Parent Not Included - August 16, 2012

Why do people buy six-year-old gifts for my four-year-old?  Especially, ones that involve heat and making stickers?  She’s no longer little enough for us to open the presents, hide them and pretend they never existed.  She counts her presents.  She memorizes which friend handed which box or gift bag to her.  She’s even started the routine of shaking them and guessing the contents.


My husband can build just about any toy, furniture or electronic equipment.  Even if he were handed the instructions in Chinese by mistake, he’d figure out how to build whatever it is.  There would be a symphony of curse words and puddles of sweat on the floor, but it would look just like the picture on the box in the end.


He can take a bike that’s in 20 pieces and put it together without finding any extra screws, nuts or bolts on the floor.  I’d say it’s a pretty useful skill, especially for me.  I can just sit back with a glass of wine, watch him sweat and cheer him on, saying things like “Wow, you’re so great at putting that bike together.  I could never do that,” or “If I put that thing together, the bike seat would end up where the wheel is.  I’m so impressed.”


I’m not sure whether my buttering-him-up tactics are working or he doesn’t want me involved because I will break something or get in his way, but he never asks for my help, unless it’s to hold something in place.  Either way, I’m the beneficiary, so I don’t really care.  I mean, the Tinker Bell bike we bought for Babyface’s birthday had several pieces and a set of wonky instructions, but he managed to make sure the bike was in perfect shape, brakes properly in place (my one request) and all.


Well, someone from my daughter’s birthday party decided to give her a sticker-making machine that is intended for children 6-10 years old.  My daughter just turned four.  I know, I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth or, in this case, a “re-gift” horse in the mouth (I’m pretty sure this was the case), but what were they thinking?  Do they think my child is a prodigy of some sort (I spend a lot of time with her and this is clearly not the case)?  Do they not like us and want us to spend an entire afternoon trying to make stickers for her?  Do they want us to become alcoholics?  Or, was that the only present they had left to re-gift?


My daughter opened her presents on Saturday, after her party.  In fact, I think she started opening them on her way out of the car, because we told her she had to wait until we got home.   She even helped us carry them into the house.  “I’ll help you Mommy!”  I’m pretty sure this is the only time I’ll ever hear her say that.  She used to like being “Mommy’s little helper”, but now she only says it when there’s something in it for her.  At least she’s keeping it real, I guess.


I got out my usual pen and paper to document who bought what, so I could write thank you cards and pretend to use her words.  She tore the wrapping paper off, flinging the cards and found several, cute princess games, dolls, books and even a wooden train set.  All great gifts for a girl her age and a parent that doesn’t want to provide supervision ALL DAY the next day.


The day after birthdays and Christmas are supposed to be a time of recuperation for parents.  We get to plop our butts on the couch and watch our kids play with their toys.  Personally, I like to make a cup of coffee and just zone out.


This time, someone bought her the sticker machine.  Since it looked like it would “require parent involvement” (they should slap that on the side of the box next to recommended age) and we were exhausted from the birthday party, we told her she could open it the next day.  Even though I know better, I always pretend she’ll miraculously forget about it.


Of course, the minute her eyes opened the next morning, she said, “Yay!  I get to make stickers today!”  She rushed through her breakfast, grabbed the box and headed to Daddy.  I thought, “Yay!  She picked Daddy for this one!”


My husband grunted, but still got up and headed to the dining room to make stickers.  Throughout the next hour and a half, I heard several curse words followed by “That’s a bad word.  Daddy shouldn’t have said that.”  I also heard the toy being lifted and dropped on the table from frustration.  Every once and a while, my daughter would say, “Daddy, when is it going to be ready?”


After all was said and done, my daughter ran to me with ONE sticker after almost TWO HOURS and said, “Look, Mommy!  I made a sticker!”  I knew very well who made that sticker and that I would be hearing the sound of a bottle cap hitting the kitchen countertop soon.


I look forward to the day when the box says, “Parent Included”.  How wonderful would that be?  I’d buy the whole lot.


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