"Big Four" Highlights


Father Christmas

‘Wii’ doesn’t mean we’re having fun

By Brian Caulfield

Madison Avenue could take a lesson from the advertising skills of my two boys. With Christmas lists in the making – and remaking – certain toys and gadgets are being “test-marketed” for mom and dad’s approval to see if these coveted items might wind up under the tree on Dec. 25.

The current push by my little marketers, ages 11 and 7, concerns the DS and the Wii. If you’re “old” like I am, you scratched your head the first time you heard the names of these “entertainment systems.” One day, apparently with no reason, my older son said, “Dad, what does DS stand for?” I asked where he had seen the letters, innocently thinking there was a language lesson in the making. Little did I know that my boy had just launched a well-rehearsed advertising campaign for him and his brother. “Well, I think it stands for Digital System,” he said cautiously, knowing how we try to monitor our children’s digital intake and output. My old-fashioned, rabbit-ear antenna went up. “What kind of digital system are we talking about?” I responded. Discouraged by my tone, he shrugged his shoulders and mumbled a few words, content that the subject had at least been broached.

The next time we were in the mall, my two boys led me to the electronics store where they “test-priced” the hand-held DS gadgets. They happened to mention that their cousin in Maryland had her own personal DS with all kinds of cool games, and my older son was careful to point out that there were some “educational” and “brain-teaser” games as well.

The next phase of the marketing ploy was the old bait-and-switch. “Instead of the DS, dad, do you think we should get the Wii?” my older boy began. “Then the whole family could play.” I guess he thought that I was too old to remember that I hadn’t agreed to anything yet, but I was too quick for him. “Who said anything about the Wii?” I countered.

I was somewhat familiar with the Wii since his cousins in New Jersey had the video system that takes over your whole large-screen TV so you can play baseball, tennis and soccer, or dance and sing with clumsy computer figures by remote control. It looked like something a family would have fun with for no more than a month, only you couldn’t put the Wii back in the box and on the shelf. It would always have a portal into your TV, I imagined.

Since we have just one decidedly small television that we use only for playing selected videos in our home, I never thought the Wii was an option for our family. I was just about to say this when my younger son hatched his little part of the strategy. “How about this,” he said in his simple 7-year-old way that is hard to resist. “You get the DS for Stephen, and I’ll ask Santa Claus to get the Wii for me.” Now that was the height of psychological manipulation. If I said no to the Wii, would I implicitly deny his belief in Santa Claus and ruin his fun this Christmas?

Decisive dad that I am, I said with finality, “Let’s wait till I talk with your mother.”

When my wife said that the Wii might be a possibility if we got a bigger TV and cable hookup, I began to think the fix was in. Maybe I can find a memory card with traditional carols for our new DS this Christmas.

Brian Caulfield is the married father of two boys and serves as editor of Fathers for Good, an online initiative for men and their families by the Knights of Columbus.