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The thrill is gone

I remember back in a time long, long ago, when I would come home from school with an order form from Scholastic Books in my hand. It was a thrill to hold that newsprint leaflet and pore over the rather short list of books. Let's see, should it be "The Phantom Tollbooth" this month? Or maybe "The Moffats?"

When the books came, they always had that special book order smell, like they were just printed. It was always a big deal if my parents would let me get more than one book. That seemed like such a luxury.

At some point in the years since, the lowly four-page Scholastic form gradually morphed from book order into toy catalog. Now when my kids come home, they skip right over the "boring" Laura Ingalls Wilder and Roald Dahl selections and home in on the various electronic toys, spy sets, voice changers, and stationery kits with feathery pens. So now instead of talking about whether to read Harry Potter or Stuart Little, we are lobbied on the merits of the 100 Pet Jokes book that just happens to come with a pseudo-Tamagotchi pet.

"I only want the book, not the toy!" insisted a child we know, in the tween version of "I only buy Playboy for the articles!"

Getting a book has gone from being a big thrill to a major disappointment.

That is the nature of parenting today -- every checkout lane is the candy lane. Even the once purest of pleasures like book orders have been turned into marketing machines engineered by MBAs to induce children to beg for more stuff.

Sometimes it seems like parenting would be easier if life were more Good and less Plenty.


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