This is just a quick follow up to yesterday’s post. I was so busy talking about children who are expected to play in an age appropriate manner that I didn’t think to include adults who play with toys. I’m happy to say that this category of people is growing and I count myself among them. Of course I play with toys: it’s part of my job to know what they do, so that I can explain it to customers, but today I thought I’d share a story about buying toys for yourself.
A few years ago (before I was a dad) we got some transformer toys in the shop, they were just little mini ones and if I remember correctly they cost something like £5.99. Anyway somewhere in my subconscious I must have been feeling envious of the kids buying them as they eagerly opened the packet at the counter and started figuring out how to transform their robot into a vehicle. It hit a nerve and reminded me of my own collection of transformers figures back in the eighties. After about a week I couldn’t take it any more and I caved and bought myself a ‘Bumblebee’ figure.
I realised that this was probably the first time I had bought myself a toy as an adult. I had bought this little figure with my wages (not pocket money) and I hadn’t even had to ask someone if I was allowed to. There was a strange moment when I was at the same time aware of two very different experiences, one one hand I felt my inner child’s pleasure at getting the toy but on the other hand, almost more keenly, I could appreciate my own adulthood: buying a toy for myself with no persuasion of the parents, no hoarding of my pocket money, nothing which I typically associated with the acquisition of a toy.
When I decided to buy it I had expected to feel silly, to feel like a big kid, and I suppose to an extent I did as I too eagerly opened the packet and fiddled with the little figure, transforming him into a car and back again and even (I’m not ashamed to admit) making the trademark ‘transforming’ noise (chkokochkoko) and then making him drive around with roaring car noises (noticing that thanks to my now adult voice I can make a much more satisfying engine roar). However along with this came an affirmation of my independence unlike any I had felt, I had moved out, got a job, got married (all standard rites of passage into the ranks of ‘adults’) but deep inside my seven year old self told me that since I had always said ‘when I grow up I’ll buy toys whenever I want’ I was, in his eyes, now a ‘grown up’ and that was a very weird feeling.
OK so I’m going to suggest something, go buy a toy, not for the ‘kitsch’ value, not as an ironic statement and don’t buy a toy that is made for adults. Just imagine you’re buying a toy for your younger self, think carefully about just what you enjoyed then, heck even give yourself some ‘pocket money’ if you need to tie a budget round it. Let yourself enjoy the experience of buying a toy with no begging or pleading, no guilt or shame. Proudly open your purchase at the counter (as any child would do given the opportunity) and here’s the important part play with it right then and there, in the shop; if it’s a car make engine noises, if it’s some kind of character give them a voice, the important thing is to let that child out, really far out and all at once you realise you never lost your childhood, or left it behind, you took it with you and as soon as you see that inner child and compare them with the adult you are now you suddenly feel happier. You’re able to buy any toy you like whenever you like, and in the eyes of your inner child you can’t get much more grown up than that.