The Devil Came Down To Toys-R-Us

April 26, 2007

(Edits and addenda below!)
Yesterday, Her Bad Father and I had a disagreement. About child-rearing. Which, of course, he has a say in, even though much of the time I try to pretend that I have sole authority on all matters WonderBaby.
Most of the time, we agree entirely on the terms and conditions of WonderBaby wrangling, and on matters pertaining to the day-to-day care, feeding and amusement of WonderBaby he leaves things entirely to me. This is not because he does not participate in the day-to-day care/feeding/wrangling – he absolutely does, to a greater degree than most fathers with his kind of schedule (unless a project interferes, he always does the morning and evening routines with her. And then he cooks me dinner. Which is to say, none of what I’m about to say should in any way be interpreted as complaint.)

But one matter that never fails to provoke an unsolicited opinion from him is this: any and all displays of real or perceived consumerism. Baby consumerism. Specifically, consumption of garish plastic thingamabobbies marketed to mothers of babies who are desperate for distractions and who are a little quick on the credit-card finger. More specifically, my consumption of garish plastic thingamabobbies that are marketed to me and my (allegedly) itchy credit card finger.

Once upon a time – before WonderBaby joined our happy household – Her Bad Father and I agreed that we would never – never - allow giant, brightly-coloured plastic kid contraptions to cross our threshold. Never. Instead, our child would amuse herself with environmentally-friendly, hand-crafted toys – fashioned out of wood or refurbished tin or free-range sheep’s wool by happy, well-paid Swedish craftspeople or local artists or perhaps delivered to our modernist living room in the night by the Bauhaus Toy Fairy. That, or she would play with cardboard boxes and read books and frolic in the garden and knit her own hats out of hemp yarn that we would spin as a family on Sunday mornings. Also, she would never, ever watch TV, and would be breastfed until she was old enough to pour her own organic soy milk.

Which, ha. WonderBaby had been in our lives all of eight days when we gave in to my mother’s insistence that she buy our nap-averse infant a giant, hideous motorized rocking bassinet thingy that took up two-thirds of the space in our hitherto minimalist living room. We only tolerated the thing for a matter of weeks before we had it spirited away lest the glowy rotating mock-aquarium at its centre suck our souls away, but it was too late. The Rubicon had been crossed. From there it was a downward spiral into a deep – but brightly coloured – pit of plastic and tinny music and flashing lights from which we only emerge to turn on the television and give her bottles and put disposable diapers on her bum and otherwise contribute to environmental degradation and global capitalism. Our – my – need for respite from the constant demands of a turbo-charged midget overcame our determination to stay the course of the modern, conscientious, overfunctioning parent. It was all over before it even began.

Still, we manage to contain things. We don’t have any giant plastic kitchen sets or kid-sized toy cars or anything, really, that is bigger than WonderBaby. We recycle, we share toys with other parent friends, we do our part to not succumb entirely to siren call of Toys-R-Us. And so we’re generally okay with the level of plasticky clutteredness in our household and with our well-monitored vulnerability to the marketing of such things as contribute to such plasticky clutteredness and the like. Or, at least, I thought that we were.

Yesterday, WonderBaby and I acquired this:

Creepy plastic baby not included.

And Her Bad Father had – how shall I put this? – a reaction. A quiet reaction – some would say passive aggressive (much furrowing of brow; much tightening of jaw; much pointed silence) – but a reaction nonetheless.

When prompted to explain what his glitch was, he said this: “I know that we’ve sort of given up when it comes to letting ugly plastic crap in our house, but when I see my 17 month-old daughter come barrelling out the mall (ed. which, yes, she did; she insisted upon pushing it out of the mall in which we acquired it, along with many pairs of socks and underwear and baby latches and some cheap wine, and I let her because my hands were full of bags of socks and underwear and baby latches and wine and it just made my life easier, okay?) pushing a SHOPPING CART (ed. he did use full caps here) I gotta worry about the whole consumerism- run-amok thing here.”

Or words to that effect.

Which, fine. We do need to watch the consumerism. But here’s my position, as I articulated it to him last night: it’s not as though she came barrelling out of the mall with wee shopping bags and a cell phone and a baby chihuahua under her arm and wee sunglasses pushed back on her head and waving a credit card. It’s a grocery cart. It came with plastic fruits and vegetables. And grocery shopping is only consumerist in the most literal sense: we must acquire foodstuffs to consume, and when we do, we usually put them in a grocery cart. And if credit cards must be involved in this ritual, so be it. (WonderBaby does not have a credit card, outside of those occasions when she steals mine to buy beer, so I think that we’re good on the whole encouraging-responsible-consumption front.)

Besides which, WonderBaby loves pushing things and her beloved toy stroller just crapped out because it was cheap piece of shit from Toys-R-Us and needed replacing with some other pushable thingie so that I wouldn’t be called upon to help her push chairs around every five minutes.

So, I think that he’s unnecessarily projecting his fears about our souls being irretrievably lost to the Satan that rules the unholy dominion of Fisher-Price and Toys-R-Us and all the other circles of Toy Hell onto a relatively harmless toy grocery cart, which in any case – for the extra twenty-minutes of hands-free time per day that it’s giving me – is worth a teeny bit of soul-selling.

I’m right, no? Or this all just evidence that my soul has already been irretrievably lost and I should just start stocking up on Bratz dolls now?

***********

Still shilling for Blogitzer votes… now, not so much because I am ashamed of my one vote showing, but because I am now determined to give Dooce a run for her money. Her ass is mine.

Or not. If I can even get close enough to hurl some taunts I’ll be happy.

**********

In a totally different vein… my to-shop-or-not-to-shop problems and Bring-It-On-Dooce projects are the very definition of superficiality in comparison to what our current Basement blogger is going through. She really, really needs your support. Please go visit.

**********

Late Breaking Addendum: you know that there’s some showering going on, right? Check it. Play games, win prizes, drink liquor. And – most important – write a toast-post for Liz, Christina and Tammie (being induced AS WE SPEAK), and leave the link for me here – it’ll go up on the shower site this weekend. (My post will come later – and it will be soapy as hell.)

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    { 58 comments }

    mothergoosemouse April 29, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    It made her happy and temporarily distracted her from scaling the store shelves. What’s to hate about that?

    Leah April 29, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    We have way too many toys and Glenn calls Wal-mart the Devils boutique. My answer to him is nobody asks you to go to work without the tools you need to get things done, why do you expect me or the kids to get on with our day without the things we need to help us get us through it.
    I will say though that the toys they play with the most do the least!

    Anonymous April 30, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    It is a slippery slope. I found that the number of toys (good and bad) in our house exploded when our little guy hit about 2 years old.

    The guilt is hard, but in the end I don’t think the stuff matters much. I try to remind myself that my friend’s kids turned out just fine despite an extreme overabundance (my thinking at the time) of consumerism. They’re the nicest young adults you could ever meet.

    As for the shopping cart, the purpose seems to be pushing it as fast as those little wheels can spin. Putting objects in it just creates drag.

    kcgirlgeek April 30, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    As a mother, albeit of one who is presently a teen, and also having two step-children (also both teens now), I have to laugh….hard and out loud.

    This has to be one of THE greatest blog posts that I have ever read. Do you know RockStar Mommy or Dad Gone Bad? Both of those bloggers could be your missing twins/triplets! LOL And any parent is likely to relate to your dilemma here.

    But take heart…for the day will come when the bright colored plastic junk will be replaced with all manner of electronic gadgetry, computers, video games and consoles, athletic gear, dance gear, musical instruments and equipment, art supplies galore, more books than you EVER had before, mountains of school papers and backpacks, and ridiculous amounts of ODD clothing.

    They DO grow up. Their “toys” do change. But you have welcomed into your home another human being with curiosity and interests and dreams. They WILL “accumulate” as they grow. It is part of them finding out who they are apart from you.

    Welcome to Mommyhood! :)

    I say enjoy the simplicity of today’s “accumulations,” and know that this too shall pass.

    gingajoy May 2, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    “creepy plastic baby not included” (cracking my ass up over here! also at image of WB barrelling out of the Mall with the thing. LOVE. IT).

    Anonymous June 1, 2007 at 11:32 pm

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    Bitsy Parker June 3, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    I had this exact experience, except the grocery cart was another form of ugly push toy. The good thing is that the purchase makes you feel better for one day, and then in three months it’s out of your house and residing at the Goodwill.

    BTW, go to Goodwill and buy the ugly toy for a few bucks, and always take a large plastic item from your house. Trade the ugly stuff often so it does not become so permanent in your life.

    P.S. The wooden toys are crappy too. Everything is so poorly made. It’s all junk.
    Bitsy Parker at http://www.valuewit.com

    Idas December 3, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    The child’s father came home one night with the Pottery Barn shopping cart. All I said was “Are you retarded?”

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