I work hard to shield my children from advertisements. We don’t own cable, I pay extra for Youtube Premium so there are no commercials when they watch things online, and I limit the games they can play on their devices so they do not have ads in them. I pay a lot of money just to deny the marketing teams of the world access to my children.
So, it’s somewhat unfortunate that my quest has backfired so terribly. See, by making commercials rare in my children’s lives I have actually made them even more novel and exciting. They do not yawn through them and go find a snack, when they encounter a commercial out in the world they are drawn to it like foolish little moths. Transfixed. Hypnotized. Clara, for example, has memorized the video that plays at the grocery store meat counter. “Watch dad!” she says, “The guy in that video is going to place the meat on the shelf and then press in the corners like it’s a baby he is putting to sleep. Watch.” and sure enough, that’s exactly what happens. And, I’m not exaggerating at all, she has pointed this out to me no less than eight times. My kids love commercials. Going to a hotel for the night with my family means two things, a swimming pool and TV commercials, both of which are equally exciting for the little weirdos that live in my house. In my quest to protect them, I’m afraid I may have broken the poor little things.
This infatuation with TV commercials has led to a strange new tradition at our house. Every few evenings Lydia makes us all sit down on the couch and watch as she acts out a series of ads for various products and services. See, my sweet daughter has started writing commercials in her free time, dreaming them up in her head as she falls asleep at night and then carefully acting them out for us once she has a good three or four to string together into a commercial break. I don’t want to ever tell my children that something they have made is not worth showing me, but at the same time, it’s agonizing to watch my children acting out the very thing I have tried so hard to protect them from.
Also, well, they are actually pretty good sometimes, and I find that both thrilling and disturbing in equal measures.
For instance, last night we were all invited to sit and watch some fresh commercials together. Lydia could hardly contain her excitement, standing on a stool in front of us and waving her hands to command us to be silent.
And then she began. She very politely walked onto the stage and smiled, “Hello and welcome to my ad. This is an ad for FIRE!” at which point she convincingly acted out what it is like to be in a room that is filled with very exciting fire. “Oh! Oh WOW, fire sure is cool! Isn’t it? Don’t you wish YOU had some fire right now?! I have a whole ROOM full here. Just imagine all of the things you could do with a whole ROOM full of FIRE. You could Burn things, and do lots of other things too. Fire is so great. Call the number on the screen and buy some today!”
I didn’t know if I should clap or not. I was a bit too stunned. It had been a very compelling advertisement for fire and I had a lot to think about.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she hummed a little song and spun in a circle. When she came back around she was no longer an energetic little girl in a room full of fire; she was now suddenly an older gentleman with a slightly deeper voice that talked rather slowly and deliberately. He cleared his throat and said, without smiling, “Are you tired of doctors and nurses that you pay money to take things away from you? Do you wish there was a place you could go where you could trust people to consider YOU and what you NEED and let you walk away with more than you came with? Well, that’s why we created the Hospital That Gives you Illnesses Instead of Taking Them Away. Come in today and see our most recent shipment of illnesses and diseases.” she had to stifle a bout of giggles at this point but somehow found the power to compose herself as she began walking around the room motioning as if she were on a used car lot, “We have Chicken Pox, Cancer, the Flu,” she waved a hand at her brother, “whatever this little boy has, and, on sale now, several varieties of Colds! If there is a type of cold you want, we probably have it. Come feeling fine and leave feeling terrible, that’s our guarantee at the Hospital that Gives You Illnesses Instead of Taking Them Away. I promise you will not regret it. Oh, and check out our newest item, Corona Virus, brand new for 2020!”
I opened my mouth to say something but all that came out was a confused gurgling sound that resembled the words, “I… what about… um…”
She didn’t seem to hear. We were on the wrong side of the television apparently. She spun in a circle again and this time transformed into a hunched over British woman. In a quavering cockney British accent, she complained quietly to herself as she pretended to wander around a kitchen trying to find things to make for dinner. “Now where did I put that pie pan?” she shook her head sadly and turned to look at us. “You know what I need? I’m an old grannie that needs an old grannie!”
“What?” I said out loud.
“I need a grannie to help me do grannie things like making pies and things. Hey, I remember now, I can buy a grannie from that grannie store! It’s a store where you can buy old British ladies to come and do grannie things in your house like making pies and things. They have every different kind of grannie in stock right now. Ones that read books. Ones that are mean and will discipline your children. Grannies that play games with you and take care of your dog. All sorts of grannies all with cool British accents and funny hair.” she tapped a finger on her lips. “I should go order one before they are all sold out because they are on sale today!” and then she hobbled off.
I think she came back and bowed a few times after that as her mother tossed flowers at her feet and her brother and sister yelled “Bravo!”, but I missed it. I was too busy on the phone placing my order for a half dozen British Grannies, an order of Chicken Pox, and a ten-pound bag of nothing but FIRE! So, commercials are good now.