The Day the 80s Toy Store Threw Up . . . in My Living Room

If you kept your eyes on the floor, it was hard to tell whether it was Christmas 2010 or Christmas circa the 1980s in the Sager household on Saturday.

There was Strawberry Shortcake, who passed the 30 mark this year and still looked suspiciously young to be perched behind the wheel of the remote control convertible. And just behind her a house stocked with Calico Critters – you might remember their first incarnation, as the Sylvanian Families in 1985. Off to the right, a Ferris Wheel that wouldn’t have looked out of place in my childhood bedroom, as it was stocked with mini My Little Ponies, first created in 1981 as “My Pretty Pony” and officially launched in 1983 under today’s moniker.

The batteries are smaller. The packages harder to open (thank you scissors . . . and a mimosa). But throw in the LEGOs – first designed in the 1940s but still going strong decades later – and it looked like an 80s toy store threw up in our living room.

I blame myself. When the 5-year-old writes out her Christmas list, you’re supposed to systematically go through and lop off about one half in order to come up with a list that’s equal parts fun and financially viable.

But then they let me loose with the toy catalogs. How, exactly, does one say no to the scent of strawberries in doll form? To the chance to spend hours brushing pony manes? If you can say no, you’re a stronger woman than I. Or you simply did not grow up during the eighties.

Ah, parenting. The chance to relive your childhood and not get funny looks at the toy store while doing so.

The marketers have us right where they want us. Nostalgia sells as we, the parents of the new millennium simultaneously try to hold onto our youth and indulge our children like no generation has before. We are the video game generation, the first to have a toy made specifically for children and adults, which we carried with us into parenting and have made bigger and better to encompass the entire family.

We are the parents who argue over whether it’s right not to play with one’s kids rather than expecting our children to play by themselves and, for goodness sakes, just stay out of the way. We are the parents who have injected ourselves into our children’s lives as much – if not more so – than their births injected them into ours.

We are by no means perfect, but this is our way of parenting, a way that our kids will eschew in favor of something completely unlike the way in which they were raised. Thus is evolution.

But if we can pass on just one thing to our children, I hope it is this: you can grow up without letting go of the wonders of childhood. Whether it’s in a toy store or on the floor of your own living room, it’s still out there. Don’t forget about it.


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