I was just reading a blog that often makes me chuckle (Mom’s Daily Dose) about the hype surrounding this year’s “must have” toy–some new Tickle Me Elmo extreme edition. The author of the blog asks who is going to run out and buy that toy? As a cautionary tale, I feel compelled to share my story of Christmas 2005, and Amazing Amanda.
Last winter, we had just moved into our house, and for 8 glorious months we had free cable. It was like crack to us, since we’ve never picked up more than four channels (we’re cheap, and take issue with paying for crap on TV, and we still proudly own rabbit ears that get us 3 channels on a clear day for nothin’!). But once we were exposed to 95 clear-as-a-bell channels for free, we couldn’t turn it off! I once caught my husband watching Red Dawn in Spanish (he does not speak that language) and I realized we’d had enough. The cable company caught on and turned off our free cable.
Prior to the cable cut off, our daughter enjoyed at least a good hour a day of Nick Jr, along with the mind numbing barrage of advertisements that come with commercial TV. Once she caught a glimpse of just how amazing Amanda was (“Mom, that doll will really understand me!”), she wanted nothing else. For those who missed her ad campaign, Amazing Amanda is a freaky looking doll of questionable age, who comes with her own potty and a delicious selection of junk food, and in the fantasy world of TV marketing to children, has voice recognition technology that will allow her to really understand everything your child says. I should have known better.
Amanda was delivered on Christmas morning and our daughter was delighted. She ignored her stocking and other goodies and immediately wanted to bond with her new doll. However, Amanda required a bit of “training” in order to understand her new mommy. This was no easy task. Even with my help, it took us over an hour to get Amanda to figure out the day and time and stop telling us she had to pee every 3 minutes, and I have a flippin’ master’s degree! We quickly learned that if Amanda is turned off, she has to be programmed all over again. Otherwise, she’ll speak in this whispery voice and say “You don’t sound like my mommy. I’ll just play alone until my mommy comes back.” Note to toy manufacturers: rejection is not a good method for winning over a child. I kid you not, by 4pm on Christmas day, we found Amanda stuffed in a trash can in our home office. Our child pretty much said “Amanda, you’re dead to me.”
To this day, Amanda rests silently, batteries removed, in a crib full of dolls. She might have cost $85, but she sure doesn’t get any special love or attention. Rest assured, unless the 2006 version of Tickle Me Elmo can run a vacuum cleaner, fold laundry and potty train my son, he won’t be living in our house.