Here’s another one from the archives, just for fun – and to remind you please to tell anyone who might be interested that they can now find my column on here. If you subscribe it will plop into your inbox each Saturday.
This column dates back to 2007 and there’s a neat circularity linking forward to right here right now: the wooden doll’s house mentioned below is currently for sale on eBay.
Looking back at the Christmas pics from that year I can’t believe what a baby Peggy still was; the shift from five to eight years is exponential. Here she is, as she was then, with her friend Sacha Murray-Threipland.
‘Tis the season to be anxious tra la la la la etc. In my case this year’s Christmas shopping stress is concentrated on one topic: what to buy my five-year old daughter for her ‘main’ present.
It is, you might say, a sweet problem. She has so much already in real terms, she’s lucky to be getting anything else at all, on top of such taken-for-granted privileges as nutritious food, clean running water, education etc etc.
But putting that aside – and I don’t think she is horribly spoiled by current Western standards – it is a conundrum. Do I buy her what she wants, or what I want her to want?
I’ve mentioned before the vintage baby doll’s cot that I have left gathering dust up in the attic, after facing up to the fact that I like it a lot more than she would. What she likes is plastic. Preferably pink, glitter an advantage. What she would really like this Christmas is a Bratz doll styling head, which comes with glitter lip gloss, glitter hair clips, glitter eye shadow etc.
She’s not getting one – and I’m just glad she doesn’t know about the Bratz Party Wagon I saw in a toy shop this morning, with its Primping Parlour, Hot Tub, and Chill Out Zones, not to mention the gaggle of little whore dolls that come with it, because she’s double not getting one of those. Barbie I can just about bear, but Bratz dollz are foul.
But there is part of me that wonders whether I shouldn’t just give in and get her one of those monstrous objects. It would almost be worth it for the look of joy on her face when she unwrapped it. However, this tiny triumph would be swiftly expunged by the collective look of horror on my mother, sister and husband’s faces, so I won’t go there.
I just need to find a middle way between the tasteful wooden dolls’ house I bought her last year and which she put up a valiant attempt to look excited about, while clearly disappointed. (My husband’s not keen for a repeat of such a purchase either; it took him all of Christmas Eve-ening to build the bloody thing from the flat pack…)
She’s spent the past year customising it with stickers and scribble in an attempt to make it look more like the Princess Glitter Fairy Ballerina Tinkerbell Dream Castle she really wanted. Now I consider it ‘ruined’, she thinks it’s bearable (and quite a useful cupboard).
But then, on the occasions when I have given in and bought the cacky tacky present, after the initial excitement – and inevitable insertion of a gross of batteries – she seems to tire of them pretty quickly. I haven’t seen much play action with the walking, neighing, rearing Barbie horse she had for her birthday (clip clop clip clop, neeeeeeeigh, crash, as it falls over).
So I have made one decision, nothing with batteries any more, which is not as easy as it sounds – toys have gone mad with battery-powered special features.
Singing Troy Bolton dolls (really, I saw one today…), wise-cracking Shrek toys and amplified Barbie guitars seem hilarious at the time of purchase, but quickly become intensely irritating. Especially to adults who have of alcohol previously partaken.
Even worse than living with these chirping tchotchkes is that landfill sites are choking up with the discarded batteries and the toxic metals (cadmium, mercury and lead) in them can leak out and contaminate soil and ground water. So I’m recycling any the batteries we do use and not buying anything else that needs them.
So what to get? I still don’t know, but another factor I should take into consideration is choosing something I wouldn’t mind playing with myself. Because I know the greatest gift I could really give my daughter this Christmas would be more time down and dirty on the floor playing with her.
No batteries required.