30 December 2010

Santa Claus Has Left the Building

That was quick.

Just yesterday it was Thanksgiving (hell, it was summer) and now it's almost New Year's Eve. All that build-up, all that anticipation, and in the end, Christmas came and went in the blink of an eye. Or more like a blur, of rich food, reams of wrapping paper, twinkling lights, and as the Grinch himself might say, "Noise, noise, noise!"

Most of that noise being the shrieks and squeals (of delight, for the most part) from a two-year-old boy adrift in a sea of new toys. Yes, Santa Claus was very good to the Doozer this year.

Sure, he got his toothpaste. But that did not prove nearly as wondrous or distracting as the carton of Goldfish crackers that he discovered midway through his stocking. Being something of a Goldfish addict myself, I can understand the salty succor that can consume you upon tasting them. But for it to overtake you completely, so that you want to do nothing more than snack contentedly while a mountain of gifts sits nearby under the tree, untouched and still wrapped?

The Doozer is one weird kid. I know I keep coming back to this, but I do find it amazing. Are other kids this weird?

Then, in a moment of distraction (perhaps it was the Santa Claus Pez dispenser), the Goldfish crackers were whisked away to the kitchen and the project of unwrapping all the new goodies could commence. I say project, which seems appropriate, but marathon is also a good word. We may have gone a bit overboard with the presents this year, the wife and me. So much so that the Doozer actually lost steam--lost interest--in unwrapping new toys. New toys! His wary expression suggesting an inner monologue along the lines of: This is a lot of work. What is wrong with you people? Get me some breakfast--hey, wait a minute, where did those Goldfish crackers go?

So, this year we sought out toys without bells and whistles, simpler things that we hoped would fire the Doozer's imagination. Of course, one set of grandparents did get him Alphie the robot (at our suggestion, we fully admit), a golden oldie from our own childhoods, reissued for a new generation. A robot who helps you learn, Alphie is a toy with two volume settings, which are apparently LOUD and LOUDER.

The Doozer discovered Alphie through one of the various toy catalogues that cluttered our living room in the weeks leading up to Christmas--his favorite being the ones from Target and Toys "R" Us. He made a lot of discoveries in those pages. Lego Harry Potter allowed him to learn all the names of the characters in that franchise--seriously, all of the names (proud parenting moment that). Including the dreaded Death Eaters (yes, we taught our son the term Death Eaters, what's wrong with that?). He also developed an affinity for a Bigfoot robot and something called Stinky the Garbage Truck, which, thankfully, did not translate into a serious desire on his part to see these ridiculously expensive monstrosities actually brought into our home.

Perusing those catalogues also allowed me to introduce him to one of my favorite things: Star Wars. Apparently a big item this season was a Boba Fett mask. Unless you're as big a nerd as I am, I'm not sure I can adequately describe the sheer awesomeness of hearing your kid say, "Boba Fett!" Or the fact that he recognizes on sight the galaxy's most notorious bounty hunter. Of course, he soon pointed between Boba Fett and Darth Vader on the page and asked, "What are they talking about, Dada?" How do you answer that, exactly? Hunting down rebel scum? Hardly seems appropriate.

The Doozer also discovered Marvel superheroes, learning to recognize Spider-Man and Iron Man, giving me the opportunity to get this:

Yeah, I got my two year-old a miniature version of a reckless, self-destructive, alcoholic arms dealer as a toy to play with--what's it to ya?

For the most part, though, heeding the wisdom of our old friend Charlie Brown, we tried to steer clear of commercialism, opting for things like this wooden castle from Melissa & Doug. Again, a toy without batteries or lights or sounds, something to encourage him to use his imagination. Two knights, two horses, a king, a queen, a bed, two thrones, and a treasure chest.

Let the adventures begin! And use his imagination he did--leading to some interesting scenarios. Soon after it was open, a horse took a nap in the bed (flashes of The Godfather), then one of the knights was in the bed with the queen. My wife and I looked at each other, having the exact same thought: the king is not going to like this very much . . .

Soon after, the queen was in the castle's dungeon. Coincidence . . . ?

Eventually, a whole bunch of new toys got piled on the couch and the Doozer just sat in the middle of them. Like an old movie or cartoon, where a hobo gets rich and takes a bath in money.

Again, how weird is this kid?

Note to self: scale it back next year . . .

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