Marketing is for everyone, even toddlers. Bright colors and happy children are on every ad intended for my son. Even ads not intended for him catch his attention by flashy colors and intriguing melodies and voices. And I swear, it only took one visit to ol’ McD’s before he noticed the universal sign for french fries every time we drove past. “Mo’! Mo’!” he exclaimed from the backseat.
But there’s a different kind of marketing, too – my marketing. It’s my attempt to persuade my son to do what I want and to eat what I ask.
At our house, balls rule the universe. They are, by far, the most coveted pastime available. (Well, for Bronson anyway. Ollie is a little caught up in the boob.) Every time Bronson opens a present regardless of its rectangular or flat nature, he asks if it’s a ball. That’s all he ever really wants.
So naturally I frame everything in the context of spherical superiority. I make meatballs for my vegetarian son. Corn, peas, black beans, chick peas, blueberries – they are all part of the unique classification of foods I call balls. As a ball, they are more likely to be consumed without a long, drawn-out meal punctuated by crying and loud, declarative “No! No! No!’s”
I tell him we can play ball or watch the infamous ball movie or ball music video if he just picks up his toys, or finishes his lunch, or sits still while I change his diaper.
I employ other less effective, less spherical methods in my marketing as well. I present two items he doesn’t like side-by-side. It might be two foods. It might be two chores. But he gets to choose! What fun! Somehow the undesirable is more pleasant when he chooses it himself.
I pretend it’s more fun for him to search by himself for his Lego man, Duplo man (pronounce long and drawn out as if introducing a superhero), while I attempt to finish whatever I’m desperately trying to do – like fold his clean clothes, make dinner or finish this post. I present it as an opportunity for adventurous individual time, not just busybody moments to give his disheveled mama a break.
My intonations are a large part of my marketing strategy. I pretend everything I ask of him is exciting and wonderful, so it ought to be obeyed quickly and delightfully. There are now times when he looks at me with a tilted head and disgusted eyes. I know the look well. I probably taught it to him. Disgust. He’s on to me. I can’t trick him as easily anymore.
It’s a lot of effort to attempt to persuade a toddler. Well, for parents anyway. Those darn store marketers just put giant bins of useless, plastic balls everywhere.
And where their job ends, mine begins.