Monday, December 15, 2008

Eating Your Young

by Ben Small

I think it was Bob Knight who once responded to a reporter’s question about how his son Pat played in a certain game with the comment, “Now I know why some animals eat their young.”

When I heard Knight make that comment ― I’m a born-and-bred Hoosier who loves his school and his basketball ― I said to my wife, “Wow! What a great comment. Maybe I can use that comment someday.

Guess what? Today’s the day.

As you may know, my son, his wife and L’il Ella, now ten months old, are visiting for a couple weeks. Now Ella is a dream, just the sweetest little girl you could imagine. And what a joy to play with her, babysit, and then when the diapers get dirty, hand her back.

But man, the paraphernalia that comes with managing a baby is daunting. Thank goodness I have a rich friend who has three young grandchildren. He let us borrow everything. My wife and I are at the point where we want to downsize. We’re giving furniture and hand-me-downs to our family members as fast as we can. Simply put, we’ve got too much stuff. Most people our age do.

But having a baby around is a stuff-magnet. Sure, bedding and playpens, or a combination thereof, and diaper and feeding stuff I anticipated. But the toys…

My god, the toys…

I had no idea I’d been so deprived when I was a child. I don’t remember having many toys with batteries. Most of my toys were big plastic bubble space helmets, which probably aren’t even permitted now by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, metal cars and trucks, spinning tops and pop-goes-the-weasel boxes. Oh yeah, I had a wooden map puzzle and some ABC stuff, and of course, a teddy bear, but that was about it.

And we were middle class.

I’d never even seen a C battery before this week. I thought there was a gap between the As and the D, that whopper that powers my ancient boom box and my club-sized flashlight.

What’s a C battery? Does that designation stand for “Child”?

I’m buying these things in bulk this week. They power the toys that have suddenly filled my house. And all these toys flash lights, make noxious noises, spin, tumble, or speak.

Who comes up with this stuff? Some nerdy goofball who figured out that blinding strobes, ear splitting sirens, banging drums, and spinning wheels attract even those with an attention span measured with a stopwatch?

Where’s my Xanax?

Some of these toys come with a seat attachment that allows the little ten month old to spin around the toy table like she’s on an amusement ride. Her little legs are moving so fast, she’ll be toddling in a week.

Another dose please.

These aren’t toys, they’re ingenious machines. Toy companies cannot be paying these toy designers enough. I’d always thought the purpose of a baby’s toys was primarily to keep them distracted, maybe teach them a little something, like maybe the identification of some sounds or pictures.

Hah! Baby toys today will prepare a kid for college and create Olympic athletes at the same time.

Oh boy. I can’t imagine what Ella’s Terrible Twos will be like. I’ll need a Xanax drip.

But I dodged a bullet this time. I didn’t have to buy all this stuff. I was able to borrow it from my friend. Trust me, I’m going to keep this friend close. His three grandchildren are slightly older than mine. I’ll be in the gravy borrowing train for some time. The cost of this stuff, for just one baby, mind you, might fund Detroit’s Big Three.

Thinking about this made me wonder about the next generation of toys, what they will do and how much they’ll cost.

Which brings me back to Bobby Knight’s comment...


Jean Henry Mead said...

I knew you'd love your granddaughter's visit. :)
Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...


I love reading about your granddaughter. You could parlay Li'l Ella into a syndicated newspaper column.

Well, maybe not. Newspapers seem to be going the way of the dodo bird.

But maybe you could submit an article to one of the Chicken Soup books. Chicken Soup for Grandparents.