It is mid-October. Mums are in bloom, kids are prepping for Halloween, pumpkins are being picked, and apple recipes are being tested in kitchens all over the Northeast. So of course, Wal-Mart sent out a press-release about Christmas.
Now, I love Christmas. There is much making of merry come holiday season. But this isn’t it. It isn’t even cold out. I can still shop in sandals. Back to school shopping should not morph directly into Christmas shopping –it’s just not right.
But of course, being the glutton for punishment, I clicked on the Top Picks link to see what toys I am going to studiously avoid this year. And number one on that list would be the child-sized version of Beer Pong. Sure, they are calling it “Cuponk” but the basic stratagem is the same: bounce balls off table into cup. First and foremost, what crazy-ass parent chooses to give their child a projectile and unleash it into their dining room? “Sure son, please feel free to wing that bouncy ball as hard as you can at your great-great grandmother’s dining room table. Just make sure you don’t hit the china cabinet. And make sure to chug your milk if you get it in the cup.” Please. This gift will indeed be hard to find this year if only because every college student in America is going to snatch it up at the first opportunity.
Then there is, of course, the newest version of the Disney Princesses. The marketing machine at Disney is nothing if not robust. At 18 inches high, the damn things are practically child-sized and are scary as hell. Let me tell you what – until those things actually start doing the domesticated chores they embrace so happily in their movies, cooking, cleaning, mending, etc., then the dolls don’t need hands large enough to hold a spoon, broom, or needle. And I don’t know what a “Monster High” is, but I can sure as hell promise you that my daughter will not be finding out anytime soon. Those dolls are freaky.
I’ll skip the remote-controlled Bigfoot, monster truck, and motorcross racing bike. My son can destroy things well enough on his own, thanks. I would like to know what idiot created the Hot Wheels Stealth Rides though. A remote-controlled car that is smaller than a deck of cards but retails for $24.99 just seems like a really bad idea. Any wagers on how long before that particular toy gets lost? It might be easier to just buy one of those monster collections of Match Box cars and throw them into random corners and under hard-to-reach pieces of furniture and call it a day.
Also on my do-not-buy list, the Nerf N-Strike Stampede which looks exactly like a miniature machine gun, but in bright orange. The perfect toy for keeping terrorists off the San Francisco Bay Bridge! I will also be studiously avoiding the weird “Loopz” game that does nothing more than remind me of that really uncomfortable Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Wesley has to stop everyone from playing that sexually-charged video game alongside a fetal Ashley Judd. Riker’s “o” face gave me nightmares for weeks and the thought of seeing a preschool version on my son’s face leaves me at a loss for words.
However, I do like the Pillow Pets, though I’m not sure how they are a new toy being as half the people I know bought one last year. The Sing-a-ma-jigs seem cute, it not really poorly named and Electronic Scrabble just seems like a waste of batteries especially since it appears to be a rip-off of Boggle more than anything else. The Leapster Explorer seems fun, but my daughter is still quite happy with her regular Leapster and until I need to pass it along to her younger brother, she isn’t getting a new one.
So, once again, the Must Have list leaves me cold and short of ideas. Once again, I will have to undertake exploratory trips to toy stores, will have to leave catalogues open for perusing, and will have to plant ideas in their heads like I do every year. Once again, I will try to get them to want what I want them to have, not what marketing companies have decided they need based on supply. But for now, I am going to ignore Christmas entirely. I still have Halloween costumes to finish and lots and lots of candy to gather. Only after the pumpkins have been thoroughly ravaged by squirrels and socks need to be worn on a regular basis will I start Christmas shopping. And no amount of prodding from Wal-Mart will make me start any earlier.