Jan 18, 2008

My 'Axis of Evil' includes PlayDoh.

This week's Parenting Tip concerns the elemental foundation of all evil, PlayDoh.

When you first have kids, you are quite happily reintroduced to it. You crack the lid, close your eyes, squish it through your fingers and inhale deeply through the nostrils. You actually feel like taking a bite out of it. The smell is time travel at its finest -- the glory days of hanging out at the Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop. (Although FPBS was way after my time, I loved to abuse the one my friend’s sister had. “We’ll fix mommy’s hair just so. You can make it with PlaaayDoh!”) *

You give it to your kids. They love it. You make balls with it, snowmen, spaghetti, a lot of snakes... you overlook the fact that it picks up hair and crumbs like an obsessive-compulsive Swiffer.

And a week later you realize something awful. PlayDoh sucks. PlayDoh sucks harder than an asthmatic black hole who really wants a part in the movie.

Little red and blue bits of it get into the living room carpet - whether or not the kids play there. (It takes only thirty minutes of neglect for The Feces of the Gods to start flaking). Worst of all - to artistic control freaks - kids insist on mixing all the colours together into a dark magenta swirl. After they go to bed, you search in vain for the missing lids, stuff it back in the tubs and hope the kids won’t miss it.

They will.

They bug you until it comes out again, and the now crustier Snot of Death crumbles ever-larger chunks onto the floor. (Unless you plan on installing a humidor in the playroom, you’re going to really start rethinking your nostalgia. For a couple of weeks in 2005, I was actually running it under a little water at night and kneading it ‘til it returned to semi-normal. The resulting D’oh was then perfectly malleable, but with a slightly reduced hue, due to the unnaturally vibrant dye being leached to the lake and - no doubt - my bloodstream.)

On September 4th, 2007 - by complete coincidence, a day after my son's 4th birthday - I had a moment of clarity. This is where the actual advice comes in:

Think short-term pain for long-term sanity. Let entropy take over. Force it. The longer you try to forestall the atomization of The Devil’s Booger, the more you will want to kill your child which, as I have mentioned before, is illegal - unless he is the actual antichrist, in which case you need special daggers from Megiddo. And try getting those on a plane.

Seriously; let it dry up. Let them mix the colours all they want. Let them play with it all over the house. As long as you can handle a couple of nerve-wracking weeks vacuuming Rainbow Shite out of your pile, the payoff is worth it.

Then one beautiful day you will stumble across a golf ball-sized chunk of desiccated PlayDoh under the couch, that is quite obviously beyond hydration therapy. Into the green bin it goes. And then… exhale deeply through your nostrils. The scourge is gone.

*Historical note: unlike PlayDoh, you could not “make it” with Plato, thus the absence of the “Pladonic relationship” in our culture.