You might do well to avoid the basement, or the stairs, or the bedrooms, kitchen, or family room of our house. They no longer fall under our dominion. They belong solely to the Empire of Toys.
It is an Empire at the peak of prosperity, reeking of wealth and indulgence. Dolls by the dozens mingle with stuffed animals at fancy tea parties, while twenty women named Barbie banish themselves to a one bedroom house like a cult of plastic, blond haired vampires afraid of the sunlight. The Empire's citizens are an eccentric bunch, clothed in bizarre raiment as though dressed by their Toddler Queen in the most unfashionable garments imaginable solely for her childish pleasure. Rebels and traitors face the punishment of eternity in a wicker basket, or worse: ostracization to a moving box in the basement. No, the throne of the Toddler Queen must never be usurped.
The growth of the Empire was not a sudden thing, but still its ability to rapidly expand has surprised many. It has overtaken much of the known household, encompassing all but a master bedroom and bath. Someday, the future leaders of other toddler empires will marvel at how much the Toddler Queen accomplished at so young an age. But more importantly, they will understand that all great things must come to an end.
Thankfully, the Empire shows signs of decline. The Queen's wicked younger sister, sometimes a mimicking minion, sometimes a thorn in the side of authority, grows bolder by the day. She plays with the toys herself and dresses them to suit her own intriguing tastes. Fading, unused toys loiter beneath the couches or gather in the corners for comfort, seeking compassion and company in the less frequented realms of the Empire. Amputated body parts dot the landscape. Broken toys lay outstretched on the carpet, begging for glue, forgotten by their ruler, left to wither and rot in the shadows of newer, undamaged toys.
Like all Imperial Queendoms, the Empire of Toys is destined to fail. Years from now, it will surrender its power to some conquering foe. Perhaps that foe will be the steadily growing Republic of Books, but more likely it will be the Fiefdoms of Television or Makeup, the warlords of Video Games or Telephones.
Someday, it is true, the Empire of Toys will be relegated to a few scant boxes in the far corners of a dark basement or to the marvelous pages of history books and parenting blogs. We might remember it fondly. We might smile and tear up at the thought of stepping on a pointy alphabet block or brushing the ratty hair of a sparkling purple pony. We might.
But right now... We just want our house back.
This post was originally shared on my at-home parenting blog, The Daily Writer, which has long since vanished. I’ve migrated many of the posts to this site for sentimental reasons.