I decided to be a trooper a few nights ago and blast through Christmas shopping for my kids. I’d fill the cart, ’80′s game show-style, and then unload it, as a layaway, on some unsuspecting shlub. I’d have all the toys, and none of them in the house. It was ingenious! I’d also unwrap everything and put it together before Christmas morning so as not to have to contend with boxes, batteries, or those plastic ties I’m certain were created by the Russian military. I had a plan.
I wandered in to Toys ‘R’ Us with my rickety cart and started my search. I won’t lie – there were many difficult choices. There was hard plastic Woody, plastic-face, cloth body, plastic boots Woody, all-cloth Woody with a pull string, smaller all-cloth Woody with a pull string, in-between-sized, plastic-faced, cloth Woody with plastic Bullseye, and one of them talked, but I don’t know which one because I got confused. And there are starving children in India. Just ponder that for a moment.
I picked a Woody. With a Bullseye. That’s all I know. ‘That was simple,’ I said to myself as I entered the wood, die-cast, mechanical, windup, pull-back, and plastic-hybrid toy train department. A Chuggington set was on sale. I chose that.
And then I reached the tablets – a vast world of rectangular promises, the cartridges bound for somewhere far behind a couch, the sheer delight of education and entertainment. There was a Leap Pad, a Nabi, an I’m-Clearance- Good-Luck-Finding-Cartridges, and then there was an Innotab, an Innotab, which seemed to play on the fears of all of us. In a fully working, lit, embellished display sat the Innotab 3S, in all its $79.99 glory. Innotab 3S. And next to it, sitting silently, was the Innotab 3, dusty, shy, and insecure next to his flashy younger brother. ‘Well, eff this! ’I said to myself, probably out loud, and reached for an Innotab 3. I thought fifty-odd dollars was a large enough investment for something I wasn’t yet sure would be a learning tool, a weapon, or a raft for Barbie.
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
I next moved onto the Legos. Do you know what’s happened to Legos over the past twenty years? Yeah, me neither. Did you know that Lego sets (the Duplo, kids’ kind) run right up around fifty bucks? Fifty bucks. For Legos. I picked up a set, out of a combination of nostalgia and parental guilt, and moved on.
Quickly realizing that the toys were priced according to the desirability of the featured character, I started picking the lesser-known stars. Needless to say, Sophia and Jake remained on the shelf. I think I grabbed a Hanson drum set and a Snorks craft box. I’m buying for three kids, roughly the same age. What do you want from me?
The next three or four items were all on clearance. I don’t know what they were. Spider Man, maybe.
When I reached the play tents, I had a bit of trouble. See, the Monsters University bus was cheapest, but I wasn’t certain all three kids would fit inside, plus Maggie was demonstrably afraid of that movie and everything in it. But it was the cheapest. I floundered, picked it up, put it down, then ultimately opted for the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse tunnel of inevitable screaming, crying, and hair pulling.
The trip was starting to wear me down. Baby doll. Baby doll that talked. Baby doll that blinked. Baby doll that talked and blinked with twinkling light effect.
Tea set. Tea set with tiny cardboard boxes (out). Tea set with sound. Tea set with sound and lights. Tea set with sound, lights, elderberry scones, and sniveling, rich aunt.
I was tired.
The remainder of my decision making went a little like this: Is it on sale? If thrown, would it break a window? How long before it falls apart? I’d say it went well.
I endured the looks of shock and awe as I lumbered towards the register, peering over the precarious pile of toys in my cart. I apologized in advance before dropping it all in front of a seasonal trainee. I put the Legos back.
As I signed the layaway agreement, I thought briefly of the last year, of the fact that every toy that had been purchased for these little Romulans has now either been completely destroyed or permanently removed for safety of all involved, and I patted myself on the back for giving it another shot. I’ll only be Santa for so long, before cynicism and repeated requests to use the car become the norm. I’ll only see those wide eyes and hear the gasps for a few years before they turn into sighs and moans.
So, I did it. And you’ll do it, too, soon enough.
Just remember to keep it simple, and don’t forget the batteries.