This column appeared in The Herald-Sun in December 2013:
Just five years ago, I’d have laughed in the face of anyone who told me that I’d someday find myself standing in the back aisle of a Durham Toys R Us, weighing the benefits of Baby’s First Blocks, the Soothe & Glow Seahorse and the Rhyme & Discover Book.
It’s John Michael’s first Christmas.
For the first time in my life, I’m shopping for my own child.
I’m worried I might go overboard.
The various shaped plastic cubes and the bucket with a shape-sorting lid included in Baby’s First Blocks are promoted as an excellent method of honing eye-hand coordination. He can also learn about sorting, stacking, picking out shapes and matching them.
The plush seahorse with the push-activated glowing belly that plays music and ocean sounds is supposed to enhance the child’s auditory skills, promote relaxation and help them fall asleep on their own.
The rhyming book plays melodies, features light-up characters and offers open-ended questions that encourage thinking and learning.
And none of them matches the allure of his babysitter’s glasses.
They can’t come close to the glee he seems to draw from rolling and bouncing. Can they possibly distract him from the unadulterated satisfaction that he takes from tugging what’s left of my hair? Or grappling to get his tiny hands on my iPhone, because drool always looks cooler with a ghostly white glow beneath it?
Can they substitute for the pleasure of chewing on a rubber spoon with new teeth?
For heaven’s sake, I’ve seen this child bliss out trying to crumple advertising circulars from The Herald-Sun – the gourmet newspaper of choice for the most discerning infants.
He’ll happily chew on a sugar packet before those eager, searching fingers go probing through a plate of pasta just to experience the fun of splattering marinara.
If he could choose a gift, I’m almost certain it would be the pull on the blinds next to his changing table in the master bedroom. John Michael never stops wanting that and constantly flops over and grabs for it when I’m beseeching him to hold still long enough to clean him and change his diaper.
So, yes, maybe I’m overthinking these gifts for the baby’s first Christmas; my first Christmas as a dad. He’s not likely to remember what he receives this year any more than I remember what my parents got me at his age.
I’m still laughing, though, even if this wholly unexpected scenario played out the way it did. It’s just that I’m sharing that laughter with an infant who thinks it’s hilarious when I make elephant trumpeting noises.
That’s a great gift for both of us.
Wes Platt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-419-6684. Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at facebook.com/wesplattheraldsun.