Sunday, January 24, 2016

The anti-toy

I have a very nostalgic photograph of myself, like a Normal Rockwell circa 1981.  I’m wearing my favorite cowboy hat and standing our family room, emulating my mother by playing with a child-sized ironing board and non-heated mini iron.  My mom would save all of my father’s handkerchiefs for me to pretend to iron, before she recollected her basket of laundered snot rags and pressed them for real.
I did this for many years, and eventually graduated to the real deal iron and a life-sized board and yes, I admit, actually ironed those cotton squares.
And then I grew up and got married and told my husband that if he ever wanted anything ironed, he was going to have to do it himself because I would rather scrub toilets with a toothbrush than to stand there and make things flat.  That’s what they invented all of those fancy fabrics for, right?
I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy playing with the iron as a child, copying my mother and trying my best to do just as she did.  I was smiling in the photo, after all.  But now being a parent myself and searching for toys for my own children, I can’t help but shake my head at what is available for our youth. 
It all started when I was looking for bubble bath, a treat for kiddos in this house, and a perfect small gift to give.  Next to it there on the shelf was shaving cream for girls and boys, along with a plastic non-bladed razor so that children could pretend to shave, just like mom and dad!  What fun!  And in strawberry scent!
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t ever think about shaving and say, “what fun.”  I know my husband doesn’t either because he’ll use every excuse he can to grow a big fuzzy beard.  Shaving is about as enjoyable as ironing, and I can only imagine how much I would complain now if my mother had photographed me in my cowboy hat, shaving my legs.
I’m not sure why children’s toys glamorize the rigors of adulthood.  It’s not just the iron and the razor, it’s the weed whacker and the vacuum.  Maybe the industry is trying to brainwash children into associating work with fun, so that the chores suddenly become a game and Mary Poppins starts singing about spoons of sugar.  The reality is, at least for me, that kids should capitalize on the stuff that adults don’t get to do.  What I wouldn’t give for someone to tell me, “sit down and read this book and then go outside and draw a picture of a tree.”  And while I fully understand the validity in pretend play, my kids have never owned a make-believe iron and they never will.
I’ll save that until they’re old enough to operate the real one.  What fun!

Originally written/published 1/4/15

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