Intersections – Hide the Batteries
By Nicki Salcedo
The best reason to have kids is to play with toys, but toys are also one of the reasons not to have kids. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of good reasons to not have kids. Poop. Pee. The edge of your shirt being used for boogers. The porta-potty on the soccer field. Lack of sleep.
Toys are a perk and a trap. You bring them into the house under the guise of creating happiness and you end up with is chaos and despair. Consider these issues as you shop for toys this holiday season. I can’t tell you to DO or DON’T buy anything. Buy whatever you like, but be aware of the dangers of each toy.
Gender biased toys. Once you conform to the dominant paradigm and buy the Barbie or Ironman action figure, some parents will judge you for perpetuating gender stereotypes. My girls like pink stuff with glitter. My son likes Ironman. Guess what? I am perpetuating gender stereotypes, even though I hate pink and glitter is evil.
If gender biased toys are an issue, I have a solution for you. Rocks are gender neutral. Trees, though phallic, are gender neutral. Or instead of gifts, send your kids to play outside.
Toys with eyes. I love Barbie, because her eyes are too small to be creepy. I never liked baby dolls with eyelids that close when you put them down and open when you pick them up. The original Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll” scarred me for life. Talky Tina was not right in the doll brain. Who’s afraid of things under the bed when there are plenty of frightening eyeballs staring at you from your toy chest?
Toys with on/off switches. Noise and movement. We have every kind of buzzing remote control car or zooming superhero. Some toys make noise for no apparent reason, except to rattle the synapses of my brain. I can deal with noise, but eventually dying batteries lead to strange sounds in the middle of the night. Ironman’s low battery death is enough to shut down my ovaries. “I am Ironma-ma-ma…” Just die already. Hide the batteries.
Musical instruments are noise with a purpose. We have xylophones, harmonicas, recorders, and drums. My children’s music teacher recommended that we get a real guitar with an amp because she hates us.
“We have enough noise sounds in our house. We don’t need any kind of sound amplified,” I said.
Sure there are headphones, but if headphones were a good solution, that talking Ironman action figure would have come with headphones.
Too many parts. Decks of cards. Uno. Monopoly money. Jigsaw puzzles. The missing piece meets the big “Oh, no you didn’t,” and I’m looking for the trash can. Games or toys with multiple parts rarely stay together. The pieces revolt. You will find them in distant corners and the sock drawer and the trunk of your car, but never in the same spot after the box is open. Toys with many parts are good for parents who like to play hide-and-seek. I promise you, your kids will never look for these missing pieces.
Very small pieces, otherwise known as vacuum food. I used to panic and dig LEGOs out of the vacuum. Those building sets are expensive, but now my kids know the rules. Anything I pick up goes into the garbage. If a toy gets vacuumed up, it goes to the great beyond. I’m not dumpster diving for a red 2×2 brick ever again. Small pieces are a choking hazard. They are also nose and ear hazards. Medical professionals have extracted all manner of objects from our various head holes. Feed the vacuum and save yourself a trip to the doctor.
Being crafty. I want my kids to learn how to sew and make jewelry, but not inside my house. My sister gave my kids a “create your own marker” set and offered me a half-hearted apology as my daughter opened it. Any gift that comes with “I’m sorry” will make you sorry indeed.
Books. I’m not a toy Grinch. I enjoy The Game of Life even though I despise the little peg people that go in the car. I love Play-Doh. I love magic markers that are used to make artwork on my walls. I’ve found a great solution for my toy dilemma. I go to the bookstore with my kids. I love to read. I love books. It’s time for holiday shopping, and I’m notorious for giving books to my whole family.
Buying books is really the best reasons to have kids. We get to use our imagination. But let’s be honest. I like books because they are quiet and clean and cause no destruction.
Don’t peek. Here comes the truth. I’m not supposed to like toys. But I do. I like the Barbies even though they are always naked. I like Silly Putty. I like Ironman before his batteries die and when he is still super. There are days when I want to hide the batteries and throw everything in the trash. But I don’t. The mess and noise don’t matter.
Be the hero. Buy your child or nephew or neighbor whatever YOU want. Aunts and godparents and Nana don’t worry about these things. Be a kid again. Don’t be a scrooge. Enjoy the pieces and noise. Share in the fun. Enjoy the toys.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.