Steve Wiley is Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood. He's a slightly unorthodox father of five who will weigh in weekly with his mildly-rebellious views and observations. Wiley has spent the past 25 years managing and owning Valley record stores, including the past 14 at his beloved Hoodlums Music. If you'd like to see how he came to write this column, watch the video.
As you may have heard, uh, had jammed down your throat all weekend, the holiday season is upon us.
Hmmm. Holiday. That doesn't sound right. Maybe I should just drop the pretenses and call it what it's become: The Shopping Season. Especially this year.
It's not that we aren't a hilarious bunch of consumer goofs all year round, but when you see stores start opening on Thanksgiving (leave it to the Evil Empire, Wal-mart, to turn it into Greed Thursday), you know we've finally decided to scrap the formalities and go for our consumption black belts.
Hoka Hey, it is what it is. Although I'm really proud to say that I didn't go to one store all weekend, let alone Thanksgiving Day, it's not like I'm against presents or anything. Like all giant children, I love presents.
But not all presents. As a parent, I still have to (get to?) make buying decisions based on my philosophy. With that in mind, here's three things we WON'T be buying for our kids this year.
3. The Breast-feeding Doll.
Just in case you haven't heard this year's toy psuedo-controversy, it's this little doll that simulates breast-feeding for your daughter (or son, I guess, if you are looking for to raise a really empathetic future father). As expected it's stirred up a bit of debate online (and, one might guess, in actual conversations between real people).
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not emotionally involved in the debate, and I don't have anything against breast-feeding... or breasts... or feeding in general. I just don't feel the need to prod my ten year-old daughter (or my twenty-two year-old) into motherhood before she's ready.
Call me old fashioned, but I've developed a child-development theory that it's OK to have a little span between playing with dolls and learning how to properly feed an infant... like maybe fifteen or twenty years.
Maybe we'll get her something that talks... or maybe not (see next toy).
2. Furby: A Mind of Its Own So I'm waxing wise-ass with my eldest, the mother of two, about the breast-feeding doll, and she says there is a Furby in her house about which she's not too crazy.
"You know, one of those Furbys. They were big a few years back and I guess they are making a resurgence." Her brother-in-law, who lives in the basement, had been given one as a gag gift, and it was bugging her.
I didn't catch that trend (a phrase I've used quite a few times in my life), because I've spent the past forever raising actual people. So I asked for more info.
"It's like a little pet, or companion. It talks in sort of it's own language," she says, "and then sometimes it kicks into 'Valley Girl' language. It kind of looks like a Gremlin."
It sounded pretty bizarre, so later that day when I was Skyping with her and my grandsons, I asked her to grab it.
Bizarre is right. As if it knew, the thing's eyes lit up and it danced around spouting some sort of strange language. It did look like a Gremlin, about two minutes after midnight when it was starting to mutate (can someone please move the water away). I was expecting it to attack the baby at any minute.
So no thanks on Furby. Not because the kids can't handle it, because I can't. My little one has a talking doll that randomly made crying sounds (Dad's nickname for said baby: Freaky Baby) while I was alone in the house, and it just about send me through the roof. (Freaky's batteries have been forever removed.) That was just a cry - just imagine if it was saying something in "Furbish".
Maybe it's the Freaky Baby, or maybe just too many memories of psycho dolls past. Chucky. The Clown in Poltergeist. The puppet in Magic. Either way, I just don't think I'd sleep well with Furby on the loose.
1. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
When I was about twenty-four, my roommate brought home a Sega system. The two of us proceeded to play that damn thing into the night... night after night. One morning a few sega-weeks later, I was standing there working in the record store, and I found myself singing the theme song for Sonic the Hedgehog.
It was at that moment I disavowed video games.
So when I met a girl who didn't like the damn things either, our kids were doomed.
Why? Because neither of us feel the need to buy a video game system for the kids. Some may call it uptight, but I call it counterculture. We let 'em play games on the computer and their iPad, but only for a limited time window per day. My oldest boy is a Freshman in High School, and it's been this way his entire life.
And guess what... he's just fine. He loves all things electronic, but in the meantime he has read more books than most adults I know.
So it's not really the specific game Black Ops 2 that's off our list (although I could make the same argument that early "war simulation" is less necessary than for a kid than breast-feeding simulation), it's the whole industry.
Anyway, that's how it will be in Wileysworld this Shopping Season. Our kids shall remain Furby-less mini-gamers with a limited knowledge of breast-feeding.
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But don't worry, their lists are still ridiculously long. They'll make out OK.