It starts innocently enough. A pack of gum, maybe a novelty pen at the checkout. The next time it's something a little bigger, a book or a t-shirt. Before you know it, it's a much bigger ticket item and you leave the store shaking your head, wondering why you went through with it, all the while knowing that it's going to lose its allure once you get it home.
I'm talking, of course, about the things I end up buying for Claire on nearly every trip to Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens or even Petsmart.
I really can't remember how it started, but I suspect it was when she was a baby and we began making daily treks to SuperTarget (oh, how I miss SuperTarget). I'd see a cute onesie and throw it in the cart. Or maybe a new Baby Einstein product, and really, who can blame me for trying to make my kid a genius by watching those insipid videos of stuffed bears, plastic trains and other non-remarkable toys set to classical music? As she got a little bigger, I'd often pick something out and let her hold it to keep her happy while she sat in the cart. A book or a teething ring. Maybe a new sippy cup. Nothing huge, but always something.
So, since I started this habit when she was a baby, it's really no surprise that by the time she hit the age of three, she'd come to expect something every time we walked through the doors of a store.
Fearing that I was raising some kind of ungrateful kid with a serious sense of entitlement, I decided that today was going to be the day that I stopped this nonsense. Before we even got out of the car, I announced that there would be no toy buying today. We were only getting a couple of baby gates for the new house (more on that in a later post). In retrospect, I see that choosing to put my foot down at Toys R Us was probably not the best parenting move. It's kind of like letting a chocoholic loose in a Hershey's factory but telling her she can't eat anything. But I drew the line in the sand and I had to stick with it (Supernanny would be so proud!).
Oh the drama! First there was the polite asking. Then the whining. Then the clever, "Why don't I just get this Barbie instead of that baby doll?" More whining and some tears. And then the grand finale: blood-curdling screaming.
Throughout this whole ordeal, I somehow managed to remain calm, even though what I really wanted to do was scream right back in her face (admitting that probably isn't going to win me any parenting awards, but it's true). As I was paying, trying to pretend that it was perfectly normal that my three year old had flung herself across a chair near the register and was sobbing uncontrollably, I had a moment of weakness when I actually considered just buying her something, anything, to pacify her. And then she caught me looking at her and issued another blood-curdling scream and the moment passed.
Parenting isn't always fun and it definitely isn't easy. It would have been so much easier to just buy the stupid Barbie and be done with it. But I don't want Claire to grow up thinking that she's always going to get something just because she wants it, even if she asks nicely. By the time we got home, I think the message had finally sunk in and she told me she was sorry.
And as for me, well, I learned something valuable today, too: any and all shopping at Toys R Us should be done online, after the children are asleep. Avoiding conflict, it's what I'm all about.