My brother-in-law did ask first before he sent our children Webkinz. “There’s a whole social-media component,” he said on the phone. “[Name of our eldest niece redacted] wants to show your kids how to do it. Is that OK?”
How can I refuse a very cute, very well-meaning seven-year-old who wants to engage with her cousins? I gave my permission. Not long afterwards, a package arrived with three stuffed animals: a blue monster, a pink pony, and a small hamster bedizened with peace signs.
“I would choose either one of these,” Lilah said, tapping the pony and the hamster. Third children learn the art of compromise early, and she happily tripped away with the hamster moments later. Her brothers? They both wanted the pink pony.
The monster and the pony sat, unclaimed, on the counter, waiting for them to come to some sort of a decision. My niece emailed to check in about whether the kids had registered on the Webkinz site yet. I emailed my brother-in-law, explaining that the boys were both dead set on the pink, sparkly pony, and they could not register until they decided who got which critter. The discussions became quite heated and at times ugly.
Finally, Zachary caved. I don’t know why. Perhaps the pressure of looking at those animals day after day was too much for him. Perhaps we convinced him that the blue monster was cuddlier. Perhaps he tired of fighting with his brother. No, probably not that last one. Whatever the reason, they claimed their Webkinz and we began to register them on the site. My husband started the process, but 20 minutes in he gave up, completely flummoxed by his repeated attempts to add our niece as a friend.
If you’ve never been to the Webkinz site, I’d like to state for the record that it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. Truly. Or maybe it’s complete genius, because I’m sure they’ve made a buttload of money.
Benjamin is mildly interested, and we’ve distracted him with Legos. But Zachary has become obsessed. He got two of his friends to register, and he wants to go on every day. I’m not all that comfortable with my eight-year-old on a social media site, to be frank, and I’m hoping this will blow over quickly. I just don’t think children belong on social media, whether it’s pink ponies or blue monsters or whathaveyou. They’re just not mature enough to handle it. Zach is already anxious to add to his friends list.
Meanwhile, we’re trying to come up with an appropriate reciprocal gift to send our nieces. Maybe a drum set or a puppy. Or moon sand.