When I was a kid, whenever I had a nightmare my parents would tell me to think about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, since they are associated with happiness and fun. Unfortunately, I took that advice, and for a few years was beset by terrifying nightmares wherein a homicidal Santa or a psychopathic Easter Bunny attempted to murder me.
I no longer fear Santa, but am still occasionally faced with an instance where something/someone that is usually considered friendly, or, at worst, utterly innocuous, fills me with dread.
This Christmas, that something/someone is Elmo. (see Part 1 here.)
My son, young though he is, already loves Elmo, that red-furred Sesame Street muppet (or is he just a puppet? Not sure what the distinction is…) that became so huge a few or 20 years ago, when the Touch-Me-Elmo toy came out. I am not sure how prominent a character he is on the show, but these days he seems to be enjoying a resurgence, what with that documentary, and a hot new toy (Let’s Rock Elmo). As such, the few times we’ve let our kid watch Sesame Street, the clear favorite attraction has been Elmo and his high-pitched voice.
So, in what can only be called a rookie mistake, the wife and I decided to buy Let’s Rock Elmo, along with a few accessories (a guitar, a keyboard) for our little guy’s first real Christmas.
Just a few days later, those gifts, along with a few others that also play music and make noise, have conspired to make our lives a living hell. Not a moment goes by without Elmo’s voice ringing out across our apartment, or the little guitar playing a killer Elmo-related riff, or the mini keyboard blaring out Cookie Monster’s melodious voice (melodious, that is, if you’re into Harvey Fierstein – and who isn’t?), or the fake laptop (just keep your hands off the real one!) blasting out a tune, and so on.
The kid loves music. I mean, he’s just GOTTA DANCE!, and far be it from us to stifle his personality at this young age (we’ll do that later). That’s who he is – and he doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if it’s Elmo, Kanye, The Strokes or the FreeInsurance.com guy: if music is playing, he’s gonna get up and get down. We like him to be happy, so we indulge him, with a variety of noise-makers that we would now like to smash into bits.
Especially galling is the fact that these Elmo toys, while featuring a few different modes (free play, sing-along and Mayan Armageddon Cacophony), do NOT have volume control.
Let me be clear: THERE IS NO WAY TO TURN THESE DEVICES DOWN.
So for the past few days our son has been roaming around the living room, playing a song on one toy, then moving to the next and the next, initiating the music on each, so that a variety of songs and noises are soon booming throughout our home, forcing my wife and I raise our voices just to have an ordinary conversation. The neighbors must be really confused as to why we’re screaming things like “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO FOR DINNER TONIGHT!!” and “I AM GOING TO HOP IN THE SHOWER!!!!”
And while it’s always adorable to see our son shaking his tush to the music, it’s getting to be a bit much having a non-stop children’s music concert in my house. Worse, I have caught myself singing “Elmo’s Song” out loud, so insidiously catchy is the tune that even I can’t avoid its grasp.
The fact is that, in the grand scheme of things, we’re still very new parents, and we’re still learning. Our first real foray into toy buying has been something of a disaster: we’ve been left with constant headaches and an apartment littered with tiny instruments taunting us with loud, childish songs every time we accidentally trip over them and set them off.
Yes, the kid is definitely happy, but it’s not all that hard to please someone who doesn’t object to having his own feces strapped around his waist for hours at a time (we rarely change him). But we need to do a better job of finding toys he likes that are compatible with our sanity.
I think next year we’ll just get him some headphones.
(see Part 1 here.)