December 14th, 2008
(It’s not a pony.)
I am such a tool. All month long I’ve seen commercial after commercial promoting this princess and that doll house and this ‘Lil Pony and that Easy Bake Oven and this pooping baby and that Scooby Doo Mystery Game. And each time I hear the kids scream in unison, “I want THAT!” I gently but firmly remind my girls that Christmas is for giving and not for getting, and to remember the true meaning of the season and that bigger is not better. I vowed to stay mostly away from princesses in particular, because my children are besmirched with glamour, to the point where Toots told me about a friend the other day, “She’s not pretty, mom, but I’m nice to her anyway.”
As if beauty were everything. Which it is NOT, unless you want more pay, more friends, and more people to stop if your car breaks down.
Truly though, this preoccupation with looks, things, and image completely irks me, and I want to discourage the tendency in my kids to value stuff over substance any way I can. So I constantly remind Toots and Booger of the boring adages I mentioned above, and also throw in a good old-fashioned “money can’t buy happiness” now and again, with an annoyingly crusty “money don’t grow on trees” cliche for good measure.
And despite all that, I flew in the face of my morals and parables and life lessons today when I urgently whispered to The Rock after an especially effective poofy princess ad that the kids didn’t have any “WOW!” presents. Immediately after the sparkles faded from our TV screen, I hopped on the ToysRUs website to compare the glitzy talking kitchens and terrifyingly lifesize Dora dolls to the mostly educational, arty, and brainy gifts we’d bought the kids.
(Except for the Bozo Punching Bag. THAT purchase is trump-less and without equal.)
I then marched The Rock downstairs and insisted that we look at each gift we’d bought, as if seeing them for the first time and through our kids’ eyes, while I loudly proclaimed, “Nope. Not WOW!”
Next came the list making, where I itemized each present, scrutinized them for wowability, and after concluding they had none, I guessed I could “trade up” some presents, you know, maybe return the blocks for the Desperate Housewife Barbie, or take the Little People Castle back and get the Sarah Lynn and Her Royal Dance ‘N Twirl Palace™ instead.
The Rock succeeded in talking me down, and we’re sticking with what we bought, mostly. (Sarah Lynn twirls! Also, it’s a Royal Dance Palace! So you just know there’s some fancy wowwy waltz stuff going on in there) I think I can stick to my guns and not march into the nearest toy store come December 24 in an effort to assuage my educational toy guilt. It’s just that I totally remember asking my mom and dad for a TV one year, and instead they gave me that Fisher Price plastic television that you turn with a knob while it plays Row, Row, Row the Boat ad nauseum, and I
was so pissed. My parents were the King and Queen of toy substitution. If I asked for that Barbie Penthouse with the elevator that you pulled with the string,
I instead got a poster with Barbie on it and a shoebox. I’m so completely not even kidding you. I was expected to make my own penthouse from the shoebox, which I did, but what the hell? Also, thinking back, I don’t think it was a shoebox, it was a little fancier, with a rose on a shiny green cover, but I do believe the box once held Courvoisier or maybe Disaronno, and once again I ask you, what the hell?
Someone please answer that for me, because no therapist has been able to.
I think much of my gift angst comes from not wanting my kids to years later say, “I always wanted that terrifying lifesize Dora doll, but my parents never got it for me.” Or the even worse, “Oh the Barbie Penthouse? My friend Dawn had it, and I was so jealous. I got a smelly shoe/or liquor box instead.”
Either way, later, my parents gave up the gig. But I was already out of the house by the time my youngest brother got every freaking thing he ever asked for, including the Sega Genesis game console WITH Sonic the Hedgehog, which they had to buy EXTRA, and was not even BUNDLED with the game for free.
What’s with that anyway? I also got underwear every year. And an orange in my stocking.
That’s right! It’s all coming back to me. Such disturbing, heartbreaking images of multi-purposed holiday citrus.
I’m so getting that Sarah Lynn waltzer thing.
*Some of this was exaggerated for my own amusement. My childhood Christmas presents didn’t totally suck. But the plastic TV/Courvoisier or maybe Disaronno shoebox part can totally be corroborated and independently verified.