On toys

Just before the Critter's birthday, we had a long discussion about whether or not to get her a Nintendo DS. I can't for the life of me remember why now, as voting against anything with a circuit board and a touch screen seems pretty unlike me, but I was against it. Maybe it was a reaction to having just inventoried all our crap in preparation for the move. Including the mountain of shiny plastic and doll bits that our daughter of just-now-6 has somehow accumulated in her short life.

Not long after she was born, I went to a Toys 'R' Us for the first time as a new dad. Looking at the racks and racks of toys as a father, rather than a post-teen that didn't want to grow up was a revelation. It was a whole new experience for me. I realized that there were so many things that I would get to introduce her to. Things that I loved as a kid. Things that I would have loved as a kid, but only got to see on commercials. Things that I would have loved as a kid, but weren't invented yet. There were action figures, and bikes, and erector sets, and Legos! Oh, how I loved the Legos. A kid up the street from me had enough Legos to rebuild Versailles, actual size. On the moon. (Because he had the space sets). I had the remnants of one sad Lego castle set and a few blocks that I got in a Happy Meal. I totally had Lego envy. Also, I had computer envy. Because he had an Atari 800, and I had, well, the remnants of one sad Lego castle set and a few blocks that I got in a Happy Meal.

So flash forward 20 years, and I'm standing in Toys Be We, and looking at the shelves of Legos. A bucket of Legos about the size of a standard bathtub costs less than twenty bucks. Twenty bucks. For hours of happy construction, yellow-headed fun. All I could think was: my parents were such cheap bastards.

With a few years of parenting under my belt, I now understand. They weren't cheap. They were smart. A bathtub of Legos equals dozens of night time incidents of Lego-foot crippling. Stepping on one of those little pegged hazards in the dark hours has probably caused more me to swear more viciously in one go than I did in all my years in the military. They used the price tag as an excuse, but really they were just trying to limit the deluge of crap that can take over your house if you ever let down your toy guard.

But back to the DS.

My Bride over ruled my objections, and the Critter somehow ended up with a DS. It was because we were moving, she said, and she wanted her to have something that she could play with and out of trouble while all our things were in transit. About five seconds after she opened the box, she had hauled me out to the game shop to pick out something she could play. She picked Cooking Mama 2. I threw in Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? as well, because I saw it had sudoku. And my Bride is a fiend for sudoku. And I'm nice to the little lady like that.

That was my mistake.

Soon, my Bride and I were hovering over the Critter saying things like, "are you done yet?" and "you look like you're tired. Here, let me hold the DS for you," and "As your father, I am instituting a 7 minutes a day time limit for DS use for children in this household. It's for your own good. Now hand it over. My brain age is 73, and I need to be mocked by a strange Japanese man to make it better."

About a week and a half of this, and my Bride broke down and bought me a DS too. And then I discovered that there were other games. There's a Lego Star Wars game, people. Princess Leia in Jabba-dancer bikini and it's all Legos. Stick that in your toy box, kid down the street.

I may never leave my house again.