Saturday, November 16, 2002

Be Careful What You Ask For (and Give)

When I was 7 years old I desperately wanted Electric Football. Remember it? Though pricey, Electric Football wasn't much more than a metal board painted to look like a gridiron. A motor made the board vibrate. The vibrations caused the players, who stood on plastic stands, to move.

It looked awesome in the commercials, where some incredibly lucky bunch of kids were duking it out, gleefully guiding their teams in pitched battle.

In reality, it sucked.

The players moved aimlessly. Guards were liable to head out on post routes and wide receivers were as likely to dive straight into the mass around the center as they were to go out for a pass. Not that it matter. The quarterback, when he let fly with the little "ball," was as accurate as your great aunt after too many glasses of wine on Turkey Day.

Apparently, a shitload of kids liked Electric Football because you never heard a bad word about it. Me? I thought it was ridiculous. From Day One. I used it several times, trying hard to get over the shock at how stupid the whole thing was. Then it found a place under my bad and there it stayed … for months … and years.

Somewhere along the way, my Electric Football game disappeared—probably at one of our periodic garage sales. But the heartache at wanting and getting something that was clearly outside the usual Christmas-gift price range, well, that only grew. And amazingly, it's still there. What kind of ungrateful son rejects the generous gifts of his hard-working parents? Me. I do. Loathsome piece of dog poop. What kind of son doesn't know better than to want such an asinine gift? Me. I don't. Wretched louse.

Now Rebecca and I are buying gifts for Niko after receiving his input. Earlier this fall birthday money from grandparents resulted in purchase of a little box with four musicians atop it. The box plays a few tunes and asks, repetitively, a short set of far too simple questions about who among the characters is playing what instrument. The minute I saw it, my heart sank. I knew it would fall by the wayside within weeks. And it has. I worried. Was this the beginning of a trend? How do we navigate between his toddler wanna-gotta-have wishes and our adult no-its-a-clunker wisdom?

"But it's what he wanted," Rebecca said, and a pain shot through my heart. I explained my fractured psychology and Rebecca, wise as ever, said that the important thing was that I never let Niko feel bad about not liking a gift he asked for. I said I wouldn't, but thinking about it now, I'm not sure that will safeguard the lad against emotional damage. After all, my parents never said a peep about me not liking Electric Football. All the guilt was self-inflicted, and not just after the gift was revealed to be so idiotic.

No, I think I overreached in ever asking for Electric Football. A new football—a real genuine NFL imitation rubberized-material football—would have been worn to its inner liner before it was discarded. Much joy would have been derived from it. But I wanted something fancy. Something cool. That was the problem. Fancy and cool, where simple would have done the trick. Now, all we have to do is get Niko to understand why he NEVER gets anything that's fancy and cool.

I'm sure "It's for your own good, son" will do the trick.

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