Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And Then the Mall Exploded in My Living Room

One big TJ Maxx bag sits by the end of the love seat.

Two from Bath and Body Works are near the TJ Maxx bag.

Two bags from Old Navy, their contents spilling out at the end of the couch.

A JC Penney logo stares at me from the floor by the Old Navy bags. Actually, 8 JC Penney logos are facing me. (Just boxes from Penney’s. I think it’s absurd to have to buy boxes at Old Navy for all the cash I dropped in there buying gifts, so I headed over to Penney’s for free boxes. I am a scoundrel.)

One medium sized bag from Best Buy is in the trash.

One bag from Home Depot, only half full sits behind the couch.

Three overflowing bags from Petco on the washer and dryer in the laundry room, so that the dogs won’t get at them.

One small bag from Macy’s, that also contained a small bag from Claire’s are also behind the couch.

One little bag from Daddy’s Junky Music is by the coffee table.

There’s a green bag too, without a name on it over by the Christmas tree.

Two body sized bags from The Disney Store are at the edge of the kitchen.

There are three bags from a toy store in Providence in the guest bedroom. Thankfully we shopped on a slow night, and the staff of the store wrapped all of those.

There is a bag from Target in the closet in the guest bedroom, along with another from Ocean State Job Lot.

There’s another bag from Ocean State Job lot that contains 4 skeins of yarn on the dining room floor. In my copious spare time I will knit two scarves before the New Year for gifts.

And then I shopped online at eToys, Amazon, and Adagio Tea Store.

On my dining table there is a pile of wrapping paper rolls, a three pack of scotch tape, and a pair of scissors on the table, just waiting to be used.

My shopping is almost done, and I am hoping to have the bulk of the gifts wrapped before we leave for Vermont this weekend. I have two huge Rubbermaid bins by the table waiting for wrapped presents to go into them, so that we can transport our Santa loot in the back of the truck without it getting trampled by two over excited dogs.

Every year I swear that I will buy my “distance gifts” (gifts for people I will not see at Christmas, who are a distance away) early to avoid paying extra for shipping. This year I thought I was actually ahead of the game by ordering them last night, then I looked at the calendar and realized it was the 17th already. I paid an obnoxious amount of money for shipment, for the umpteenth year in a row, and waded through the “out of stock” gifts on eToys to find something suitable that was still in stock. This morning I Fedexed the ones that I bought in stores as well.

Todd and I are very careful about gifts we get for our nieces and nephews. Generally we steer clear from anything that is branded (Barbie, Thomas, Spider Man, etc) and anything that is stereotypically geared for boys or girls. We Christmas shop in local toy stores, or science-y toy stores. We take pride in carefully selecting these toys for the kids as we want them to be something meaningful for them. We agonize in the stores, we select presents, put them back, and then select again and again.

On eToys I bought a present for my 9 year old nephew and then began the search for his 4 year old sister. Typically I will not use gender to narrow my search for a gift for my nieces and nephews. This time, just for ha-ha’s I used gender to narrow the search and I was immediately offended. When I searched for the nephew’s gift, I was shown these very cool and educational board games, erector sets, puzzles. When I searched for my niece, I was shown play kitchen sets, hair brush and mirror sets, craft projects and scantily clad Barbie wannabes. Why is it that boy toys are more intellectually stimulating and girl toys are about mimicking Mommy in the kitchen and early introductions to obsessing about hair styling? Why are there no Spider Man kitchen sets? Surely Spider Man has had the opportunity to cook himself a meal now and then. Don’t we want him to be an example for the boys? Couldn’t Spider Man shoot webs out of his wrists, save the city from the bad guys and go home and cook a roast at the end of the day? Why are action figures fully clothed, while the Bratz bare their navels? Why do action figures have tools, while dolls have purses and shoes? Why isn’t Barbie ever a mechanic, or a scuba diver? Instead of a pink convertible, why can’t she have a dump truck so that she can be present in a sand box too?

I am not saying that the toy industry is some grand sexist conspiracy. Kids will choose to play with what they find to be fun. My Barbie doll collected dust on the shelf while my Matchbox cars drove all over the town my brother and I created between our houses with the boy next door. Then my Matchbox cars went into a duffel bag in the bottom of the closet, and Barbie went for a swim in the pool with my horse figurines. My bike was constantly used, but I used to imagine it was a horse. I think my brother imagined that his was a fighter plane. Why didn’t I ever imagine mine was a fighter plane too? It was because I was not as interested in fighter planes as my brother was, and he was not interested in horses.

Are boys and girls pre-determined to play with certain toys, certain ways? Can a Christmas gift cross the line between a prescribed boy role and a prescribed girl role? Does it even have to? What I find so difficult about Christmas shopping for the kids is the idea that I don’t want to stunt an imagination. I don’t want a gift that I gave to shoehorn one of my nieces or nephews into some pre-determined role as a boy or a girl. I have to remind myself that kids won’t let their imaginations be stunted by something as simple as a Christmas present. They will make up their own rules to games or they will use a toy as a prop in a larger game. How do I know that a kitchen play set bought for a niece won’t inspire one of my nephews to be a great chef someday?

And yet, every year I will still obsess over what to get them and probably will for the rest of their lives.



Blogger Unknown said...

I think kids are predetermined to play with certain toys or like certain things, but I think alot has to do with what they see in the media or hear at school. I've had boys who like to draw or play in the house area, but quickly change their minds when a kid says something to them to discourage them. So alot has to do with peer pressure.

I think it's wonderful that you encourage creative or educational gifts. I was helping Kathy shop for her nieces and am just floored by the dolls and other junk they have for girls in the stores.

December 18, 2007 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger *~*Cece*~* said...

Your living room sounds like mine. Oy.

I like to buy books and coloring things for the kids. This year I got my 3 girls Boarders gift cards. I can't wait to take them book shopping.

December 19, 2007 at 12:49 AM  
Blogger ME said...

Good points on the gender toys. But I do believe kids will play with whatever they choose (providing their parents allow it). JoBean had an easy bake oven and a doll.

December 19, 2007 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Gypsy said...

Dang! That's a lot of gifts!

And I hear ya on the pigeonholed gifts for girls and boys. It stinks.

December 19, 2007 at 12:15 PM  
Blogger Jansky T said...

To agree with Heidi, at least when it comes to boys. I think girls can "get away with" playing with all sorts of toys...from dolls to hot wheels to army men to action figures.

But, if other kids find out that a boy is playing with, say...a Strawberry Shortcake doll or a Baribe Styling Head...the teasing with be simply unrelenting.

December 20, 2007 at 11:21 AM  

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