My son is being deployed to a birthday party this weekend, and we need to acquire a gift. But the notion of trekking into a toy store, with my son in tow, is such a daunting thought. Why does the mere idea of going somewhere as delightful as a toy store give me anxiety? I practically break out into hives just thinking about going in there with my kids, knowing someone is bound to come out wounded (and it is usually me!).
Toy stores are like traps! Beautifully packaged, ridiculously expensive toys; games that no wants to play but everyone wants to buy; cute stuffed animals that trigger my allergies; trains and cars that I am bound to step on in the dark of the night. And no matter how many toys we procure, my kids always want more. Now that I think about it, toy stores are like shoe stores. Beautifully gleaming shoes, displayed in just the right light; inexplicably expensive and incredibly impractical; yet unbelievably perfect with that dress I haven’t yet bought. I clearly don’t need any more, and those killer heels will leave me regretful, but I always want another pair.
But this time I am putting my foot down, with my son that is. He is accompanying me to the toy store to buy his friend a gift, and he is NOT getting a new toy. No matter how much he cries, begs and pleads, I will not succumb to the pressure. The best way through this obstacle is through psychological preparation prior to the exercise. He must know that we have one mission, and one mission only—to secure a birthday present without any additional casualties to my pocketbook. And in the aftermath, we will reflect upon the moment and recognize the greater lesson behind it. It might burst his egocentric bubble, but he needs to understand that not every expedition to the toy store is about him. He needs to be able to pick out a gift for a friend without expecting to get one for himself too.
As I park the car, I wipe the beads of sweat that are forming on my forehead. I know the layout of the store pretty well, so if I stay on track we can be out of there in 10 minutes—30 minutes tops! I can even skip the in-store gift-wrapping if I feel a meltdown coming on (mine or his). I look over to my son, and he seems emotionally well prepared for this. Nonetheless, I find the emergency exit just in case I need to scoop him up for a quick escape.
As we walk towards the back of the store, my son stops and picks up a toy car. Man down, Man down!! I hold my breath and watch him out of the corner of my eye. It’s those dammed display contraptions; I knew I should have taken a left turn at the puzzle isle. The displays are meant to keep the kids busy while we shop, but the kids inevitably ask to buy the complicated looped-y-loop racecar track that takes three hours to assemble and half the living room to store. I keep an eye on him while I snatch a toy. He seems content to engage, so I wait for the clerk to wrap the package. I have got my fingers crossed as I start walking to the door that I won’t have to radio in for a rescue team. “Come on, let’s go,” I announce with firmness, all the while praying that he marches out behind me. Just as I turn back, I see him putting the little racecar away and walking towards the door. A sudden wave of relief comes over me and I realize I take my first real breath in 20 minutes. I did it!!! I mean, WE did it!!! We went into the toy store, obtained a gift for a friend, and made it out alive! Wow, I never thought this day would come.
Now, if only I could walk into a shoe store and come out empty handed….Maybe next time I’ll let my MomAbility guide me.