A grandkid just turning two ought to have a truck. A simple truck. A crawl on the floor and make vroom-vroom noises truck.
That was the premise I started with when I went shopping for a birthday present. I didn't have much time, which I didn't expect to be a problem. I would just drive to the nearest discount store, go to the toy department, pick up a truck, and be on my way.
Except that the store didn't seem to have such a thing as a simple, medium-sized plastic truck. There were little metal trucks—too small for a two-year-old. There were soft, squishy trucks—too babyish for a two-year-old. There were miniature monster trucks—too gorily decorated for a two-year-old.
Mostly, though, there were electronic trucks and cars. They roared. They flashed lights. They talked. They ran on remote controls (batteries not included). All of them seemed meant to be watched more than played with—too passive for a two-year-old.
With time running short, I finally grabbed a talking, engine-revving race car. According to the directions on the package, when it was shaken and plopped down on its wheels, it would race across the floor on its own, emitting NASCAR-inspired sound effects. It also looked as if it could be driven by toddler power. I figured it would do.
When the clerk picked the car up to scan it, it started shouting in a screechy automotive voice. "I'm Swifty! (Or Scooter or Speedy or whatever its name was.) The checkered flag is mine! Vroom, vroom!"
Shut into a shopping bag, it subsided while I carried it out to my car. It squawked once when I dropped it onto the back seat. When I started driving, however, it started up again. Every stop, start, and turned corner would set it off. "I'm Swifty! The checkered flag is mine! Vroom, vroom!" By the time I got halfway home, my name was definitely Grumpy.
Finally, I stopped at a drugstore, reached into the back seat, and picked up little Motormouth. Resisting the temptation to hurl it across the parking lot, I set it firmly but gently upright. Silence ensued. This toy was obviously intended to be parked carefully on its wheels on a shelf except when it was being played with, rather than being tossed into a toy box where it would start screeching and revving every time it was jostled. Since no two-year-old I have ever known keeps toys neatly on a shelf, this clearly would not do.
I went into the store, where I found a cheaply made but blessedly simple little plastic wagon filled with blessedly silent plastic blocks. It wasn't a truck, but at least it would allow the birthday boy to pull or push it. Neither would it scare him silly by bursting into full cry every time he touched it.
Loudmouth little Swifty is still parked in the back seat of my car. I need to return it to the store. First, though, I have to figure out how to keep it quiet long enough for them to take it back.