Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Truth is in the Trash

Yesterday as I was doing laundry, I noticed that my favorite pair of jeans has a threadbare spot right on the knee, and it occurred to me that being a mom has made a definite change in the sorts of things that get worn out and thrown away in my house. In fact, if you looked at my trash, you could easily figure out a lot of things that are going on in my life right now.

For example, those jeans. Adult jeans worn out at the knee are a definite indicator of the presence of small children. I haven’t spent this much time crawling on the floor since I was a small child myself. But these days, I spend endless hours crawling on my hands and knees playing horsey, or pretending to be a lion/monkey/kangaroo, or reaching under the couch to retrieve a Matchbox car or a Lego block or a crayon, or just rolling around wrestling with one child or another (or both).

Food trash is different these days, too. When my husband and I were newlyweds, our trash included plenty of wine bottles, champagne corks, Brie wrappers, and shrimp tails. These days, the main food-related trash items are milk bottles, uneaten crusts of peanut butter sandwiches (crusts are not considered edible by my children unless they are absolutely starving), and empty juice boxes.

And, of course, a staple in our trash can right now is diapers. LOTS of diapers. Or, I should say, diapers and pull-ups. And less pull-ups every day, as my son gets closer and closer to successful potty training. I’m not sure who will be more excited when the pull-ups finally disappear from our trash can, me and my husband or the guys who pick up our trash. We might throw each other a party when that finally happens. And when my daughter’s diapers disappear from the trash as well (hopefully very soon afterwards!), it’ll be an even bigger party!

Other items in our trash that mark us as a family with small kids are, sadly, broken toys. Both of my kids are, shall we say, “rough” on toys. They love to bang and crash things together, to throw and roll pieces around, to explore how items can be bent and turned and twisted and removed. Our trash commonly includes things like a bucket broken off a toy backhoe, a puzzle with half the pieces mysteriously missing, a deflated ball that was sat on one time too many, a toy car with the wheels ripped off. It’s not quite as creepy as Sid’s toys from “Toy Story,” but I wouldn’t blame anyone who did a double-take seeing the poor toy detritus in our trash can. (At least we give them a good, clean burial instead of re-assembling them in horrific combinations. I still have nightmares about Spider Baby.)

But the most fun part of our trash is the artwork. We can’t possibly save everything our kids make, so after leaving each piece of art on display for a while, we take photos and then quietly and stealthily discard most of them. So the debris in our local landfill is often graced with macaroni glued to construction paper, painted hand- and foot-prints, and various abstract images festooned with glitter, tissue paper, and stickers.

I’ll be honest: I look forward to the day when our trash contains fewer diapers, fewer broken toys, and fewer ripped jeans of all sizes. But I’ll miss the glitter and the macaroni. I’ll even miss the juice boxes and the sandwich crusts. But I’m guessing that by then our trash will be filled with other interesting detritus showing what our family is up to: copies of report cards, carefully folded notes passed in class, used up bottles of horrific teenage scents like Axe and Love’s Baby Soft (or whatever their equivalent will be in another 10 years or so).

I’m actually looking forward to that trash. And that’s the truth!

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