave it to him and when.
This obviously makes the sneaky chuck virtually impossible. He’s yet to discover that his toy ironing board and hoover have made their way to the charity shop but, if he ever does, I fear things may get messy.
We’ve even tried monetary incentive with him and suggested a car-boot sale. We’ve tried to get him to envisage every jigsaw puzzle as a pound, every Lego set as four, a box full of odds and sods at 10p an item and you soon have (in this case) at least few hundred quid.
But no, this is a hardened hoarder we’re dealing with - too sentimental to part with anything. He admits he’ll never play with his ‘Kitty Vet’ or ‘Puff-Along-Thomas’ again but he just needs to know they’re there.
So we plod on living in a house that looks like a cross between the Early Learning Centre and Toys R Us.
When he finally flies the nest, I wonder just how much of this essential history will find its way onto the removal van and how much he’ll expect to leave behind with good old Mum and Dad. Can’t help but feel that most of it will be ready for the Antiques Road Show rather than a car-boot by then.
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