“I Have No Toys” by Samuel Murphy
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Samuel Murphy doesn’t have toys—he has daughters.
I have no toys.
I was hoping that at this stage of my life, as both husband and father, I would have some pretty cool toys. But I don’t. Instead I have four daughters, and this is why I have no toys.
I was sure that somewhere among that passel of children we wanted, there would be a son. A strapping fair-haired boy. A little rascal. Good with the ladies, and a varsity letterman by the age of ten. A tool and die maker. A spark plug changer. An aficionado of wood and a lover of all things leather.
I expected him to pop out of Mom with batting helmet, shoulder pads, shin guards, and a baseball glove, all ready to go. Just in case he didn’t, I bought all those things in Junior Mint size just for him.
In short, I wanted a child whose toys I could play with.
But out comes daughter number one. Out comes daughter number two. Out comes daughter number three. Out comes daughter number four. Back goes the batting helmet. Back go the shoulder pads. Back go the shin guards. Back goes the baseball glove.
Yay for me.
So when what I had been praying for did not happen, I was not disappointed in my woman—and I certainly was not disappointed in the baby. If there was any secret disappointment, it was with me: Did I do it right? Bottom? Top? Should I have the TV on ESPN? Maybe if we have sex on the fifty yard line at our old high school football field. All good thoughts.
All of them worthless.
You should know that I have plenty of “big boy” toys. These are what men have. But the kind of toys I am without are the ones I really want. These are the “little boy” toys. Army guys. Model tanks. Remote control planes. The Batman collection. Thompson submachine guns. (Well, that might be taking things a bit too far, but you get what I mean.)
With daughters, GI Joes become Barbies. The model tanks become those see-through models that depict how the brain works. The remote control P-51 Mustangs or Me 110s become kites. The only part of the Batman collection anyone at our house wants is Catwoman. The Thompson submachine gun replica becomes a water pistol that shoots hair conditioner so nobody gets all icky.
But no matter what, I know that with any child’s toy, I’m going to step on that damn thing when I’m in the shower, and I’m going to let out some definitely male language. But with daughters, instead of slitting my foot open from toe to heel and bleeding half to death by stepping on a German U-boat, I step on Flounder.
And I know that when I stick my hand into a little boy’s pocket, I’m going to pull out some oily black goo that will permanently stain all of my fingers. My daughters’ pockets? Chances are my hands will be covered in sticky pinkish lilac-scented goo that will at least leave my hands soft and supple.
When cleaning their rooms, I carefully arrange Penny, Patch, Rolly, and the other ninety-eight Dalmatians on their respective shelves. “Now, Daddy, don’t put Pongo and Penny together. They had a fight yesterday and they are still mad at each other. And Wizzer was naughty again, so put him by himself in time-out.”
X-Men bubble bath gives way to the millions of aromatic bubbles created by the Little Mermaid.
Like most men, I ain’t had much book learning on this sensitivity thing. But I am trainable. I must learn that we daughter-fathers need to look past the masculine-feminine relationships. We must learn that retaining our masculinity and raising daughters are not mutually exclusive.
We all go to art museums, attend plays, and watch foreign movies with no subtitles. We eat sushi. None of these activities possess any gender barriers. They are not the domain of one sex or the other.
We enjoy riding bikes and walking the dogs. I help them with their homework. Except the math. I let Mom help with the math.
My daughters’ toys will never be my toys. Likewise, their lives will never be my life. But my time can be theirs, and that is something I do possess that I can share with them. And with all that time available to us, who needs toys?
SAMUEL MURPHY is the former president of the William Murphy Advertising Agency and the author of the humorous and satirical RealAdviceForTheUnemployed, currently on sale at Amazon. He has also authored many short works giving rather skewed but real advice on family matters, employment, child rearing, and relationships. He has just completed his second, yet-to-be-published nonfiction work, RealAdviceForTheNewlywed. He lives in Florida with his wife, four daughters, and many, many animals.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Sep 16, 2014
Category: Terrible Twosdays | Tags: Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays, flash fiction, fiction, age four, four, short fiction, six, two, age two, GTFTS, I Have No Toys, Samuel Murphy, nine, age six, age nine, daughters
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