Toys that make noise? Not for my girls or boys

MIKE ROYKO

October 26, 1992|By MIKE ROYKO

This will be a public service announcement. And if it is heeded, thousands of people -- maybe millions -- might be spared emotional misery.

It was suggested to me by a man who is the father of two children, ages 5 and 1. We will call him Jim. He doesn't want his identity revealed because he doesn't want to hurt the feelings of well-meaning friends and relatives.

"But if you write about this problem," he said, "maybe they will see it and get the message."

It is about toys.

"Basically, there are two kinds of toys," Jim says. "There are noisy toys, and toys that are not noisy.

"Now, who buys noisy toys? Do parents buy noisy toys? Of course not. When you have a child, the child is noisy enough. So why would you buy it something that will make even more noise?

"All you have to do is go in a toy store and watch people. Those who are parents are buying quiet toys. Soft dolls, board games, coloring books, things that rattle quietly.

"Then go over and look at the people who are buying noisy toys. Things that require batteries and when the child presses a button it makes a sound like World War III is breaking out. I'll tell you who they are. They are friends or relatives of somebody who has a child. And they, the dumb (deleted), are buying a noisy toy for that child.

"Then they come over and give the kid the toy, and they laugh at how happy the kid is because when he presses a button it makes a noise like a fire engine, and when he presses another button, it sounds like a 747 is landing on the roof. And they say: 'Look, he loves it.'

"Of course he loves it. And he'll love it even more when he notices that his parents hate it. It will become his favorite toy. But they go home and leave you there with the kid and the noisy toy. So what are you going to do? Take it away from him and put it on the floor and jump on it and crush it? Of course not, because you'll traumatize him. It is now his favorite toy. To hell with the quiet jigsaw puzzle.

"You'll get in the car and be pulling out of the driveway, when all of a sudden you hear machine-gun bullets blasting next to your ear, and you almost run into a light pole, and it is your kid in the back seat pressing the button with the thing next to your ear.

"And drums. No sane parent would buy his kid a drum or a set of drums. I buy my kids little harps.

"But the people who gave him drums or screechy boxes won't hear them. They bring misery into your life, and they move on.

"Another one is the plastic tricycle that goes clickety-clack. Yeah, someone dropped one of those on us.

"On each of the back wheels, there is something that goes clickety-clack when the wheels turn. You can hear it a block away. Of course, if you're taking your kid to the playground, you aren't a block away: you're right next to it. And when you walk past people sitting on their porch, they look at you like you are some kind of idiot.

"And what makes this thing even worse is that you have to put it together yourself. Which reminds me of something else. Did I say there are two kinds of toys? No, there are four. The other two kinds are toys that you don't have to put together and toys that you have to put together, and you have to be a damn engineer to figure them out.

"I never buy toys that I have to put together because I end up stabbing myself with the little kitchen knife that I'm using because I can never find the Phillips screwdriver.

There is a conspiracy, you know. The companies that make these toys also make the world's Phillips screwdrivers.

"So they come over -- these friends who buy the noisy toys -- and they give your kid a big box and there is a picture of the toy on the box, and it shows racing cars or trucks or something going around this track. But when you open the box, that's not what you have. You have a bunch of disconnected pieces of stuff, with 150 plastic screws and you have to get down on the floor to put it together, and after 15 minutes, your knees hurt and your kid is sitting there saying: 'Are you done yet?' And you can't go to bed until it is done because if you don't finish it, or if you just scoop it all up and throw it in the alley, some day you'll wind up spending a fortune on visits to a child psychologist.

"I know I'm sounding emotional, but after my oldest child's last birthday, I almost cut off my thumb trying to attach wheels to the Wacky Whirly. And after I got it together, I found out it needed four batteries.

"That's another thing. I was wrong. There aren't four kinds of toys. There are six. Those that need batteries and those that don't. My wife and I never buy toys that need batteries. I hate them. Chances are they're noisy. And those two little springs that hold the batteries always get out of line and the batteries fall out. So you stick your finger in to try to get them in line, and the spring stabs you under your fingernail.

"It wasn't like this when I was a kid. And I'll bet you didn't buy noisy toys, or disassembled toys or battery toys, for your kids, did you?"

No, I bought my kids educational toys. A starter set of burglar tools.

"So tell people, don't do it. Be nice. Buy blocks. Or log cabins. Things that are soft or made of wood."

I'll try. But they aren't doing it to be cruel. They truly believe they are bringing happiness into your child's life.

"I know that. And you should say so. That they are good-hearted, well-meaning (deleted-deleteds)."

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