Perhaps you are familiar with the latest craze in toy technology, Webkinz? If not, allow me to fill you in. Webkinz are stuffed animals that have some kind of fancy-pants computer chip inside. You register your Webkinz online and then spend hours of mindless time setting up virtual houses, virtual gardens, virtual shopping malls, etc. for your Webkinz. You play games and earn points for your Webkinz, so you can purchase more things for your virtual houses, virtual gardens, virtual shopping malls, etc.
The children have a Webkinz.
Did I mention that there are now dozens of Webkinz on the market? For $20-$30 a pop? This particular item was a gift, as I flat out refuse to pay more for a stuffed pet that lives in a virtual world than I might for an actual pet that lives in the real world. I believe this is one of those insightful yet horrifying mommy moments when I realize that I've inherited this particular sensibility from my own mother.
You see, when I was growing up, I wasn't allowed to have Barbie dolls. This was not for all of the obvious self-image reasons you might imagine. No, I wasn't allowed to have a Barbie because my mom didn't want me to have a doll who had a higher standard of living than we did. (I think if Barbie had lived in a condo, driven a Honda and shopped at TJ Maxx, we might have been in business.) But when you own a toy who's hosting a pool party that's so exclusive you're not even invited.... you get the idea. For all of the strife and melodrama it caused growing up, I now realize that, basically, girls who own Barbies are glorified personal assistants. They pick out Barbie's clothes, clean her houses, arrange for lunches with Ken and Skipper and tip off the paparazzi if she's going to make an appearance.
And for all of that work, what do they get?
Barbie - "Ugh - where is that girl?! I told her to bring me my Malibu Sporty Swim thong, like, an hour ago."
Skipper - "And, like, what did she do to your hair...is that a rubber band? Is she just like, begging for you to end up on Perez Hilton?"
Barbie - "And what was up with that party in the sandbox yesterday? Did you see who else she brought? Pikachu? And that goody-two-shoes Cinderella? Lame!"
Skipper - "You should, like, totally fire her."
Barbie - "Totally."
So, no Barbies for Beta Mom. I have allowed Beta Daughter to have a few, but we dress them in sensible pantsuits and make them watch Whale Rider.
Likewise, I appreciate the sensibility with which my mini-clone and her older brother are approaching the whole Webkinz thing. They've arranged a simple garden, a modest house, and yesterday they bought a toilet. Very practical. Even though the Webkinz is dog and in theory could just do its business in the virtual garden.
But that would be, like, totally gross. And what would Barbie think?