No getting around marketing to kids

Parents of preschoolers know they are living on borrowed time. Soon, a child who was ignorant of trading cards, collectible toys, and name-brand merchandise will clamor to own these items, and a parent's life is forever altered.

At our house, that moment arrived with the purchase of sheets.

To encourage my son to give up his crib in favor of a bed, I took him along to the bedding store. I figured, if he chose the sheets he'd be more willing to sleep on them.

Ben knows Pokmon only by reputation; he doesn't watch commercial TV and he has no older siblings to expose him to trading cards or Game Boy versions. But the instant he saw sheets with the ugly little monsters, he said, "I want Pokmon."

I kept steering him toward Blue's Clues or even Scooby Doo, but he would have none of it. So the ugly little monsters came home to live with us.

A few days later, we were at the beach and Ben wanted a Power Ranger frozen treat like his friend had. Forget Good Humor bars. This was a massive, artificially colored monstrosity that oozed down my son's chin, onto his chest, and would not wash off.

Other parents seemed oblivious to the neon stain spreading over their children's faces. I began to call it Agent Orange.

Before I had a child, I wondered why parents didn't just say no to candy and toys that were thinly disguised advertisements. Now, I know better. Marketing tie-ins are everywhere and to escape them you'd have to move to a mountaintop in Idaho.

But after weeks of tucking my son in bed, Idaho is starting to look pretty good.

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