I admit I was taken in by the packaging. Words like “Alien Invasion!” and “UFO!” and “Remote Control!” jumped out at me. It looked cool, and even I wanted to play with it.
I took it to the cashier and paid for it. I am one of those moms on a constant quest to find the perfect gift, and I was pretty confident that this time I had found it. I took it home and carefully wrapped it.
When my birthday boy opened the present, I was rewarded with his immediate reaction. His eyes lit up, and he gave a small triumphant swoop. Other gifts lay forgotten. He tore the cardboard and plastic apart.
I felt a twinge of uncertainty when he finally wrestled it from the box. The toy seemed much smaller than it appeared on the packaging, and the propellors looked a little flimsy. My boy was … well … a boy. I knew it wouldn't survive to see his next birthday. Nonetheless, I crossed my fingers and wished for the best.
Batteries installed, he took the remote in his skinny little hands and cautiously moved the switch forward. The blades whirred, and the flying saucer soared into the air. Caught unprepared for its sudden burst of speed, he screamed when it nearly hit the ceiling fan. He instinctively cut the power, and it came crashing to the floor. I winced. He picked it up, inspected it, and pronounced it unscathed.
“All right,” I said, relieved, “take it into the living room where at least there's carpet.”
He grinned and raced away with his brother right on his heels.
“Let me see! Let me see! Can I have a turn? Can I? When can I have a turn?”
I admit to a smug smile.
I could hear them in the other room. The buzz of the flying saucer rose and fell as my son started to gain a little control. They shrieked, they squealed, they shouted with laughter. I love to listen to my children when they are happy.
And then I heard the collision followed by a sickening crunch. The boys were quiet. My son came to me, the UFO in one hand and a bent propellor in the other.
“Can you fix it, Mom?”
Alas, no, I could not. But I showed him how it could still work – a bit more feebly, perhaps, with a noticeable limp and a tendency to veer to the left. He didn't seem impressed.
He dropped the toy on the couch beside me with a shrug as if to say, “These things break.” Then he bounded out of the room to find his brother so they could go play. I heard the giggling resume.
Ah, I smiled. But these things don't.