Being A Dad

When I was growing up, you had certain allegiances: Mets or Yankees, DC or Marvel, Matchbox or Hot Wheels.  And while I had plenty of Hot Wheels - as well as Corgis, Johnny Lightnings and other diecast toys - the choice for me was always Matchbox. 

The main difference was Matchbox was more realistic and Hot Wheels was more hot rods, fantasy cars, etc.  Which meant I spent more time playing with a '73 Citroen than a metallic purple car with oversized wheels and an engine the size of my head. 

Of course, when it came to accessories Hot Wheels won hands down with one of the greatest inventions ever - the plastic orange tracks (with purple connectors).  

These days, the distinction between Matchbox and Hot Wheels is less significant because both brands are now owned by the same company, Mattel.  

But enough of the back story, whether you choose Matchbox, Hot Wheels or both, they remain great toys.  And unless you go for something fancy, they're one of the most economical toy purchases around - usually about a buck.  And anyone who has ever stepped on one while barefoot can tell you how durable they are.  

Presently, our house has about 6000 of these things lying around - the living room looks like the LIE on a summer Friday at 5 o'clock.   So perhaps we've created a monster, but it's still worth it because I get to play with them under the guise of father-son bonding time.  

Oh, and a word to the wise - stay away from the Matchbox or Hot Wheels playsets. They're really cool for the first half hour after they're assembled but once they start to fall apart or you lose pieces, your playroom will look like Fred Sanford's front yard.  

Our house is filled with toys.  Some good, some not so good.  Some played with, some still sitting on the shelf in shrink-wrap.  

The way a parent judges a toy is completely different from the way a child does.  A kid's judgment generally ends with the "is it cool?" question.  A parent, on the other hand, takes many different things in account - how much does it cost, how long does it take to assemble, is it going to break anything, will there be a trip to the emergency room in our immediate future, how long does it take to clean up/will that stain ever come out, how much noise does it make and the granddaddy of them all - how many godforsaken batteries am I going to have to cram into this thing before they get bored with it?  

One toy that passes this parental litmus test is stomp rockets.  They come in different names, sizes and colors but the concept is the same - foam rockets that you place on a pad and then launch into the air with the stomp of a foot.  That's it - guaranteed entertainment for children of all ages (and immature adults as well).  

Of course by the end of the season (or even the afternoon), your gutters and trees will be filled with rockets but as long as you have some extras on hand you should be in good shape.  

Stomp Rockets - all you need is a heavy foot and a dream.