Lara Schwartz

Stuff I think

Lara Schwartz

Lara Schwartz
Washington, District of Columbia, USA
December 24
Personal Capacity
Lara Schwartz lives in Washington, DC. She has been a civil rights advocate and political writer for long enough to have two ulcers.

Editor’s Pick
JUNE 9, 2010 10:46AM

What my vibrator taught me about parenting.

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Before I had a kid, I had no idea how important toys are.   Sure, toys played a major role in my single years, when the toy in my “special drawer” served as social life, therapist, and home gym.   Important as they were, the contents of my “special drawer” were only a placeholder between life stages, or a time-filler between other responsibilities—such as showering and commuting.  Grown-up toys are wondrous things, but simple.  Though they are available in a dizzying array of shapes and colors,[1] adult gadgets all serve one function.  Even makes no pretensions to the contrary. I can expand your little mind, Emily

Having kids is a total game-changer.  Not just because many of us empty the special drawer in magnanimous and ill-considered gestures of connubial solidarity.

[By now, you might be wondering whether this entire “parenting” post is going to be about sex toys. Please, people.  Just how sophomoric do you think I am?[2]]

It’s because toys are the first test of whether you are Serious about Cultivating Your Child’s Potential.  Toys, as it turns out, can make the difference between Juilliard and juvenile court.

According to the Toy Industrial Complex, babies must have the right toys from day 1:

A baby’s brain develops fast and the right toys can stimulate that growth in positive ways. For example, younger babies need toys that can help them develop color and shape recognition, hand-eye coordination and an understanding of cause and effect relationships. Babies that are a few months older need toys that can teach them balance and mobility, manipulative skills and imagination development…

…It is important to choose toys that keep your baby stimulated. If your baby seems bored with a toy, it probably is not challenging or engaging. Keep in mind what skills your young one is developing and choose toys that encourage this development.[3]

Raise your hand if you think that your child needs better manipulative skills.  Me neither.  And “imagination development?!!” Challenge?!!  Imagine that you have just emerged from a tiny, dark, solitary, aquatic world and find yourself in an environment populated by smelly giants who regularly lift you to great heights and quickly transport you across noisy rooms full of foreign objects. Oh—and you can’t communicate or get away.  Which of the following do you require:

a)      Assistance with imagination development;

b)      A challenge;

c)       A sedative; or

d)      Someone to wipe the fecal matter off of your buttocks.

I’m not telling you there is a clear answer.  Like Glenn Beck (but on mood stabilizers), I’m just asking the questions.  Because, who else is brave enough to ask the questions, huh?  Who else will take on the Development Industrial Complex?

In general, the marketing on toy websites is fairly formulaic.  Toys are essential.  Toys make children smart.  Parents who love children want them to be smart.  We accept Pay Pal.  At the individual product level, their claims become astonishing.

Take the Twinkle Baby bonding doll , which is designed to insure that your baby bonds with you.  Here’s how it works—you sleep with it for a couple of nights, don’t wash it, and give it to your baby.  Who will then bond with you.   Because it smells like you. You know what else smells like you?  You do.

Then there’s the Nobbie Gertie,  which “boosts confidence especially in young children who are still learning to grasp.”  Boosting confidence is something we can all agree on, right?  Even if you’re not already preparing your infant for Princeton, surely you want to boost his confidence.  Whatever toy can do that is worth buying.

Before you click “purchase,” did I mention that it’s a ball?

Here’s another great one.  This early childhood toy by Educational Toys Planet will help develop your child’s fine motor skills and promote color learning and recognition.  And it's a freaking wooden caterpillar. 

You might logically (and accurately) conclude that if a ball and a wooden caterpillar are valuable enrichment objects for your future neurosurgeon, any solid object that isn’t a choking hazard will do.  You might figure this out, but unfortunately none of your relatives will.  You’ll get plenty of organic fair-trade handcrafted whale product-free Infant Enrichment Devices.  Writing thank you notes on 37 minutes of sleep will develop your hand-eye coordination, imaginative development, and love of solitude.

Most of the things that totally suck about having an infant fade into the rearview mirror by the time they are school age.  I’m sorry to report that toy overload is not one of them.  In fact, it gets worse.

Although your infant will be bombarded with toys from every step cousin in law twice removed you never knew you had, she can’t make a mess with them.  She’s not ambulatory.  She can’t reach the re-gifting shelf and she doesn’t yet have the coordination to hurl Mr. Genius Caterpillar Ball across the living room.   Soon, she will.

And soon, her toys will have parts that you will lose, step on barefooted, or pay $3000 to surgically remove from your dog’s colon.

Soon, “enriching his imagination” will require substances that can never be removed from upholstery and that you will have to remove from his bodily crevices with a jackhammer and a quart of acetone.[4]

Other people will give you your child such gifts.  And when they wreak havoc on your home, you will have to thank them for it.  Irony is a cruel mistress, is it not?

You could take revenge and give him the 74-pack of Play-Doh complete with Realistic Zombie Intestine Hurling Machine.   You could give her the Playmobil Ultra Max Little Tokyo Play Set, which contains 973 plastic parts and takes the average adult three weeks to assemble.  If the parents’ recreational assault on your home was particularly obnoxious, you could get their child a drum set.

I just can’t get into revenge gifting, though.   Toys bring out the empathy in me.  It’s probably because I dislike unnecessary domestic work (in fact, I don’t even eat those Lean Cuisine varieties with the extra step where they make you take the food out of the microwave, uncover it, stir it, and put it back.  If I wanted to cook I wouldn’t be eating a Lean Cuisine now, would I?  No.  If I wanted to cook, I’d be making a peanut butter sandwich).

Rather than a message of vengeance, I bring a message of hope—there is a way out of the toy nightmare.  If you don’t want to revenge gift, but you still want to enrich the little birthday bastard, there is an answer.

Shrug off your mommy mantle, channel the practical gal you once were, and buy the kid an adult toy.   His mom will thank you.  Dad too!

My favorite adult toy for kids is the Magna Doodle.  Magna Doodle is the toy designed to maximize parental pleasure.  With its smooth plastic casing, Magna Doodle wipes off easily even after someone really dirty plays with it.  Streamlined one-piece design means that you will not lose parts, guaranteeing years of enjoyment.   The durable, rigid stylus provides minutes of mess-free fun any time you need it.  No matter how often they use it, each picture looks just a little different—but it always comes out great.  The completely silent Magna Doodle can be discreetly used anywhere—planes, restaurants, cars, and even during Mommy’s next conference call.   Buy the full-size Magna Doodle for home use, and splurge on the pocket size—all of the same great features, plus you can slip in your purse for spontaneous play.

And another thing—it’s a cool toy for kids.  Every one of the 36 parents 18 kids for whom I’ve bought a Magna Doodle has reported back that they loved it.

Which brings me to the Important Parenting Lesson for the day:  there is an overlap between parents’ and kids’ interests.  Not every moment of our post-reproduction existence has to require one party or the other to make a sacrifice.  It is possible to make your kid happy without committing to ½ hour of deafening sound or three hours of living room disaster recovery.

Long before you met your partner, bought your first house, or became a parent, you knew that having an adult toy—while not a panacea—could make your days easier.[5] It’s wisdom that lasts a lifetime.

So when the chips are down and you think that you’ll never emerge from the rubble, mess, and noise: get back to basics.  Buy a toy that makes Mom and Dad feel really, really good.

You can even keep it in your special drawer.


[1] I hear.

[2] Yep. That’s about right.


[4] Lighten up Francis.

[5] Men—kudos on your factory-installed version.

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comedy, family, feminism

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I totally agree. Toys are important for everybody... ... Even the special ones.
When you are a happy person, you are a better parent! Loved this blog!
Wisdom that entertains - the best kind. thank you. and the kid in me wants the adult i am to pay for a magna doodle now.
When I was a kid, all we had for toys were rocks, sticks and dirt.
This has to be one of the best blog headers in OS history. Rated and favorited.
Brilliant and very funny. More!
Thank you JP1954. There is plenty more on my blog here, as well as my full blog at
Children's electric toothbrushes also serve double duty...once you get past the whole concept of putting The Little Mermaid someplace that she doesn't even have.
Oh my, that was hysterical - and I'm not even a parent! This post is going to all my friends who are. They'll die laughing.
Hello, summer, and a good place for shopping,Fashion, sexy, personality, maturity. What isWait and see, from here to start!

needaseller. com

N I K E , A I R M A X ,J O R D A N ,SHOES,$33
C O A C H ,G U C C I ,E D H A R D Y , HANDBAGS,$35
P O L O , L A C O S T E , E D H A RD Y ,T-SHIRTS$16
BI KI NI,$25

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I was trying to figure out of the caterpillar was a sex toy and if the ball was for kegel exercises...
Kudos to you for writing a post us non-parental types could still enjoy.

As the world's greatest auntie (hey, just ask my sister's kids since they gave me the title), I have no problem with giving kids noisy, obnoxious toys. They love me more for it (see nephew Skyler's drum set from when he was nine). I can endure the few pissed-off glares or out and out, "Jesus Christ, Kat, what were you thinking?s".

I give kids toys (or mostly books) because I genuinely like the kid and want the kid to be happy. I think toys are great, but my most treasured memories as a kid come from books. And as I'm part of the village that raises a few kids, I'm happy when they like books, too.
Laughed out loud. I am still a believer in Silly Putty.
My young son recently found my "special toys" and was thoroughly amused by them :o) Think I need a better hiding place when he gets older!
You are an incredible writer with a unique sense of humor who should have her own column! And since I have met you and know that you are even funnier in person, I really think you should have your own talk show!