My son is gullible. If the side of the cereal box proclaims “Best Cereal Ever!” he’s convinced we have to buy it. If a video game is advertised on TV as “life-changing,” he immediately hammers at me to include that little morsel in my next Target run (never mind that we don’t own—nor do I want to own—a video game system in which to play said video game). Specific sporting shoes cast their allure. Certain snacks must be procured. It is hard, as a parent, to remain immune to the constant infusion of “must-have” items.
Here is a transcript of a typical conversation in our home:
Tall: Mom! Mom! Come quick!
Me: (running down stairs and almost slipping and breaking neck due to obvious urgency of situation) Here I am! What is it? Are you okay? (breathless)
Tall: (pointing excitedly at TV commercial) Look! Here is that Lego/ Pokemon/ Club Penguin/ Best New Toy Ever thing I was telling you about! You have to buy it for me!
Me: That’s why you called me down here?
Tall: (unfazed) Yes. What do you think? Isn’t it cool?
Me: Huh. Well. Do you want to spend your own birthday or Christmas money?
Tall: (flabbergasted) What? NO. Of course not. You can just write a check and then it doesn’t cost anyone anything.
Me: Wait—what? A check IS money. The money is in the bank and writing the check gives the bank permission to give the money to whoever you wrote the check to.
Tall: (dumbfounded) Are you sure?
Me: (dumbfounded at what he must not be being taught in first grade) Of course I’m sure!
Tall: Oh. (slight pause) Well, can you buy it for me anyway? I need it!
Me: Why? What does it do?
Tall: It spins/ jumps/ does my homework/ drives me to soccer! I must have it!
Me: No. I can think of better uses for our money. Like food.
Tall: You are so mean, Mom. All my friends have (insert name of unlikely product here) and I am the only one who doesn’t! (runs from room, pouting)
I have decided to take matters into my own hands and address the real instigators of this mess that has become my life, a life of perpetual battle with a seven-year-old over useless garbage that will be in the landfill in a matter of days. Here goes:
MOV’s Open Letter to Advertisers Everywhere
“Please leave my sons and their impressionable brains alone. My older son believes everything you say, even the blatant lies (‘hours’ of fun? who are you kidding? we finished that game in about five minutes). And the younger son wants to BE the older son, so it’s only a matter of time before he falls prey to your guerrilla advertising tactics.
Go pick on someone your own size (uh, on second thought, please leave my husband alone as well). At least an adult might have a fighting chance, or a modicum of willpower and resistance. On behalf of tired mothers everywhere, I beg you to just make your product and quietly sell it. If it’s truly any good, I’ll be happy to buy it—you don’t need to manipulate my child into pressuring me to spend a week’s pay on some random junky thing that he’ll forget by next week.
You could adopt a new ‘truth in advertising’ approach. This is how your new ad could look:
‘Our product is pretty good. Most of the time. If it’s something you need, by all means, please buy it. If not, well, think about it for next time.’
See? That wasn’t so hard.
I made 20 copies and sent the letter out to the worst offenders (Disney, Kellogg, Hasbro, Pillow Pet, etc). I have already heard back: they all apologized and sent me coupons. Guess who helped me open the mail that day? Yes, Tall. Now we have yet another reason to buy their products—discounts! I can’t win.
(“Mother Of Victims”)