A part of not only my childhood, but the childhood of many Americans was lost this past week with the news of the impending closing of Toys R Us. As a 36-year-old father of two little girls ages 18 months and 4 and half years old, this news brings great sadness to the McKee home. Toys R Us was far more than a retail store to us, it was tradition in a world that sorely needs it.
Fresh off of school shootings, lack of communication between kids and manufactured good times, America needs purer honest ways to give our children a reason to smile. For its part, Toys R Us did exactly that. And it’s not just Toys R Us, but toy stores in general. America needs them!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m 100 percent behind children going outside and playing all day, every day during the summer. A child doesn’t need toys to have a good time, but rather their imagination and freedom to create. My fondest memories of a kid were playing outside with toys my father made us. We even had a homemade slip and slide. But that was during the ‘80’s and ‘90’s when life was much simpler.
Sadly, those days appear to be long gone in today’s world of instant access to everything! What happened to kids making lemonade stands and playing wiffleball? There are way too many on smart phones and video games for the bulk of their free time, and less and less on the ball field or in the backyard shooting hoops. Let alone riding their bike to a friend’s house. Because now we have “play dates.” Play dates? Are you kidding me?
Toys R Us closing is just another symbol of childhood innocence lost. I mentioned it above and please allow me to expound. This store chain closing is a costly shot at tradition incurring a severe wound. As a sports writer, full time husband and father, my time is limited. But, no matter how busy things get, I always make my children number one, and Toys R Us was a big part of that.
This is not about buying your kids’ love, rather it is about creating traditions with them and lasting memories. One of the biggest traditions was taking my daughter Maggie to the toy store, (not aisle, but whole entire store) and walking around for hours. Most times we’d leave without even buying anything, it was just the point of going.
She never asked for anything but the tradition lied in the memories shared. We made sure every trip included her sitting in the large cars, playing with the Thomas trains and even towards the end, playing with the Lego table. I’d eventually cave and insist on buying her something, but simply watching her expression with the trains and cars was the best feeling a daddy could ask for inside of any “store.”
Perhaps the most colorful being shaking the dinosaur ride by the door, and singing, “Meet the Flintstones,” because Maggie refused to let the machine do it and wanted Daddy to sing. Sure, I looked like an idiot, but it was happy times with my little girl. And hey, I even saved fifty cents.
What kid wants to scroll on a phone and point out the toys they want? What parent would actually enjoy that? Sure, Amazon and Ebay are convenient and cheap at times, but kids want to hold the actual thing in their hand before they get it for real, not just point to a picture on a phone or computer screen. That is one of the biggest tools in marketing, sight, sound and touch. If you can feel it, you will buy it.
Would someone, even an adult, rather open up a box after waiting 6-8 days for it to show up at their house, or purchase the real thing and walk out of the store with it in their hands, along with a loved one or friend? To me at least, the choice seems clear.
What about all the people, an estimated 33,000 that will now be out of work? What about those families that will now need to look for income elsewhere, (more than likely in your tax dollars as the checks from the government start rolling in). What about little Timmy, who was promised with a trip to the toy store to pick out a new prize because he finally improved his grades. Well, now he will have to settle for an aisle or two at Wal Mart. He can forget about walking out of the store with it, because after all, it is Wal Mart and his parents will surely have others things in the cart.
So, unlike a trip to Toys R Us, where his toy will be the only purpose of the visit, there is a strong chance that PJ Mask action figure it sitting next to a bag of Maxi Pads, or deodorant in the cart. Yes, because that is real fun for a kid! But hey, if Mom is going to Target or Wal Mart it is almost a lock that is occurring.
People are lazy and cheap and they want what is most convenient. Now, because of that, people are out of work, traditions are dead, and yet another part of my childhood, and the childhood of many, is gone for good.
But hey, what do I know?
Photo by Matthew Johns