Thursday, January 8, 2015

This Gift Does What?

While the magic of Christmas is a slow burn that builds for weeks prior to the big day, there's no arguing that the crescendo is reached Christmas morning when a kid first lays eyes on the pile of gifts under the tree. 

Like most kids his age, Master Blackwell isn't yet bubbling with excitement Christmas morning. Kids aren't sure what all the excitement is yet. 

Naturally, this makes for more uncertainty for gift-giving parents and loved ones who are hoping their gift — no matter what it is — will be put to its use.

Pictured: pure excitement.
Of course, predicting the preferences of a baby or a toddler is pretty much like throwing darts in the dark. 

You know there is a target, you know its general direction but, that's about it. 

When buying a gift for a baby or toddler, one can simply opt out of the dart game and go the safe route by buying a gift that's practical. 

Clothes for the little one is a prime example of this approach. Sure, the kid might not appreciate that sweater but, Mom and Dad are thankful they've got one less thing to worry about getting for junior. There's something to be said for this tack. 

Then there's the fun approach — which most of us opt for. 

These are all the "wants" never the "needs" typified by those items that your kid would never recognize but, once they've played with for five minutes, can no longer live without. 

And this category is a far dicier proposition as it pertains to hitting your target. 

A kid might be entranced by a walking, talking, hugging Elmo. Yet, just a day later Elmo has been usurped by a ball-and-a-cup. Maybe the kid would like a piece of wood to chew on versus a Blow Pop? Who knows? 

I got to thinking about this a couple days ago as I watched the boy playing with some of the toys he got for Christmas. 

One is a replica Star Wars light saber. It can change colors from blue to red (blue is for Anakin Skywalker, while red is for his ultimate alter-ego Darth Vader). It even makes the sounds a light saber makes in the movies. To be frank, it's a sweet gift. 

But try to successfully explain the coolness of this toy to Master Blackwell while he's holding it upside down by the blade and idly tapping the handle on the wall while singing a rendition of Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" to himself.  

He clearly didn't "get" what this toy was for. (Luckily I did and luckier still, no one was operating a camera near me while I demonstrated for the boy.)

But, like all things to do with a toddler, fast forward a day or two and things have changed. 

"So, you use this to help steer airplanes to
the correct gate, right?"

Earlier this week the boy was holding the saber correctly (hands firmly clasped around the grip) using it to strike down the television. 

Whether or not my TV deserves to be struck down (it does) is beside the point — if anyone is going to destroy it, it's going to be me in a fit of rage at a football game, not the boy while he's working through his Padawan phase. 

One day the kid is using the light saber to keep the beat with Billy Joel, the next day he's wielding it like a Jedi Knight. The next day, who knows? 

Point being, the kid might love the toy, though they have no earthly idea what it does, why it does it and why it can't just be used to hit things. 

This flexibility has its benefits too. 

To wit, the boy has several drums in addition to the little drum set that he got for Christmas. In between jam sessions he likes to hold onto the drum sticks as he saunters around the house looking for food he's stashed away weeks earlier. 

As he makes his appointed rounds, he drops the sticks everywhere. We've got one stick from one set here and another from another set there. But, when the boy decides he's going to sit down and drum, he's invariably banging away with a pen or pencil. 

None of this matters to him and, increasingly, it matters less and less to me. 

What's been cool to see the last few Christmases and what having a kid has helped reveal to me is that, when you're young and you see those gifts under the tree, you believe there could be anything beneath the wrapping paper. 

And, in a way, no matter what you get you're right. 

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