Today I ventured into a megastore to buy a gift requested in the Season of Sharing letter I was sent, which I talked more about the other day. To be honest, I was a little worried about venturing into the visual assault that is the megastore toy section. I was struck by all the instructions and brands that seemed to alienate and deviate natural curiosity into a more prescripted playtime.
Determined to make this little girl’s holiday a bit brighter, I spent 30 minutes looking for the #1 item on the list, “gilitor lava.” I asked a salesman, a woman with a young girl, and the young girl herself. Each time we sounded it out together and scratched our heads. The salesman and I agreed it sounded like a superhero. After poring over the entire toy section, I realized she meant “glitter lava.” Success at last!
Suddenly I understood the complete sense of panic and fingers crossed that parents must have when trying to buy gifts for their children. The dolls pictured above were a special circle of hell as when I walked down the aisle, they all started making creepy noises in unison. After finding the glitter lava, I then set out to find the other two things on the list. And then there I sat in the aisle debating which was the better present on the list as I could only choose one: glitter lava, Easy-Bake oven, or Polly Pocket Ultimate Party Boat.
This fieldtrip caused so much second-guessing that if I ever have children I’m going to have start buying their presents 6 months in advance complete with a researched list of pros and cons. I ended up with the Polly Pocket Ultimate Party Boat because not only did it have about a million extra pieces, it also came with a jetski for Polly to ride the high seas on. And who knew that being able to “chillax” was a sales point?! I had no idea it was so ingrained in our culture that it’s Polly Pocket approved, even while “ice cream” remained in quotes.
I’m crossing my fingers that my little Santa writer will not be sad when she opens up the gift and doesn’t discover glitter lava….which just seemed boring and too Mr. Wizard compared to getting a boat, a jetski, boating accessories and child-size sunglasses so the little girl can keep the sun out of her eyes while she’s rocking out with Polly on the boat. The obvious front-runner at first, the Easy-Bake oven, failed because I just couldn’t send an 8 year old I don’t know something you plug in the wall even if it meant there would be no little tiny tasty cakes.
I left the megastore feeling overwhelmed by all the shiny brand new things that mooed and baaed and said “Mama” as I walked past. It seemed completely impersonal with way too many warning labels and notes about choking hazards. Coming back home to my handmade crafty things was a welcome respite as my house was soft and comfy and warm instead of robotic and plastic and kinda creepy.
And I wonder what the future will bring, and if one day I’ll find myself sitting down in an aisle comparing and contrasting toys that my child desparately wants. Will they only want the mass manufactured? Will they choose Made in China over Made by Mom? Something tells me I already know the answer, I just hope it will be possible to instill a respect for the handmade so their hand-crafted items will give them as much joy and wonder as the ones made miles away by strangers.
And if I’m really really lucky, maybe they’ll understand the freedom and the power and the love that goes into their handmade gifts and create their own adventures instead of being told where their little busy minds should wander by chillaxin’ marketers who give them numbered lists.
Tuesday morning, December 16, I’ll be on Martha Stewart Living Radio! I’ll be interviewed for the show Whole Living, which is on air 10-11 AM EST. Not a Sirius subscriber? You can sign up for a 3-day free trial here!