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The Sippy Sails On

So look what I found. Here, on the top shelf, behind the gravy boat, next to the porcelain teacups we never use. It’s an old sippy cup, scuffed and scratched and faded, but still standing tall after all these years.

How long has it been there? It’s easy enough to figure. Lucy is twelve now, and Will just turned ten, so at least seven birthdays have come and gone since someone chewed on its green, no-spill spout. I’d forgotten all about it, and it’s been ages since I laughed at its little cartoon dump trucks, steamrollers, and bulldozers. But here it is again, the last of its kind – in our house at least. I guess the time has come to send it on its way.

Once, long ago, we had an armada of these sippys on hand. Open the dishwasher, and you’d find the top rack filled with upside-down cups and lids, all clean, christened, and ready for duty. Of course, even before the kids outgrew them, they began to disappear, one by one. Some got left in restaurants. Others lost their lids or rubber valves and went into permanent dry dock. Still others rolled under the back seat of the car and were missing for so long that once we found them – still half-filled with milk – we had no choice but to declare them abandoned in place like old battleships.

They’re all gone now, save this one, but don’t mourn their crusty hulks. We have moved on, and so have our kitchen shelves. These days, the cupboard holds an oddball mix of cups and mugs and tumblers. The children’s old plastic sectional dinner plates – one pink, one blue – see action only now and then.The laminated kids’ art we turned into place mats are sitting at the bottom of the drawer.

With luck, we’ll get rid of all the plastic by summer. Ditto all the other old toys, games, and other little-kid flotsam and jetsam that still clutters up the house. Sure, we could hang onto this Power Rangers Jungle Fury Mega Mission Helmet forever, but why not pass it on to someone who could use it? I think of an old seaman’s wise words as I stash it in a box: “A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” We’ll send it out to sea on the next high tide.

Yes, that’s easier done when your child is small, can’t put up a fight, and has the memory span of a sparrow. But don’t get me wrong: We don’t ship out every toy our children haven’t touched lately.We’ve packed away all the Groovy Girls, the Star Wars pajamas and the old-style wooden trains, certain they’ll return one day in glory to please a grandchild or two. Still, the Hot Wheels Daredevil Crash set or a fun-on-the-go electronic purse kit might leave the house only under cover of darkness or end up in the minivan behind a bag of dry cleaning when the kids aren’t looking. Sometimes entire toy populations simply vanish without a trace. Multigenerational doll house families, Polly Pocket sororities, and legions of Playmobil castle soldiers – all have been known just to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle.But you didn’t hear that from me.

Donation receipts down through the years log the names of toys I barely remember and often can’t recall at all. I have no memory of a Littlest Pet Shop video game. And when did we ever own a Fisher Price Spiral Speedway? Then there are the toys that resurface long after the kids have moved on. Once upon a time, our lives completely revolved around a fuzzy, green froggy headband with red bulging eyes. Now here it is, stuck between the couch cushions since I don’t know when.

Around here, toys that might have gone to the boneyard long ago sometimes take on second lives. Dress-up clothes can be repurposed as dance wear; hats and vests from Colonial Day at school become parts of Halloween costumes; dance leotards and scraps of Halloween might find their way back into the old dress-up pile again. One tutu just keeps turning up like a bad penny – it’s seen service as a ballet body wrapper, Taylor Swift’s stage outfit, and a pink flamingo from Haiti.

Some stuff just refuses to die. And why let it if we can put it to good use?Will doesn’t want his Wiggles step stool to leave the house just yet, and I agree wholeheartedly. It comes in handy for reaching high shelves, and it has storage space under its flip-top step. Lucy’s pink CD player played a nightly lullaby in the nursery long ago. Now it sits in a corner on my desk, tuned permanently to NPR. My emergency tool kit wouldn’t be complete without the plastic Barbie flashlight. Random school supplies bought in a fever pitch every September now clutter my drawers. Here’s a pocket-sized spiral notebook. It holds page upon page of my unique perspectives and deepest thoughts. So what if Justin Bieber’s face is plastered all over the cover?

But who am I trying to kid? I drove around for weeks with the Snow White dress stashed in the trunk until I could muster the courage to go that last mile to the Goodwill truck. And while it’s one thing to take down Lucy’s Selena Gomez and One Direction posters, it will be another to do as she asks and paint over the butterflies and bumblebees on the wall. But she’s ready. And she’s right.

And the battered old sippy? I will place it back behind the teacups. Yes, the tide is rising, and I could toss it into the waves. But for now, a ship is in port, and safe. One day, someday, I will watch it sail away.

Just not today.

Tony Farrell has written about parenting for many books, magazines, and websites. The father of two, Tony has written the DadZone since 2009.
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