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Dutch and Greg are leading the charge against the Commercial Christmas Racket; good on ’em, says I, and let’s hope that they don’t end up at the bottom of San Francisco Bay and the East River respectively, courtesy of a couple of WalMart-employed “elves” named Vinnie the Mallet and Paulie Prybar.

The gift thing has me vexed. On the one hand, I completely agree with their points – that so much of what we give to our kids is mass-produced crap. We surfers have our take on this; only handmade boards have “soul”, the sweat and toil and sheer love of the craft of the shapers that painstakingly make them injected into the foam and glass, giving each board an undefinable, indelible spirit. The surfsticks that are churned out of factories are somehow lifeless, destined to end up in a landfill somewhere with nary a thought given to it by the owner. I’d much rather give Lucas a Charlie-In-The-Box than a Takes-A-Shit Elmo. On the other – for very personal reasons, I’d love for my kid to have all of the latest cool toys. Because there were many times, thanks to the often limited budget my parents were on, that I didn’t get what the “cool kids” got. Nowadays, I know better, but even as I understood that the value of a gift comes from the act of giving – man, it it would’ve been cool to get that Guns Of Navarone Playset (this was a plastic replica of the famous mountain from the movie, built to scale for use with your standard Army Men. It was and remains The Coolest Toy ever – I asked for it for three years in a row and didn’t get it.)

Every parent walks a line when it comes to gift-giving. Most of us want to teach our kids the true value of both material things and our ideals, but at the same time, it’s natural to not want to deny our kids the things that they want. (Within reason, of course – there’s a difference between, say, a Thomas the Tank Engine set and this.) And I wonder if the two are mutually exclusive – especially when I’m watching TNT, and get all misty when Ralphie opens his last package…

It’s my hope that as Lucas grows, we’re able to strike a balance between what he wants and what we want for him, between making conscientious choices as an adult consumer, and keeping in mind that he’s a kid, and he’s only going to be a kid once.

(As for the Guns of Navarone Playset – we had a 5 foot deep drainage ditch that ran alongside our house, and it became Army Man Canyon. Caves were dug, gun emplacements were built, and best off all, we could strafe it with Daisy Gun-fired BB’s and not face the wrath of my parents. So it all worked out.)