The Gift of Broken Toys

wild abandon Nov 12, 2021

Before I became a parent I was a nanny for many years. One of the services I offered was to design the children’s playroom. I created beautiful spaces with toys grouped by learning categories. Everything had its place.

As soon as the kids broke a toy, I whisked it away never to be seen again. The parents always returned home to a clean and organized playspace.

Needless to say, I have a different style of family, and my child’s play areas look a little different. There is one giant toy box that all the toys get shoveled into. Or not. My son’s toys are all mixed up with one another and scattered here and there… or somewhere.

I used to think that broken toys were sad. I didn’t understand why a useless item should stay among the intact toys. Now I have a more -ahem- casual relationship with cleaning up. My child’s collection of toys is riddled with broken parts.

And from those broken pieces, I’ve seen a magic arise.

I watch him stack the wheels of cars into towers.

I see him transform one leg and one foot off an action figure into some new kind of creature.

He’ll pick up a broken off propeller and fly it through the house, unfazed about where the rest of the plane is.

An axle from a car becomes a crane, lifting the broken ladder off the fire truck high in the sky.

5 blocks from 3 different sets come together in perfect harmony in his three year old hands.

While I worry about keeping control, my child’s imagination is busy with other things.

It turns out that these broken parts are precious, secret gifts. When new toys stop being new toys, they reveal whole other toys hidden inside them.

My judgmental brain tells me that this is trash. My guilty mind says I should throw them away. My desire for control says that everything should be just a little more predictable. It should be a little more “in its place”.

Fortunately, my little boy cannot see this nonsense going on in my mind. He does not have this problem of judgement, guilt, and control.

He’s off playing with creatures I’ve never dreamed of and flying planes I can’t see.

But I see his excited face, and just for a minute, I, too, can see that the whole world fits together just fine.

💙

 ~~  Issa Waters

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