The Toddler, The Transformer, And The Old Man: A Story

(Related post: a survival kit for a loose toddler roaming your home and neighborhood.)

I have not been one of those grown-ass men who collects toys for himself. It’s not that I look down on those that do — it just, I dunno, hasn’t been a thing I cared much about. I have other oddities hanging around (a pheasant killed by a grandfather I never met, an evil clapping monkey, old typewriters and cameras, a phrenology head), but toys? Not so much.

Of course, I have a toddler (really, a burgeoning pre-schooler at this point, as he’ll soon cross the three-and-a-half threshold), and the toddler? Well, the toddler likes toys.

More to the point, the toddler likes Transformers.

We tried to hook him on Transformers Rescue Bots a year or so ago hoping that it would be something new and different from the ceaseless parade of trucks and cars the child has accumulated (seriously, he has approximately 47 monster trucks, 82 tow trucks, 178 pickups, and 742,313 tractor trailers). And it didn’t quite click until he saw the show on Netflix (seriously, Rescue Bots is actually fun toddlerian Transformer-based TV), and then it was like, boom, we had our gateway drug toy. Sure, sure, they’re trucks, but they’re also ROBOTS, and in a way, they’re also puzzles, so — yay.

He’s gotten deeper into the whole Transformers thing, and has watched many of the shows, and can name probably more of the damn things than I can at this point (and hell, I grew up loving them). He has a few of the Transformers Prime toys and I fumble with them like a bandage-fingered invalid, but he’s all like — *ninja-flip, clicky-twisty, press, push, pivot* — yeah, done, shit got transformed, Dad. He pretends to be various Transformers: Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Ratchet, Heatwave. Inhabiting these character helps him conquer sometimes scary situations like learning to swim or meeting new kids. (Sidenote: the Prime toys are actually really great. Solid, fun, stylistic. And the show is good, if a little grim. YOU KNOW, IF YOU CARE.)

So, he’s kind of a Transformers fanatic right now. Which is not odd, because toddlers are either a fanatic for something or it’s dead to them. On the knob marked INTEREST LEVEL, the numbers goes from 1 to 10, and 2 through 9 are scratched out with a rough penny.

All in all?

It’s nice.

Plus, they’re toys I liked as a kid, so it’s this weird psychic bridge from my youth to his.

(Which is exactly what the toy companies want, of course. “BACK TO THE NOSTALGIA MINES, JIMMY. WE GOT MORE STRAWBERRY PONYCAKES AND G.I. NINJA GO-BOTS TO DIG OUT OF THE RICH LOAMY EARTH OF YOUR YOUTH, MWA HA HA HA HA.”)

Back to the original point:

I don’t really collect toys.

Except, okay, I’m getting this new writing shed put in — a place for me to go write during the day, where I can pretend I’m har-de-har going to work like a real person, where I will temporarily put on pants like a bonafide human (at least in order to cross the lawn in inclement weather). And I figure, okay, it’s a good-sized space so maybe, just maybe, I’ll put in a small shelf for toys.

And, there’s a recent Transformers comic featuring a fan-created female character named Windblade. When I was a kid, I played with toys (GI Joe, Star Wars, Transformers) that offered up storyworlds featuring approximately 1 to 3 female characters and a whole universe of dudes, so it’s nice to see cool female Transformers — the comic is great, written by a woman (Mairghread Scott), drawn by a woman (Sarah Stone), and all around awesome.

I saw that they were going to be making a toy of Windblade.

I was like, fuck yeah.

I’m going to buy this Windblade.

And no, I’m not going to be one of those weirdo collectors who keeps them in the packaging and squirrels them away in a box. Nor am I going to delicately place her behind a glass door, only taking her out once a year to pfft pfft hose her down with a jet of canned air. (“WORRY NOT, MY PRECIOUS PLASTIC ICON, I WILL SAVE YOU FROM THE CORPSES OF DUST MITES.”) I’ll totally play with her. (Er, that sounds creepy. By “play with her,” I mean, “occasionally pose her doing robo-karate, kicking my grandfather’s pheasant in its petulant peak.”)

Windblade is of course a sought-after toy, which means on eBay and Amazon she goes for Way Too Much Money, sold by jerks who buy all the good toys and then jack up the prices like straight-up toy baron villains, but whatever. Luckily, I was able to find her on Hasbro for the normal price — fifteen bucks. Yay. Bought.

And? Received. Via UPS. Just the other day.

The box arrived.

I brought it upstairs.

B-Dub was in on his potty, so I assumed I was safe, but the kid? He can smell toys. He’s like a human toy detector. Something about the plastic — he comes wandering in like a bloodhound on the scent of a triple homicide. “Father, I smell points of articulation,” he didn’t actually say. (Though he does use the word “articulation” when referring to his toys — a word he picked up watching YouTube videos where grown-ass adults obsessively review toys in videos that are not child pornography so much as they are pornography for children. He’ll seriously demo his toys for you like he’s trying to get you to buy them. “Look, this one has excellent articulation. Custom paint, no stickers.”)

So, here comes my son, naked from the waist down, staring at me with a new Transformer in my hand. And his eyes narrow — he knows something is up. He asks, “Is that for me?”

And so begins the grown-ass man trying to explain to his half-naked toddler that, no, this toy is Daddy’s toy, and it’s not Daddy’s toy in that it’s like, a goddamn compound bow or a bottle of whiskey or something, it’s a Transformer — like, for children, except Daddy is claming it’s his.

B-Dub goes into freak out mode.

“You can’t have toys,” he says, his eyes starting to tear up.

“Why?” I ask.

“Only I can have toys.”

“So other children can’t have toys?”

“They can have toys, too.”

“So why can’t Daddy have a toy?”

“Because you’re old.”

Oh, shit.

Emotionally shivved by a three-year-old.

“Grown-ups can’t have toys. You’re too old to play with toys,” he went on to explain, sticking his sharpened Elmo toothbrush once again into the meat of my beating heart. (Perhaps he’s just trying to finish the job he began when, a week ago he declared, “I do not like books.”)

We had a long talk after about how he likes it when I play with him and we race cars and have Transformers run around (and hug, because damnit, giant robots don’t always have to blast the shit out of each other), and how wouldn’t it be fine if Daddy could bring his own toys? And just as B-Dub shares his toys, I can share mine with him. And then he was okay with that, and a vital lesson was learned about sharing.

And about oldness and grown-ass men like me playing with toys.

What I’m really trying to say is:

Never underestimate the ability of your child to speak truths that cut deep.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play with Windblade in defiance of my mortality.

19 comments

  • My husband had transformers. Saved up his pocket money. He didn’t keep them in untouched mint condition or anything, but he looked after them. Put them back in the box when he was finished playing. Our little son loved them. To bits. Literally.

  • As I’m reading this…. I’m like the WINDBLADE TOY!

    When I finished reading, I went and checked amazon (cheapest one $25) so then I went and checked Hasbro.com like you mention. Not available online! Checked stores based on my zip code…. Target!

    Tell my husband, “We have to go to Target!” He’s like “ooook. Not tonight, they’re closed.”

    More seriously, Windblade is really awesome. I love that Hasbro got fans involved and I think she’s been extremely well written. I hope as soon as the toddler learns to read he’s got Transformers comics.

  • The videos where grown ass adults play with toys are weird. And yes, totally porn for kids. My kids love them. There’s a couple that basically play Barbies and video tape it and I seriously worry about their mental health and my 4 year old daughter cannot watch enough of their videos. Also, in their videos, Barbie is dating Spiderman, and they have a kid, or something. And that disturbs me. A lot.

    • Yep – my laddie watches one guy who YouTubes himself acting out scenarios with his Plants Vs. Zombies plush toys. And when I say ‘guy’ I’m not talking teenager either – I’d put this guy at late twenties AT THE VERY LEAST. My son thinks he’s the Coolest Guy Ever and has even started begging for Plants Vs. Zombies plush toys of his own so he can do the same thing – but that’s because he’s eight years old. My entertainment is imagining this guy in the throes of recording one of these videos and then one of his mates walking in and catching him at it. ;)

  • Good for you! As a mama to two pixies flying solo I can share that I have indeed had this little chat once or twice before and it killed me to hear the same age reprimand. Aaahhh! “Mama! You’re old! You can’t have a fairy collection!” Really? “Mama! You’re old! You know you’re supposed to share! Why can’t I color my entire stack of construction paper, dry erase board, my walls, and the dog with your special markers? My teacher says you need to share!” Uhhhh…. “Mama! You’re too old for a doll!” A treasured Madam Alexander doll of Eloise, my favorite precocious book character from childhood. And so it continues! I succumbed most of the time. You stood your ground. You rock old man! Wink. Laugh. And yes, you can laugh because you’ve written how old you are before in this blog and I can honestly say I am considerably older than thee. Happy playing!

  • Oh boy… you were busted! It’s amazing how little ones have a 6th sense for toys. He probably knew the exact moment when the UPS guy (That’s what I call them at our house. He’s like the mail guy but brings cooler stuff.) turned on the street. I swear they memorize the sounds of the mufflers and engines. Scary stuff, those little kids. Glad you got your action figure lady. She sounds pretty cool. Have her kick that pheasant once for me.

  • Isn’t RC in the Transformers cartoons a girl too (you know, the one who transforms into a bike?) I KNOW THIS ‘COS MY SON’S A TRANSFORMER FAN, OKAY? Don’t judge me.

    But yeah, kids have this wonderful way of shrinking you down to inch-high in a heartbeat. I remember a conversation with my laddie when he was three and still into Thomas the Tank Engine. He was explaining what’s going down in his game: “Thomas is rushing along the track because it’s Percy’s birthday party and he if he doesn’t hurry up he’s going to late and miss it and he won’t be able to give Percy his birthday present and Percy will be sad. And Percy does cool parties.”

    ME: “Oooh, will there be dancing at Percy’s party?

    SON: (doing the most withering look a three-year-old can give) No Mummy, they’re trains. Trains don’t dance.

    Yeah mummy, you dumbass! I slunk away feeling appropriately stupid.

  • Ah yes, this sounds SO familiar! In my case, the offending object was a small Lego model of Catwoman on a motorcycle being chased by Batman. I could have cared less about Batman, but CATWOMAN!!! I have always had a certain fixation with her, ever since childhood (and the old Batman TV series where Eartha Kitt played her). My partner got me that set as a birthday present one year, and since my son, who was then about… 3 or 4, I think? was just starting to get seriously into Lego, I put it up on a high shelf once assembled, hoping he wouldn’t notice it. But of course eventually he did… *sigh*

    Now he is 7, and has pretty made piece with the fact that I occasionally like to play with toys too. In fact, occasionally if we’re looking at Lego sets or Nerf guns or something and there’s one I think is cool and recommend to him, he’ll say “You should get that one for YOU – and I’ll get this other one!” Which I strongly suspect is a sneaky way of trying to get twice the toys out of any given shopping trip…

    And also with this:

    “Though he does use the word “articulation” when referring to his toys — a word he picked up watching YouTube videos where grown-ass adults obsessively review toys in videos that are not child pornography so much as they are pornography for children. He’ll seriously demo his toys for you like he’s trying to get you to buy them. “Look, this one has excellent articulation. Custom paint, no stickers.””

    Yes, my son got hooked on watching “Brick Show” Lego reviews at a pretty early age, and though he doesn’t watch them as much now (his YouTube habits are now primarily focused on Minecraft videos by a somewhat manic British guy who goes by “Stampy Longhead”). But he still says things like “Look, this set includes some rare Technics pieces and has some really cool play features!” Now, I have no problem with adults making Lego videos and what not (though I do wish that people who do NSFW Lego animations would at least stick a warning on there or something – not an issue with Brick Show, but with some other random Lego videos we’ve come across it has been), but it’s kind of weird hearing a kid use a marketing-esque term like “play features”.

    • My 14YO will grace us with his presence to announce that XYZABC you tuber did this that minecraft or the other thing, but he’ll announce it like the Queen was visiting. Then I’m all, “Who TF is XYZABC?”

      He likes to respond with, “Who’s Chuck Wending?”

  • I have learned with my munchkin that “I hate” means “I don’t want it right now.” Thus, I hate green beans, I hate books or I hate ______, just means leave me alone, I’m busy.

  • The amount of love I have for this post is probably not expressible in human language. LOL As the nerdy mom of a son who LOVES (L-O-V-E LOVES) his trucks/cars/planes/boats, it always makes me giddy when we can incorporate geeky things into our transportation fun!

  • Shamefully I admit that have a lot of toys, some in packets but most loose so I can play with them. McMini has been educated, from early on, to avoid Mummy’s Room of Shame unless invited in. He’s OK with me having toys as long as he has some too… and he does… oh heavens he does. ;-)

    Re hating books – listen to melorajohnson. She’s right. That’s exactly what McMini used to be like too.

    Cheers

    MTM

  • I still love Transformers and have watched all the reboot cartoons (so much better than Michael Bay’s movies) and will totally watch the new one that’s supposed to come out in 2015, and I don’t even have a kid to use as a transparent excuse. But I’ve never bought myself an action figure, which is precisely the self-fulfilling reason for the said “storyworlds featuring approximately 1 to 3 female characters and a whole universe of dudes”: because girls don’t buy the toys.

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