For the love of Squinkies
Something I didn’t even know was a word became the bane of my mothering when my 5-year-old happened to ask if he could have a Squinky.
Is that even English? I wondered.
It sure is. And given the squishy nature of Squinkies, they’re not as painful to step on as Legos.
But they come with other complications, such as being extremely habit-forming. Think crack for kids.
Apparently the tiny, squishy rubber toys, which come packaged in teeny plastic bubbles, first became a hit in 2010.
And while it’s a mystery for some how the Squinky phenomenon caught fire, that’s easy for me. After dealing with complex inquiries all day, it’s nice to get a simple one lobbed your way.
So you say yes. Yes, Sam, you can have a Squinky.
Except, it turns out, there’s really no such thing as “a” Squinky.
These little choking hazards, shaped in the likeness of small animals or popular children’s characters, come in sets. It turns out Squinkies, dear readers, are collectibles.
That’s exactly what toymaker Bill Nichols had in mind when his company, Blip Toys, a 16-person operation based in Minnetonka, Minn., came out with these little landfill-destinees. “With one purchase, the child will become an instant collector,” he announced at the time.
But it seemed to me that Sam became more than simply a Squinky enthusiast. He became more like a crack addict desperate for just one more fix.
With fond memories of my own childhood collections, I aided and abetted Sam as he began to amass his collection.
Alas, as with most aspects of parenting, nothing is as simple as it seems.
What do the Squinkies do, anyway, the non owner might ask. Well, nothing, actually.
Of course, the mermaids and Strawberry Shortcake dolls of my childhood didn’t do anything either. My imagination did the work.
That’s the point. That’s the beauty of it.
Kids use their imagination in playing with them. I love seeing that, though I’m surprised at the things they come up with.
For instance, Sam would like to start making videos capturing his thoughts on Squinkies, such as how the excess packaging (too much garbage, he says) and how easily the paint comes off (very easily if you put them in your mouth, he notes).
I plan to make a cameo appearance in his video to point out that manufacture’s recommendations and mom’s rules recommend against putting them in your mouth.
My rough-and-tumble boys are so tender with these teensy toys. As bizarre as the trend seems to me, I can’t deny they love them.
In fact, when Sam lost his little Star Wars figure, he shed more tears than I did when my wedding ring went missing.
“It’s the droid you’ve been looking for!” I said when I finally found it outside, under a dandelion leaf. But, it seemed he was too excited to be reunited with “Darf Vader” to get it.
Early on, I made a tactical error and bought some on sale in advance. Suddenly I had a willing, albeit annoying, helper.
At every turn, Sam stood at the ready to earn another Squinky. Sorting socks, check. Watering plants, sweeping stairs, check. If there was a Squinky to be earned, the kid was on it.
It was fun at first, going with Sam to find new Squinkies. I remember how special it made me feel when my mom bought me something special, like plastic charms for my charm bracelet.
But now Sam is waking up and coming downstairs already dressed, and picking up things that aren’t even his, without being asked, in hopes of earning another Squinky.
That raised a concern with me. I didn’t want him thinking every good deed had to be rewarded by a material thing. I stressed to him that he should do the right thing simply because that’s part of being a decent human being.
Then he asked if he could use some of his own money to buy his brother a special set of Squinkies, after having priced them at three different stores. And I thought, maybe I don’t have to worry so much about the good human being lesson.
As I got ready for work this morning, I wondered if I could honestly say the Squinky hassle is worth it.
When I walked back in the door, the boys were hugging. Jake was excited, eager to show me a tiny tow-truck Squinky he’d been searching for.
“Look, Mom, it’s the droid he was looking for!” Sam said, beaming.
Looks like maybe the kid gets it after all.
Contact Nathalie Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org.