There are days when I envy my parents. Every generation faces its own troubles in rearing kids, but I know that when it came to toys, my own folks were only constrained by three considerations: 1) can he hurt himself 2) will he play with it for more than 10 minutes before becoming bored 3) can we afford it?
Now, Trish and I are hardly the sort of parent that sweat over getting Jake into the right daycare at the age of 18 months so that we can be sure he'll make it into Harvard Medical School. On the other hand, we aren't the laizez faire sort of parents that are happy to get him the latest Power Rangers gear, GI Joe Armageddon Playset (be it noted that I had a lot of GI Joe stuff as a kid and loved it), or every Hot Wheels racetrack package that was ever extruded from a plastic mold. But we do have a few more somewhat vague criteria for toys than I think my folks did.
Striking the balance, between something he wants and thinks is fun and what we think might be fun, educational, and non-harmful is hard. We do, occasionally, from time to time, maybe sometimes try just a wee bit too hard to get him interested in something like the Junior Nobel Laureate Practice Science Kit (Create your own weather Station! Design a Computer from tin cans and old D batteries! Make your own working submarine! Clone your pets using our simple techniques! Some Assembly and/or Parental Supervision Required.).
This desire for balance is compounded a bit by our recognition that we have overdone it in the past (and lets not get into trying to convey the real meaning of the holiday. That's another series of posts, probably). Christmas 2002 was way excessive in terms of stuff. A bike, 3-4 Matchbox/hotwheels playsets, just too too much. We've been struggling to make space in his room ever since, including tossing out or giving away toys he broke, lost many of the parts to, or just plain doesn't play with anymore (just to be clear here that we only give away stuff that either still works are is virtually complete. I've little use for people that give away broken toys, unless the receiver is aware and okay with it).
So he has made his list, which includes an Xbox (no chance), a toy-size dirt bike (for sure), and many, many items that require a long hmmmm. Now we get to cull it and try to sneak in our own brilliant (we hope) ideas. The proof shall be in the pudding Christmas morning.