On a recent Saturday morning, I was alone with my five-year-old son. With his siblings at activities, I told him I was all his for the next few hours. “What should we do, buddy?” I asked, suggesting several options that were swiftly rejected. Just when I thought we’d spend the day just deciding and doing nothing, his eyes brightened. “Can we go to the toy store?” he asked. It had been a while since I’d taken him toy shopping, and all kids love a new toy, so I thought that was a great idea. “Sure kiddo,” I said. “I’ll let you choose one special toy, ok?” He agreed and we were both excited, him for his new toy and me for the hero status I’d soon have as the buyer of that awesome toy.
When we arrived at ToysRUs he ran to the superhero aisle, where he found a bunch of toys that let you sling webs around the house like Spiderman. “Mommy, I want this,” he cried. I suddenly pictured my house covered in red and yellow webs, staining my white walls, stuck to my leather upholstery and ground up in my carpeting. “No baby, no web shooting in the house.” He moved on.
“Oh Mommy, this!” he said, pointing to some kind of shooter that makes machine gun sounds as it shakes. “No sweetie, I don’t like buying guns,” I said. “What about this,” he said, pointing to a gigantic Superman that cost a million dollars. “What does he do?” I asked, reading the back of the enormous box to discover that the Superman actually does nothing but stand. “He doesn’t do anything. It’s not worth it,” I said. “How about some smaller action figures?” I asked, but they did nothing either, and he wasn’t interested. We moved on.
He picked up a blaster that shoots foam pegs. My older kids once had one and it went like this: parent spends ten minutes finding foam pegs behind couches and in bushes and loading them back in, and child spends four seconds shooting them all out. Repeat. “Sorry sweetheart, let’s keep looking.”
“Oooh a voice changer machine.” No, nope. No way. “Oh a fart sound machine!” Oh sorry, not happening. “A water gun?” Why, so you can have a massive fight with your brothers? Nope.
“Mommy, you can make slime,” he yelled while holding a box showing a kid with a big neon green blob. Again, lots of work for me, and slime would be all over my house.
After suggesting 10 more toys that he already has at home, including the Play-Doh he never uses and basketballs we have 45 of, we passed the DVD section where he asked for $25 movies I can get on Netflix for free. Of course, I said no.
“What can I get,” he asked, both of us feeling dejected. “I don’t know, choose something,” I said, knowing full well that everything he wanted, I vetoed. We eventually settled on a Batman Pez dispenser and a little fan filled with candy. He insisted on holding them in the car. A month later, they’re both still in the car.
So is toy shopping really that hard, or am I just a tightly wound mother who’s afraid of a little mess and violence? Did I fail in my quest to make my little boy happy?
I decided that none of that was true, and that I had, in fact, taught my son some important life lessons, including that we don’t get everything we ask for and we don’t invest in worthless items.
And two days later, with the arrival of a big Amazon Prime box containing a fart machine and a super soaker, I realized my son had also learned another important life lesson.
When mommy says no, just ask dad.