The only real mistake you can make as a parent is to point a flashlight into the abyss under your living room couch.

There is a moment at the end of each night when the kids are asleep, work assignments are finished, Netflix is cued up and all the toys have been put away.

The living room is clean and peaceful. My wife and I get ready to have an actual conversation. And then…

Then, I see the pink foot of some princess who’s name and backstory escape me, so she must not have her own show yet.

I am tempted to push it back under the couch with my toe. What harm could come from that? She’s probably been lost down there for a month or more.

Make a mental note of this little treasure for the next time both of the Aurora’s have been trapped in the castle tower and my two daughters are at each other’s throats over how best to extract her.(It’s always with Kristoff. That much I know by now.)

No, I think. Let’s relax with that feeling that everything is truly clean.

I lean down on one knee and peer down at this little figurine. I see a blue train piece. Guess I should get that, too.

Behind that is a puzzle piece that was thought to have escaped via the vacuum. What else is under there?

I get all the way down on my stomach and make the ultimate mistake. A few thumb flicks and a light is ready to illuminate the world only lost toys know.

Dear God…

An orgy of cobwebs and crushed crackers exposes itself to me. Figurines and blocks. Balls and bean bags. It’s like the toy department at some run down K-Mart has been festering under my keister every night and I had no idea.

Is that my social security card? How did the spare house key get in there? What dead fruit is that all chewed up and mangled in the corner?

I lift myself up slowly. Do I dare pull the couch away from the wall and try to chip away at the debris awaiting me? Or, do I shove the memory of the chaos into the back of my brain and freeze it out with some ice cream.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do as a parent is lie about there being any ice cream left so you’ve got something to look forward to when the day is over and you’re out of bourbon.

Photo credit: calebwilkerson via / CC BY-NC

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