Monday, January 18, 2010

I Shall Return

Taking a trip out to stores the day after Christmas is becoming a yuletide tradition for yours truly. Apparently I am not alone either. It seems every year more and more people are out spending whatever gift cards they received on Christmas (seeing the stores are pretty much empty after Christmas, I never understood the point). Or perhaps they are out to snatch up that obnoxious singing Santa door greeter at 50% off. I however, along with others, partake in another endeavor…the annual “Returning Sh*t That People Gave My Kids That Really Serves No Purpose Other Than To Return It And Get Money For A Better Gift” festival.

What’s that you say? Did you just call me shallow and sleazy? Yep…no bones about it. Seriously and quite sadly , more and more each year my kids get bombarded with crap. Some of it quite frankly I wouldn’t give to a dog as a chew toy. Don’t get me wrong, I know people mean well and perhaps they haven’t a clue when it comes to buying for kids. I know if it weren’t for my kids, I’d probably end up right next to these people at the local toy department staring blankly wondering what to get. However, after years of receiving many awful toys I can honestly serve as a guide to what NOT to get kids for Christmas. Hence the purpose of this blog entry. Keep in mind, some of the stuff I’m advising against is stuff kids may actually want. However, and I can finally admit it now, parents know best.

The Multiple Piece Toy

I recall growing up one year I received the Speeder Bike from Return Of The Jedi. It was made to break apart with the touch of a button thus simulating the action of the movie. F’n awesome right! Well, looking back I think I may have been the cause of blood pressure rises in my household for months afterward. As a kid, it was no problem to blow the thing to pieces. However, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to put the damn thing back together. Hence why I would always end up bothering my parents or older brother to put it back together again.

Along those lines I recall getting the game Mouse Trap one year. My father and I painstakingly put the game together over the span of one hour. However, we didn’t realize until we were done that the game was supposed to be put together while playing. Jesus H…when people mention that game now as a classic, it makes me cringe. Well none the less, the game ended up on top of the big pile of returns at the toy store a day later.

Nowadays I realize as a parent what an awful idea multiple piece toys are. First you need to appreciate the sensitivity factor of kids. If one piece goes missing, no matter how small or insignificant, it’s like a nuclear bomb just landed in the back yard. Life itself is doomed and there is no way they can pick up the remaining pieces (literally and figuratively) and move on. And believe me, I really hypothesize that kids are naturally prone to losing pieces. That and said piece they lose usually isn’t out in the open. Rather it’s shoved deep in the crevices of the couch next to that moldy pretzel and whatever ungodly things are growing down there. Bottom line, if you as a parent don’t recover that piece the toy is null and void in they eyes of children. That and you will be hailed as a failure in their eyes forever no matter even if you end up ruling the world. Kids are good at holding grudges about odd sh*t I find.

Now don’t get me wrong. Eventually when kids get past a hump, multiple part toys are mandatory. Without GI Joes and Transformers, my childhood wouldn’t have been the same. However, kids have to get to the point of self responsibility before they even take a look at these toys. If they lose Cobra Commander’s gun then they need to realize they’re sh*t out of luck and only have themselves to blame.

The Noisemakers

If you were a parent of a child between 1 and 6 when Tickle Me Elmo came out, you have my undying sympathy. I can’t imagine the pain you went through. I’m assuming you have the jitters whenever you hear that little red bastard’s voice. That and I’m sure you don’t think tickling is a fun leisure time activity anymore. Indeed, Elmo went out his way that year to annoy. However, there always seems to be something next in line to drive parents insane. Usually its something with immensely high decibel levels, rattles on the floor like a misplaced dildo and for the most part is a waste of perfectly good materials.

Of course the noisemakers seem to be fun and innocent at first. Your child opens it, plays with it once, beams a smile and moves on to the next toy. Sometimes your child may actually not play with it as much as you expect. This in itself is the best case scenario. However, if they find a way to make that hell spawn toy talk, you’re in a world of hurt.

Somewhere I picture a bunch childless douche bags in suits sitting around throwing pencils at the ceiling trying to decide what hellspawn noisy sh*t they are going to force out that year for Christmas. Every year it seems the toys get noisier and we get more and more of them. The worst part of it all, many of them come from parents of older children. Um excuse me? Have they honestly forgot what audible torture is like from a three year old pressing THE SAME DAMN BUTTON 50 TIMES A DAY! Is this some kind of repugnant joke? Are people dumping their negative experiences into my lap? Granted, if it is I’d be able to appreciate this concept more. However, if I ever buy someone a happy singing train then they can feel free to call me a sadist.


Stuffed animals suck. I really don’t know what else to say about them. First off, they are way too godamned bulky. They’re like a Twinkie, no matter how much you squish them they’ll expand back to their original form. This makes finding storage for these items rather hellacious. For example, currently in my house we have two giant nets holding up all the stuffed animals we own. I’m praying the nets don’t give way because we will all be caught in a tidal wave of stuffed awfulness.

Secondly, stuffed animals are nothing more than dust magnets with obnoxiously cute faces. I’m going out on a limb here but I think if you did a study on houses with tons of plush toys compared to ones without, the cases of asthma for the ones “with” would be staggering. Lastly, every year there is a new pathetic plush item on the market kids have to have. This sh*t really exploded with the reprehensible Beanie Baby phase. Couldn’t all that fabric wasted on those things be used to say, well, clothe the homeless?

Be that as it may I think every kid in the world should be entitled to that one our two special squishy “friends” they take to bed at night. The problem I find is EVERYONE and their brother outside your house wants to be the one who gives them that “friend”. I can recall with my first son’s birth being inundated with f*cking stuffed animals. We received a truck load of cotton filled critters of all shapes/sizes and the kid wasn’t even a week old yet. Gee, can you say “smothering hazard”? I knew you could. None the less, most of these creatures (aside the ones we could successfully return to their store of origin for a cash refund) are now landfill somewhere. And I’m going to assume that no matter how many tons of garbage they have on top of them, they are maintaining their obnoxious, non-space friendly form. All the while maintaining their ghastly eternal smile.

The End Suggestion

So, what does one get kids that won’t make their parent disown/beat/castrate them? Well aside not getting the above stuff, one needs to stop pretending they absolutely need to see the “joy” on kids faces when they open their present. Sorry to burst bubbles but kids usually open stuff, look at it and it gets tossed into “who gives a sh*t-ville” until later play. Seeing that’s the general reaction, why not give them a nice gift card to spend. Sure they will think it’s a dumb piece of plastic but hopefully it will help the parents teach their kids about it’s values. That and at least the parents will have a say of what toy their kid will play with.

So in closing I hope to have saved many friendships from bottoming out due to awful children gift giving. I also hope to have saved the earth by having one less stuffed animal bastard thrown into the Tuesday morning trash pick up. No need to thank me…see you at the return desk.

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