Plastic Boop-Beep Toys Hypnotized Me

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

This is a quickie, on a night I wasn't even gonna blog, since I have about a million ruffles waiting for me to finish... But I couldn't stop thinking about this all the drive home just now, and had to write it down. 

I just narrowly missed losing my utter and complete mind just now. At the Walmarts. 

You see, Thursday is my sweet baby girl's first birthday. And I have had this plan for weeks to get her ONE inexpensive "boop beep toy" among only a few other presents. Something she can hold with her hands. Something that has those pesky (but mesmerizing) lights and the songs in that annoying voice that I could sing better... Something she might be entertained by when we take our road trip out west this summer and she is trapped in her carseat.

For weeks, I have had this plan. 

So I took Noah tonight as my assistant and we headed to Walmart to go grab one of the 3 or 4 selections I'd seen earlier this month in the baby section. Just the one toy and some of those squeezable applesauces both my kids adore, and we'd be home with plenty of time left for bathtime and stories and whatever.

Over an hour later, I stood in the big kids' toy section (having ditched the sparsely supplied baby section of toys long ago), fists full of colorful cardboard and plastic, FEELING my mind trickling away. Noah had long ago stopped offering his opinion and was dickering around with one of the options in the cart. There was the talking story tower. The talking driver's wheel. The talking camera. The talking paint brush. The talking PICNIC BASKET. OMG ALL SO CUTE! SO CLEVER! SHE HAS TO HAVE ONE OF EACH!! SHE ONLY TURNS ONE ONCE AND SHE DESERVES ALL THE BEST THINGS MY BABY MY SWEET BABY ALL THIS BEAUTIFUL PLASTIC!!! 

But under that manic frenzy, the anxious, worried whisper, "You were only going to spend $15 on one toy. You don't have the money to buy more than.... TWO. You can get TWO. Two $15 items and maybe an $8 one on the side. You don't have the money for it, but it might be okay. Joe won't mind. This is a bad move, but maybe you can swing it..."

You know which voice was CONSPICUOUSLY missing? This one-- calm and level, "Girl, PLEASE. The kid is turning ONE. She will not remember one MINUTE of this birthday. She is content with the junk mail envelopes you hand her when the mail comes. She is fascinated by her HAND. STOP THIS. You don't even like an abundance of plastic noisy toys. You have plenty of Noah leftover toys that you love more than these. Buy the one dumb toy, which you honestly don't even need, and go home. STOP THE MADNESS."

I was too overtaken by the plastic. The boops and beeps. The VARIETY! The NEWNESS! My baby DESERVES ALL OF THIS! I want her eyes to light up a million GABRILLION times!! IT'S HER BIRRRRRTHDAYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!

I am not lying when I tell you I went back FOUR times and replaced one choice with another, only to go and get that other choice back. And repeat. The final decision: I will get TWO of these. It will cost $35. They are both amazing. I am okay with this. 

I got to the checkout line, my head still foggy with the anxiety of making the "perfect decision", and nail-biting (figuratively) over the two items in my basket. The checker rang them through (oh, and the applesauce and two little toy superhero surprise balls that were .97 cents each for poor patient Noah).... And gave me my total (not a ton, but over twice what I went there to spend)... And FINALLY, by some miracle, my head cleared and the craziness screeched to a halt. I said, apologetically (in the sane voice), "You know what? I don't need that one--- the storytime reader one. I'm sorry. Can we take that off?" BOOP. My balance went down by $20. And it was the right decision. 

And it's not about the $20. Really, it's not. It's about the raging storm of thoughts and emotions underneath and behind that $20. I was taken up into the consumerist madness of buy buy buy/get get get/want want want. What had been a really lovely evening drive with my son, enjoying his imaginative games and observing the sun setting and listening to fun music--- MINDFUL, centered, peaceful--- became a literal MADNESS of money-spending/keeping up with some phantom "standard" of living for my baby/wanting and thinking I deserved more more MORE. The peaceful feelings? COMPLETELY GONE. 

So I drove home, slowly letting my head clear from the insanity, getting my footing back, and wondered, "What WAS that? Why?"

If you think I have some good answers, ha- tricked you. I don't. I am just coming away from it appalled and fascinated and uncomfortable and wondering. And maybe, hopefully, a tiny bit wiser. Maybe?? 

I mean, the honest truth is, I don't even freaking remember what we got Noah for his first birthday. At ALL. IT DOESN'T MATTER. None of that stuff matters. So, YES, I am usually the type to lean more toward handmade stuff, wood toys and cloth dolls and homemade beanbags and stuff (though I am not immune to the love of clever plastic toys, I promise you. I mean, I totally fell in love with Noah's two itty bitty Avengers figures he just got in those .97 balls. SO CUTE!) ,  but even that handmade stuff DOESN'T matter. At all. 

So I don't know what that was. But it was NOT my best self. And I am relieved to be outta there and clearing my head from all of it. 

Am I the only one who has been here? Am I just getting weird in my old age, or has anyone else felt themselves being pulled under by the flashy boops and beeps in the commercial world of "buy me buy me buy me"?? Please tell me I'm not nuts. And then, please tell me I'm okay for turning my back on that experience and vowing to avoid it ever happening again. 

Ha. Thanks. 

Okay, ruffles are calling to me. And yeah, how was that a "quickie"? I don't think I can ever be brief. That's one of my many flaws. Blah.


  1. I often get a case of the "shoulds" when it comes to birthdays, holidays, etc. I SHOULD get them a certain number of gifts, make a special cake, etc etc. when what I really SHOULD do is get on the floor and wrestle or take a walk or have a picnic. I am not saying that elaborate plans are bad but I need to be kind to myself in this season of my life and not heap on more SHOULD guilt.
    As for the cute plastic toys, I have a few. Too many. I am not even sure what the kids play with these days. Art supplies, balls, sand toys. I should just pitch half the toys anyways....

  2. it is so easy to get sucked in the undertow. all. too. easy.

  3. Yes, yes, yes, and yes some more! Even though I often give my mother "the speech" about getting Sadira too much stuff ("she has enough!" "I have no room for all of this!" "our house is the size of a shoebox, why did you get this?!") I, too, fell victim to the "shoulds," as Anna dubbed them, when Sadira was younger.

    And then I realized...she doesn't NEED all that crap! And doesn't even really care! And I wasted money. I really had gotten in the rut of, "I need to get this for my kid, and since I'm a single Mom, I REALLY need to get it, because I don't want her to feel deprived of something because she doesn't live in a two parent household." This was honestly my absurd thinking! That I was depriving my kid by not indulging in every marketing scheme geared at new parents. So I think I've gotten much better at saying no.

    I've also noticed it's easier to say no when they are older and are ASKING for's tougher when they are sweet and cute and little and you want to indulge them, and OH MY GOD IF I DON'T BUY THIS MY KID'S IQ WILL NEVER GO ABOVE 100!!!!

    Nonsense ;-) Great post, Em!

  4. It IS madness. But, that's what retailers want. They want us to feel guilty so we'll buy more. In fact, they spend boatloads of money on panels, committees and market research to figure out how to hit just the right emotional buttons to make us buy their products! And unfortunately, a lot of parents succumb to these tactics. But, it's a short term solution. They feel good for only a short time -- until the kid tosses the toy aside in favor of a plain, cardboard box, or just until their next trip to the store. :-) I have four children ranging from tween to infant. I have found myself in almost the exact same situation you described! I can attest to all those feelings you spoke of -- wanting the best for my kids, they only turn this age once, they deserve it, all the other kids have this or that, are my kids deprived?, etc.. But I've learned the one thing, the most important thing my kids want from me, and NEED from me, is my time. TIME. And that is where a lot of parents fail. So, if you are spending quality time with your children, and continue to do so as they grow into adulthood, you will be one of the best moms ever! Like you said, you and your kids won't remember but a handful of the things they had while growing up. But, they will remember the warmth, the love, the experiences and the time you spent together. Bravo to you for making such a mature observation!

  5. I love "boop beep" toys as a descriptor for them. Interestingly, my bag-o-therapy toys has very few if any "boop-beep" toys, but sometimes I'll use one that the kid already has.

    I'm sorry but not too surprised that you got sucked in. Vercareli is right about it being part of the conspiracy. You've seen what happens when I go a little crazy on behalf of my favorite niece and nephew ;)

    Anyway, I'm glad sanity reigned at the end and I'm even more glad I get to see you in just a few days!

    Love you

  6. Great post! I totally feel like that too. Like exactly.. almost like a crazy person, your head is spinning.. total sillyness. Completely undecisive and overwhelmed. It really sucks you in and sometimes its so hard to find the right balance. My son's 2nd birthday is coming up soon.. and I have tons of ideas.. awesome hand-made cupcakes and decorations.. favors, the whole nine yards, Pinterest has me beside myself with ideas.. HA! But I know I can't spend a fortune on a party that is just family and will last a few hours. But at the same time I just want him to remember his birthday's as being special.. and I know my parents did a great job at that...and looking back they didn't have a ton of money.. it wasn't extravagant, but birthday's were a big deal.. and I have great memories of that. Hoping to learn how to do that too.. and not get sucked into to the "more, more, more" mindset. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I remember right after Abbey came, feeling stressed that I wasn't being an adequate mom because I didn't know how to find/make huge flower headbands for her! Ha ha, seriously!!! I have a sweet friend who had a wise friend tell her that all a baby needs is his momma. That's it. Mom. That advice to a new-stressed-(sweet)-mommy-on-a-budget always rings in my head at Walmart :)

  8. My baby girls first birthday is coming up too (June). Reading this just reassured me that my decision to put "no gifts, please" on the invitations is totally the RIGHT decision! A decision I've been struggling with for all the same reasons you mentioned. I hate consumerism.

  9. Oh yes. Absolutely. What Anna said, 100%. I had to literally FORCE myself not to buy more than one gift for Holland. I think the reality of the PILES of stuff we had to move was the only thing that snapped me back to reality. It is SO easy to get sucked in.


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