Greetings, friends, family, and others who help us pretend Santa exists —
I know you’re used to receiving my letters after a gift-giving event, not before. Usually, it’s about two weeks later, with my thank-you note, that unshakeable habit from my upbringing, a personalized act of maternal emotional labor on a card selected just for you from the boxes I buy in bulk. Who knew as a parent there’d be so many opportunities for ritualized gratitude?!?
Anyway, figured I’d catch you early this year, as you make your list and check it twice. So, listen. We love that you’ve thought of our little guy for every birthday and holiday of his young life. Through your generosity, we’ve accumulated an arsenal of toys, particularly in the transportation arena. By now, we own nearly every car, truck, train, plane, boat, helicopter, mobile vet clinic, and camper on the market, and we thank you from the tops of our heads to our toes that step on errant Duplos.
This year, though, we’re hoping any gifts he’ll receive will be of the silent variety.
We know — it sounds so old-fashioned. We’re not philistines; musical instruments are fine, though we’re all set on xylophones, drums, and tambourines. We’re even okay with old-school noisemakers, so-called classics like corn poppers that pass between generations without questioning why give a child any object that precludes concurrent adult conversation. And yes, kids are creative; they can make noise with anything. Jars of cayenne pepper, wine stoppers, the sticky backing on a pantiliner — if it’s within reach and it makes some sound, well, hello instrument!
Yeah, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the kind that bleep and bloop.
The kind that screech out sonata snippets but are not playable pianos.
The kind that come pre-loaded with batteries, removable with a tiny screwdriver only an elf can operate.
The kind that mimic emergency sirens with alarming accuracy, particularly when activated from a rear-facing car seat that rests inches beyond an adult driver’s reach.
The kind that recite dialogue from a show our kid’s never seen, but suddenly, he wants to! Right! NOW!
The kind that let youngsters dabble with the trappings of adulthood under the guise of being educational — kiddie cell phone, kiddie standing desk, kiddie smartwatch — when all they are is louder.
The kind that, when kicked as you fumble through a dark nursery at 2 a.m. to change a diaper, blurt one of their glib recorded phrases, which we’ve memorized in sequence — something like, “Get ready to land this chopper!” or “Dogs sure love to go camping!”
The kind that are smart enough to talk to you, but don’t know how to read the fucking room.
You know, that kind.
They’re the mic drop of holiday gifts. You plunk a wrapped box down, walk away, and leave the parents to handle the aftermath.
We understand you believe these toys are suitable alternatives to screens. Kids these days with their tablets and their phones! We saw that article, too. And we totally agree, except for when we’re at a restaurant, loading up Takahashi Taiyou clips on YouTube while we wait for his mac ‘n cheese to arrive first.
Here’s the thing about screens: they have headphones. Hearing their noises is, for a parent, completely optional. What a gift that is.
If you must give him something that beeps, he’s smitten with our Roomba. Perhaps you could give it a sibling.