Be aware of what you buy
Last week I went to a charming toy store in a nearby town to buy a Christmas present for Emily, the 5-year-old daughter of some very close friends. It has been a while since I've purchased anything for kids of that age, and I probably looked a little lost amongst the young mothers crowding the store with and without their offspring.
A nice young lady with a generous smile looked at me sympathetically and said, "You look like you could use some help." I had to chuckle. "Do I look that lost?" I asked. "Yes," was her quick reply.
I told her that I had not the foggiest idea of what 5-year-old girls played with these days, and asked if she had any suggestions. She said, "Absolutely," and led me back to the doll department. She suggested a doll in a big box. It came with little dresses as well as other clothing and accessories that looked as if a real baby girl could wear them. I noticed a bottle and other baby paraphernalia that seemed to make the package complete, so I thought it was just the thing I needed.
"It's our most popular model," the clerk said enthusiastically, and she started to list all the features. I interrupted her and said, "Sold - save the sales pitch."
Then she said that if the little girl were given a duplicate gift she could come in and exchange it for something else. What more could I ask? Everything seemed perfect. The doll she showed me was a display model, so she went to the back of the store and retrieved a brand new unopened box. "Here's a new one," she said brightly. "I'll have it wrapped for you."
This was shopping heaven, I thought. I bought the latest model of a popular toy; it was giftwrapped, and the price was right. I was in and out of the store in less than twenty minutes. Mission accomplished.
I delivered the present two days before Christmas, and Emily was ecstatic. She wanted to open it right away, but her parents told her to wait until Christmas morning.
I more or less forgot about the doll after that and went about the business of spending Christmas with my family. Then, along about three in the afternoon on Christmas day I received a phone call from Emily's father. I thought he called to thank me. Well . . . he did - sort of.
"So - how did Emily like the doll?" I asked. "Oh - she loved it," he replied. "As a matter of fact, it's the only toy she's played with all day. Not only that; it's the only toy that all of her little girl cousins and friends have played with all day as well."
"Oh really," I beamed. "That's nice to hear. I'm glad she liked it."
Then he asked, "Did you know that it's a fully functioning doll? It actually drinks water out of a bottle, and eliminates it as if it were a real baby."
"You're kidding," I said.
"No. I'm not," he replied. Then he said, "Did you know that the doll is also anatomically correct?"
"That's interesting," I said. "I guess she'll learn how all her parts work."
"Oh, I don't think so," he said. And I noticed a slight chill in his voice. Then red flags started waving before my eyes, bells rang, and sirens screamed.
"It's a boy doll," he said. I felt my heart skip a beat.
"It is?" I said in a voice an octave higher than normal. "I distinctly remember purchasing a girl doll," I said defensively. Then it dawned on me, when the woman went to the back of the store to get a new doll, she must have picked up the wrong box.
To make matters worse, a warning sign was on the box about parental guidance being recommended for children under a certain age, something none of us noticed. I explained what I thought had happened, apologized profusely, and offered to take it back and exchange it for something else.
"Oh no," he said. "She loves the doll. I wouldn't make her give it back. However, you might be getting a call from my wife. We knew that at some point we would have to have 'the conversation' with our daughter. We just didn't think it would be today.
"Since you're the master of a system we can't understand, my wife would like to know how to answer all of the questions like 'What's that? Why does he have one? Why don't I have one? How does it work?' You know, the usual stuff. How to respond to those little inquiries is something we can't understand."
All I could say was - ouch. Explaining anatomically correct toys is yet another glitch in a system we can't understand.