A Toy Too Far and an Emotional Sucker Punch


My inner child typically goes wild during the holidays: perusing the many catalogues that come to the house pointing to each item (or circling) the ones I want the way I did when I was a kid. Now, instead of Easy Bake Ovens or Barbie accessories, I’m eyeballing whatever takes my fancy and trying to justify buying it.*

My butt really deserves a $5,000 massage

Yet, this time of year also brings with it the anxiety of gift buying that grows more intractable every year. Worry about buying a commensurate gift or any gift for an unexpected kindness makes me want to avoid people.** Trust me, when I say “You shouldn’t have!” I really mean it. The Big Bang Theory’s neurotically lovable character, Sheldon, said it best: “You didn’t get me a gift, you got me an obligation.”

But I understand, there is a joy in sharing and caring for the ones you love. But maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to do it with tangible, pricey exchanges—beautiful bows, notwithstanding.

This brings up today’s quandary. I have looked up from November’s hole of self-absorption to realize Christmas is barely two weeks away. I have not strung the house with any kind of decoration. I have not written any cards. I have baked no cookies. I have purchased no gifts, no boomwhackers or fandoozles. In short, I have been the Grinch who Ignored Christmas.

My son, however, has finally noticed the holiday comes around every year. He has started dragging me to the toy aisle to point out the extremely expensive plastic monstrosity which is this year’s IT toy:

Because nothing says love like $99.99 worth of plastic.

Now, I try not to be a Scrooge when it comes to my kid. But there is a history here that wars with my better nature. Maybe it is because he is autistic, but in the past my son has insisted on one toy in particular. He will drag me or run to the toy department to make me follow him. He will try to get me to buy it…or, failing that, will try to tuck it under his arm and walk out with it. It takes the skills of a ninja for me to sneak out, buy the item, wrap it and hide it where he can’t find it, and keep it secret until December 26th.

Then, when the holiday rolls around, and I wait to see his excitement as he opens his present, I am floored by the total disinterest the toy produces when it is actually removed from the many trip wires they use to entrap parents into never returning the item for fear they would have to repackage it. It’s as if, the minute it is out of the box, it loses whatever magic it possessed in the store when I refused to buy it for him.

So I sat down with my son and pulled up several much-cheaper options online which he willingly clicked on and watched the video ads that promoted them. Over, and over, and over. Afterwards, I type out my questions on the iPad and wait for his painstakingly slow replies:

Me: “Why do you want the garage toy?

Son: “It is wider.”

Me: “It is very expensive. Let’s see if we can find a cheaper toy you like.”

[interlude with several nearly identical v-tech toys.]

Me: “Will you like this toy instead?”

Son: “Yes”

Me: “Is there anything else you would like for Christmas?”

Son: “Crayons.”

Me: “Okay, anything else?”

Son: “I would like you to teach me to talk.”

It took me a few seconds to remember how to breathe, that’s how much the sentence hurt. I typed a few more sentences about how well he is doing and how much I now know about him because of the iPad…but he is done for the night. He runs off to play and I get a glass of wine and try not to cry.

It is entirely tempting to just order the damned prized toy to make up for all of the things my child doesn’t have. It is a constant measure of guilt that underscores many of the decisions I make as a parent. It is a trap of desperation: “If only I can make him happy it will make up for him being a non-verbal child with autism.” But I have been down this very expensive road before and, though it is a scenic route full of enticing detours, I stick to my pecuniary path. I order a VTech Ultimate Amazement Play Park car set that will make him happy for at least an hour at half the price.

Do we as parents say “No!” to the overpriced toys and the overpriced holidays since we know that it isn’t worth the cost?  On the other hand, do we really want to face disappointing our child and the associated guilt? This is my continual quandary.

I would really like to know, where do you all come down on this issue? Do you cave and buy the exorbitant junk or do you grit your teeth bear the price of impecunious, parental perspicacity?***

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*I am impulse consumerism personified.

**Let’s be honest, people make me want to avoid people.

***Because I like alliteration, so there.

9 thoughts on “A Toy Too Far and an Emotional Sucker Punch

  1. Really a relevant post. Absolutely spot on.
    We have modest Christmases, because I grew up with them and think there’s value in them. Sometimes our kid get a bike or Rock Band, or a nice piece of jewelry, but it’s rare. My father says as long as each child gets something he or she truly wants, price and size should not matter.
    For years now, we’ve been doing ‘something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.’ That’s four gifts for each kid, and they’re never disappointed, or they’re raised well enough not to complain, lol!
    I think there are times when we can buy a little happiness for our kids without damage. I mean, if we have a friend going through a hard time, we don’t think we’ll spoil them with lunch out or a spa day or a good bottle of wine. Sometimes the gifts can say how much we care. I think it’s exactly the same.
    I feel for you, at the pain of teaching him how to talk. I lost my breath, too. Heartbreaking. For him asking for that. My God, what price would you pay for that?
    No one can tell you how to holiday or when to spoil with toys, but no, I don’t cave. If it’s unreasonable, or I can’t justify the expense for anticipated use, or if I just think it’s overindulgent, I don’t buy it.
    Cut yourself some slack, V-tech makes great toys 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. For everything you said. This was going to be a lighthearted piece until I had the ‘conversation’ with my son last night. After that, it was like I was recovering from the shrapnel of the emotional bomb that went off.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, but I am holding out the kidney until he asks for that specifically. I’m selfish that way. That, and I just know he would forgot that stupid piece of plastic the minute he got it out of the wrapping paper. Still, I do feel like a Scrooge sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Answer Queen (so many opportunities to be wrong : )

        1. Gosh, I love to boast. Although this gift backfired big time. Should turn that into a blog post: I hid an entire log cabin from my sons. It arrived in six pieces from…Minnesota! BIG pieces. Then, Christmas eve, in a thunderous downpour, Joe and I assembled it in the backyard in the garden under two trees, and put a child-sized decorated Christmas tree within. Pretty cool Christmas morning. Anyhoo, a waterpark isn’t THAT much bigger, is it? Get crackin’! Two more shopping days.

        2. My kids’ Slip’n’Slide was a hose and black taped-together plastic garbage bags weighted down with plastiic soft-sided trash cans at the distant corners. Tell your son “I’VE got yer water park, kid: Right here.” and hand him a box of Hefties.

        3. How’dya know he doesn’t mean one of those preschool ones where you turn a crank to make the water flow and push the plastic boats around? I got one for $10 that even had a lock! Very nice.

        4. Could he not, possibly, mean a trip to a waterpark–when summer comes? That is a reasonable request

        I don’t know how old he is–11? pulled that out of my, um, ear) If I’m in the ballpark, how about a nerf-shooting device, and another for you or your husband to do battle. Even if he’s not into sports, if he doesn’t have a nerf basketball hoop that mounts on or hooks over a door, they is inexpensive and good for alone or together fill-in time. Thinking of these ’cause he’s so active. Also: BIG believer in kits. If you can get such an active boy hooked on hobby, oh boy. Some happy, peaceful hours. Something requiring detail, precision, no razor knives, that has a nerd community associated. His people (my people).

        What a buttinski jerkwad I am. Don’t even know you, or him, or situation. Yet, am sending this without deleting all of that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your suggestions, while truly stellar, totally shot past the moon and landed somewhere outside the solar system. The son is particularly difficult to entertain, safely. He likes turning off the refrigerator, turning on the A/C (in winter) and cries if he can’t print more tiny calendars to color, cut, and glue to every surface except the paper he is aiming for. He will go to the library, but it will be to wait for his opportunity to take off and try to visit the giant, subterranean air conditioning unit you can see from its fenced-in oubliette outside the building. (It has about a 20 foot drop and lures him like a jogging track lures muggers at night.) He is autistic with a capital “Aust”. It can be very frustrating. And yet, he is my guy, and I want him to be happy. As a single mom, I get to make all the decisions and sometimes, I hit one out of the park in a good way. And for Alexei, that means a water park–so we will go to one for his birthday this year. But thanks for playing! “Guess My Life.”

        Liked by 1 person

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