The Elephant in the Room

Welcome to summer. Christmas season. Present season. And because I happened to give birth to a child in December 3 years ago, that means present season is on steroids. Birthday presents PLUS christmas presents.

Once you have kids, your loved ones will be generous and give many wonderful gifts…and many undesirable gifts. I have found that uncles in particular delight in giving loud obnoxious toys that will have you wishing you were deaf. And when the gift giver asks you delightedly if the gift was a success you must lie and say ‘It’s great, you really hit the nail on the head with that one’, when what you really mean is that it feels as though someone is hammering a nail into your head. Other undesirable gifts include soft toys that seem to breed and large bulky items that don’t fit in cupboards and will inevitably will be constantly underfoot. The elephant in the room at this time of year is often ‘what to do with unwanted or ridiculous gifts without offending the gift giver?’

Unless the elephant in the room is just that…an actual elephant in the room. A couple of years ago a family member gave my daughter a huge rocking ride-on elephant for her 1st birthday. It was a generous gift, as these monstrosities aren’t cheap. But it was big & bulky and thus obnoxious. Where do you put something like this when you have 3 children and a playroom thats already bursting like Kim Kardashian’s cleavage in any given outfit on any given day? But I couldn’t get rid of it, not right away anyway. There is an unspoken buffer period of at least a couple of months after receipt of a gift that it should be on display whenever the giver comes to visit.

Miss 2 (who was 1 at the time) could not have been more terrified if a real elephant was stampeding toward her. She screamed whenever she caught sight of it. Sitting on it and rocking joyfully was out of the question. So, unridden and without achieving its supposed destiny, back into its plastic case it went and immediately into storage.  If it were a character in Toy Story I think it may have had sunk into a deep depression. It made an appearance a year later when my daughter turned 2. After rediscovering it on top of the wardrobe during a cleanout, I decided to get it down and see if her feelings had changed.

This time she wasn’t scared. Time had healed the emotional scar and she was ready to ride as enthusiastically as a jockey on Melbourne Cup Day. Alas, she was now too big. So again, unridden, back it went into the plastic case. I could almost hear Cowboy Woody conducting trauma counselling. This thing sat on my bedroom floor for 3 months as I wondered what to do with it. It was brand new so I didn’t want to throw it out. Re-gifting was out of the question as I actually like my friends. I offered to donate it to a local creche. I was asked ‘Is it hard or soft”

Me “soft’

She said “I’m sorry, we can’t take it. It’s against our policy to accept rockers that aren’t hard”

Wow. They have a policy for that? Random and vexing. Randomly vexing.

I appealed to friends if anyone wanted it. Nope. Meanwhile ‘elephant’ sat on my bedroom floor, silently mocking me every night as I hopped into bed. I tripped over it at least once a week in the middle of the night on the way to the loo. It was turning from an elephant into an albatross around my neck. 

Finally I felt I had no other option but to put it on eBay. My policy is that I list everything at a reserve of 99c. In a fair market auction, things should sell themselves for the right price. I put it on a 7 day listing, pressed ‘List’ and then forgot about it. A week later I got a little ‘ding’ notification from eBay: ‘Your item has sold..! Hallelujah! I clicked on to see what some poor sod had paid – 99c.

Occasionally in a fair market auction, you get screwed. But the relief I felt to have this elephant gone from my room and out of my life more than compensated for any perceived financial shortfall. I think the bubbly came out that evening.

So fellow parents, as we embark on another Christmas, we need to prepare ourselves for a toy onslaught. The more kids you have, the worse it is. And add a December birthday or two in and it gets really crazy. When your kids unwrap those gifts in front of the eager eyes of the giver, there will be an elephant in the room. Literally in my case, but probably metaphorically for the rest of you. How are you going to respond to jagged toy pieces that look like they’ll pierce the soles of your feet when stepped on in the middle of the night; stuffed animals that are bigger than the neighbours great dane; offensively noisy flashing toys that will make you envious of Helen Keller?

My advice to you: like an elephant at a watering hole, suck it up. Be thankful that your relatives love your kids enough to buy them masses of stuff. Or if that fails, wait 2 months then order a council clean up.

Merry Christmas.

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