“What the what?”
That’s about the only response I could muster when someone sent me an article about parents writing their kids a note from “Santa” apologizing in advance for the fact that some kind of toy called a “Hatchimal” was temporarily out of stock.
Apparently I am out of the toy loop, because despite having two children under the age of five, the first time I heard of a “Hatchimal” was in an article about how parents are practically suicidal because they cannot buy one for their kid in time for Christmas.
So I Googled, “What is a Hatchimal?” Google tells me:
“They are little furry interactive creatures living inside a large hard-shelled egg.”
And apparently, they are the holiday toy this season.
Yet another story in TIME tells me about two brothers who “predicted the Hatchimal craze” back in October and bought $5,000 worth of the toy which they are now reselling to these poor, desperate parents at a 300 percent upsell.
And so a countless number of today’s parents are left with no choice but to ghost a note from the North Pole on fancy letterhead and all along the lines of this one:
Except that parents do have a choice. For starters, they can resist the trendy toy movement altogether, and in doing so, save themselves a lot of angst, and their wallets a little cash. But more importantly, they can teach their kids an important lesson that will serve them well into adulthood: Resist trends.
Toy trends are nothing new, nor is any kind of trend for that matter, be it social or political. But that’s just it: they are trends. They might bring temporary happiness or a fleeting sense of belonging. But trends are not going to bring the kind of deep-seated confidence that comes from learning to do things independent of what everyone else is saying or doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total trend curmudgeon. But I will never forget the Christmas my parents gave me luggage, and not the thing all my friends were getting that year. At the time, I had to mask my disappointment. As an adult, not only do I still use the luggage, but I took it with me on countless journeys around the globe. It was a gift that conveyed to me, quite literally, “chart your own course.”
With Justice Scalia still not yet a year gone, I am reminded of one of my favorite of his quotes about family life. He said: “We had our own culture. The first thing you’ve got to teach your kids is what my parents used to tell me all the time: ‘You’re not everybody else. We have our own standards and they aren’t the standards of the world in all respects, and the sooner you learn that the better.”
And what better time to teach your children that lesson than at Christmas, when some families are tearing through the aisles of Toys “R” Us in search of the toy du jour? What better opportunity to get your kid something else, and an additional toy for a child that won’t get one at all?
Ultimately, there is something profoundly Christmas-like about not having everything the way you want. The entire holiday exists because two parents could not even find a roof under which to have a baby. Consider the absurdity of the fact that, thousands of years later, people are celebrating that holiday by apologizing to children because a Hatchimal could not be procured.
And yet that absurdity is our culture today. The first step in resisting it is an easy one: Calm down and buy something other than a Hatchimal. I promise: Your child will be okay.