More than meets the eye / by Susie Lubell

The other day my son got a package in the mail - a belated birthday gift from a buddy of his. I had forgotten that a week before the child's mom had asked me what my son wanted for his birthday and after I begged her to please not buy him anything because I had just bought him a bunch of new toys and still he prefers to play with my camera, cell phone and hairdryer, she insisted to know what he wanted. So against my better judgment I told her that he seemed interested in his cousin's Transformers. Those vehicular robotic toys that are supposedly saving the world from the Force of Evil. Well don't be fooled. It's the Transformers themselves that are the Force of Evil. Here's what went down.

My mom actually bought him a Transformer for his birthday. We had both seen him play with his cousin's and thought he'd like one of his own. I picked it up for her in hell at the toy store. I got him a car and it said on the package that it was level 2 (easy) for age 4+. And it's not that I underestimate his fine motor skills or his mechanical intelligence - he's the one that figured out I have speaker phone on my cell, after all. But I had a suspicion, after having watched him try to play games marked for his age, that he would fiddle with it for a few moments and then get annoyed that it's a piece of junk and doesn't snap nicely back together. And I would have to show him how to do it. And that would suck for me because I have no interest in vehicular robots even if they are trying to save the universe. Once again, I was right. After he ripped it apart and saw all of the robotic innards underneath, he wanted it to be a car again. Here mommy. So I put it back together and thank God I picked the level 2 because it was plenty challenging. I failed to mention this important distinction when suggesting a Transformer to this friend. So she sends him a Transformer that is level THREE, age 5+. Two of them actually. The horror. The horror.

The first one is a motorcycle. He hasn't been holding it for more than ten seconds before it is transformed into a sinewy many-tentacled thing with one wheel here and the other stuck onto some other limb and I am thinking, George Jesus, how am I ever going to get this monster back together again. After a few minutes of jangling it around he hands it over. Here mommy. Now it's my turn to "play" with it. Cleansing breath.

For the next HOUR I am sitting on the couch trying to snap this mother effing piece of Made in China injection molded garbage back into a motorcycle. I actually start to feel sweat collect around my brow. Meanwhile, my two kids have now taken to playing with the handful of packing peanuts that came with the package. In the middle of what feels to me like a nationally televised Rubik's cube-a-thon (I suffer from performance anxiety) I look up and my kids have turned the packing peanuts into a winter wonderland. I am not exaggerating. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of this event but rest assured the entire living room floor, spilling into the hallway, kitchen and dining room, was covered in Styrofoam bits. And my motorcycle is still undone. And there's a blizzard in my home.

I rise to the occasion. Of course! I say, children of your father, you go and have yourselves a snow ball circus for the next twenty minutes while I bash this robo-cycle thing into my head repeatedly and then we'll reconnoiter and clean up this giant mess.

And that's exactly what we did. I managed to turn the Transformer into something that resembles a motorcycle while my kids laughed hysterically pulling pieces of Styrofoam out of my daughter's hair and netherlands. It was a scene. And after, we swept like mad and my kids ran in every direction screaming "she's going to get us" while I vacuumed. My floor has never been this clean.

Anyway, heed this important advice. Transformers are NOT for five-year-olds. My husband is a 37-year-old mechanical engineer and he can't even put one back together. Do yourself a favor and get your kids some packing peanuts. The environmental kind that turn into compost or whatever. This blog may self-destruct.