I walked into a toy store a while back to look for a toy for my niece, Leah, and after perusing the shelves for a while I noticed something disturbing; I wanted all of those toys.
Not now, but back when I was a kid. There were Transformers, and G.I Joes, and Winnie the Pooh, and Sesame Street, and My little Pony (okay, so there never was a time when I wanted a My Little Pony but still…,) and I recognized everything. It was almost all from my childhood. Yes, nostalgia and all that, but whose nostalgia? The kids? How could they have nostalgia for the toys of my youth? I’m way old and they,being kids, are way young, so whose nostalgia exactly applies here? Obviously it’s the parents. Mom and Dad buying toys for their kids that they wanted when they were kids. Which seems fine, but I think something has gone wrong somewhere along the way. I didn’t want my parents toys, had no interest in their stuff. Because it was theirs (I am aware that G.I Joes were of my parents generation but I think there’s a pretty substantial difference between the Joes of their time and the Joes of mine), and I wanted my own stuff.
Me and my two brothers didn’t really like westerns very much as kids, but my dad loved them so when he decided to rent movies he rented a western for us. We tried to watch it for a few minutes but pretty soon we just drifted away. Our tastes were different. He didn’t keep renting westerns and getting us to watch them. He saw we didn’t share in that interest so he moved on. He didn’t take offense to it, he just understood it wasn’t what we wanted.
I’m not saying kids aren’t interested in Transformers (for example) but just asking where this generation’s toys have gone. For every Transformers there should be a Power Rangers (which was the generation after mine’s big thing. And it sucked. But it was theirs. And it sucked.) For every Power Rangers there should be a Pokemon and so on down the line. Each generation enjoying the cool stuff of the past but also getting their own stuff. But at least in that toy store (which is probably pretty representative considering it’s the only national chain toy store), it was almost all stuff from my generation.
I get annoyed with baby boomers who denigrate my music and celebrate their own for this very reason. Their music will never mean as much to me as it does to them. I can appreciate a lot of it on the technical level, even on a visceral level, but it wasn’t made for me. It was made for the baby boomers. They got to hear it when it was new and vital and spoke directly to what they were feeling at the time. And some of that comes through the decades but not all of it. It was their thing, and it was great. But it could never by my thing and the way boomers tried to shove it down my throat made me resent that music, that tone. And I’ve been pretty impressed with my generation so far who have not done the same thing to the current generation. We don’t yammer on and on and on about grunge and how kids today don’t know what good music is because they don’t listen to grunge anymore (I’m sure there are some that do that, I’m talking about the preponderance of opinion here. Ours is not one voice yelling about how crappy this generation’s music is, whereas I maintain a whole bunch of boomers talked in that one dismissive and arrogant voice).
So we haven’t forced our musical tastes on the next generation but we appear to be strongly encouraging our kids to love the same toys that we loved when we were their age. Why? Because my generation (mid thirties now) are the ones buying the toys for their kids. They have the buying power and are using it on toys they would have wanted to own. I think it’s a bit selfish. If you’re going to buy a kid a toy, find one that they will love. Find something that they can call their own because it will mean more to them.
Transformers were mine.
Get your own damn stuff.
And I mean that in the nicest possible way.