A couple of weeks ago my daughter had her birthday party for friends. Sadly most of them were sick and only two quests showed up. Don’t feel too bad this was her third birthday celebration with cake and presents so it wasn’t the let down it could have been.

She invited two little girls whose moms are friends of mine. I went to high school with the moms but hadn’t kept in contact with them much after graduation. When we moved to this house a couple of years ago I became re-acquainted with them as one of the women lives right next door and she reintroduced me to everyone who I had lost touch with.

Our children play together more often than we manage to get together but everyone decided that my daughter’s birthday party was a good excuse to get together.

One of the moms is newer to motherhood than the rest of us. Her daughter is three and her only sister has no children. She is not been around children all that much. She rushed over after work after stopping by the neighborhood toy store to pick up a present for my daughter.

She went to town on my daughter. She bought her lovely gifts, many lovely gifts. It is however quite evident that she does not to the mommy thing any better than I do. She gave my daughter not only a huge bag of beads but also a tattoo kit. Her daughter and my daughter immediately insisted that they open both beads and tattoos. We, the grown ups, were having so much fun drinking wine and talking about birth control and menopause that we let them open these toys without thinking.

Within minutes all three children were covered in tattoos, beads were strewn all over the house and they were all fighting over the one Bratz doll. We just poured more wine and ignored them.

I learned long ago what gifts were ok to give to children when they were not my own.

My brother was the first one in my generation of our family to have kids. His daughter was born two years before my son, she is also my godchild, so I bought her every toy under the sun before my own son was born. I bought her books and stuffed animals and then when she got older I started to get her toys that made noise. I didn’t think too much about it at first but when my brother mentioned that the toy was obnoxious I realized it was payback time for all those years of being tickled to tears, picked on and never getting away with anything because he had already tried it and he was the first. I went to great lengths to find the most obnoxious toys I could for my niece.

And then my son was born. The sibling rivalry was cranked up a notch as my brother got into the game. There are only so many obnoxious girl toys on the market. There are nothing but obnoxious boy toys available.

He and I went back and forth finding the worst toys for our respective niece or nephew. There were still no other children to dote upon so we both spent a fair amount of money on this game of ours. Our kids loved the competitive aspect of our relationship since they came out the obvious winners.

The game came to a screeching halt when I moved out to Seattle. My brother sent a care package filled with what was really a cool toy if it hadn’t been so dangerous. He sent a box filled with wooden shoots and ladders that had magnets on them. They were to be placed on the refrigerator and set up just like the game. From there you dropped marbles, which were conveniently included with the shoots, onto the top rung and watched as they slid through the maze that you were supposed to create. There were enough little shoots or slides to cover the entire fridge. There were at least 100 marbles. The idea was that the marbles would all end up in this little basket that was also attached to the door of the fridge with magnets.

Imagine going into the kitchen late at night to get a snack. You don’t want to wake anyone so you don’t turn on the light. When you reach for the door of the fridge you miss and hit the basket filled with marbles in just the right way so that all the marbles fall to the floor. Not only noisily but now they are all over the tile floor. You, as in me, are wearing bare feet and you manage to step on one of them causing a little pain. Not enough to scream out but enough to make you start jumping up and down landing on more marbles as you (me) do your little dance. Eventually you trip completely and twist your ankle in such a way that you (me) start to actually cry. While sitting on a bunch of marbles, holding your twisted ankle, trying not to wake everyone one even though they are already rushing into the kitchen, you decide the game has got to end. There must be a better way to get back at your brother for always being an older brother.

I called my brother the next day and told him that the game was getting dangerous and there would be no more obnoxious toys. He actually agreed sooner than I expected him to.

We didn’t actually stop the game but we both decided to go for the jugular but in a less obvious way. He bought my son video games, something I had up until that time kept him oblivious to, and I suggest to my niece that she ought to get her ears pierced. I also introduced her to several authors that I knew she would love but would annoy my right wing conservative older brother to no end.

My son is now not only an avid and die hard gamer he is also a programmer and tester of video games. My niece is a modern day Beatnik, liberal writer. Things couldn’t have turned out better if we had actually planned it this way. They are both great kids.

I tell this long winded story because I don’t think my friend has any idea what she has gotten herself into.

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