Cheap and uncheerful

‘That is IT!’ I kicked the box across the kitchen in a fit of temper far more befitting of my four-year-old.

DH Looked up wearily from the set of toy instructions he’d been studying over his Special K and nodded.

‘NO. MORE. CHINESE. TAT!!!’ I continued, gathering up the bits of packaging in fury, and chucking them into the Toys R Us carrier bag from whence they came. Oldest son, red-faced and teary-eyed with frustrated disappointment, looked on.

The source of my anger, a remote controlled helicopter, was duly thrown back into the bag too, as I stomped around the kitchen still venting, and not caring if anyone answered me. ‘It wasn’t even cheap! It cost over Dhs200! Do you know how much that is in pounds? At least 35 quid! That’s how much! It was hardly a ‘market stall buy!’

Now, as you will know from previous posts (Boys and their toys) our family doesn’t have the best history when it comes to toys of any kind, especially the remote controlled variety. But this time, things had gone too far. Yes, the uber-rubbish quality control of mass-produced, modern-day toys had finally produced one dodgy loose connection too many.

You see, it was my precious son’s seventh birthday, and for months, he’d been begging us for a remote controlled helicopter (he’s a big fan of the cartoon Hover Champs). I’d tried to dissuade him, not only because they are usually recommended for kids aged eight to 10, but also because toys these days are simply not built to be crashed.

In short, the vast majority of toys today are crap. They are breakable, cheaply made, plastic tat designed to part parents with their hard earned cash and send sprogs doolally with distress.

Once purchased, they automatically disintegrate and are thrown into the dustbin within hours of you having installed the first batteries.  And even when you spend a reasonable amount of money on something – and select a trusted brand (said helicopter) – you can bet your bottom dollar that your toy will have suffered a mechanical meltdown within the week. Failing that, you’ll have to exchange it at least three times before you get a model that does perform, so that you can actually watch it suffer a mechanical meltdown within the week.

So there we were, on the morning of my darling boy’s birthday, with the long-awaited helicopter that predictably within 30 minutes, had developed a gremlin and was no longer working. Oldest son was understandably stroppy – and horribly disappointed. His birthday morning, so much anticipated and talked about: ‘I wanted to fly it in the park with Daddy,’ had been ruined.

 But his sad resignation was worst of all. As soon as the wretched thing stopped working, he’d burst into tears, and bought it to us stating angrily; ‘It’s faulty! It’s not working! I knew this would happen…’

And I suddenly realised, with a startling sense of de je vu, just how many times we’ve been down this road before.  Gosh dear reader, talk about Grounghog Day!

Why just recently, there were the wall crawlers, cars that use a suction mechanism so that they can be driven up vertical surfaces. The irony here is that we were the ones who ended up climbing the walls.

The toys, which were on special offer at Carrefour (yes, I should have known better) were an unmitigated disaster. We purchased two – one for each son. When we got home, one of them didn’t work – thus DH, who could not stand the crying (youngest son was inconsolable), took it back to the shop and got another car. That too was faulty. So, DH, now fed up to the back teeth with the thing, gave up.

I then returned it a second time, making sure the man in the shop tested it before it left the store. Once home, the bloody thing worked for 20 minutes and then stopped – never to move again… At this point, youngest son, aged four, was so pissed off that he threw the thing into bin himself.

And before this it’s been a veritable catalogue of catastrophes. We’ve had train sets with dodgy tracks, robots with exploding heads, battery operated transformers that turn into junk instead of cyborgs – and an entire scrap yard of remote control cars, large enough to rival the Dubai Police Abandoned Car Lot in September 2008…  

But the very worst thing about this broken toy carnage is not the money that’s been wasted (although I’m sure we could have paid a term of school fees with it), but the sheer disappointment and ruined memories such purchases have generated. Buckets of kiddie tears have been shed on the altar of the ‘Made in China’ toy. Shrieks of anger, frustration and grief have assaulted our eardrums. And precious birthday mornings have been spoiled beyond repair.

Because toys, which just a few years ago were objects of joy – things to be cherished and played with again and again, have become items of torture to children and parents alike.

In fact, the toys in our house that have lasted are mainly the second generation items. They are the British-made Action Men DH played with as a child (yes – even four decades on, old Eagle Eyes still works) and the Millennium Falcons and X-Wing Fighters from the 1980’s Star Wars toy range. Youngest son recently took the X-Wing into the bath, forgetting it had batteries. But in true, ‘built to last’ style, once dried out, it continued to zap away as merrily as it has done for the past 30 years…

Yes. Sadly, they just don’t make em like they used to. And many tears have been spilled as a result.

My only comfort in all this, is that our darling baby girl who arrived a few weeks ago, probably won’t suffer the frustrations our sons have experienced. This is because toys for children under the age of three, ironically, are built to last longer than a tin of ham on the Titanic. Litigation for infant injury clearly speaks volumes to toy manufactures.

Secondly, girls toys are far less breakable than boys toys, probably because they are built from less pieces (Monster Trucks vs My Little Pony; Hello Kitty vs Transformers – see what I mean?) and they are usually played with in a gentler fashion.  

But for now, there is little we can do to stem the flow of breakable toys that invades our home. After all, you can’t exactly put an embargo on all items made post 1995. Why, as I’ve been typing this very blog, another birthday present arrived for oldest son. Excitedly and joyfully, he rips off the colourful paper to reveal – yes, you’ve guessed it – a wall crawler car…

Let the fun and games begin…..

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4 thoughts on “Cheap and uncheerful

  1. Pingback: the way they die unknown. « Sick with Poetry.

  2. i know what you mean. we never bought a helicopter, but a lot of remote controlled cars, and as you said, they go to the trash right after the first use. i:( imagine what these discarded toys are doing to our environment! now his toy collections are restricted to the die cast cars as they seem to last a little longer.

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