It took a while getting here—praise all that is holy—but we reached this phase: When I tell my son we are going to a store he immediately tells me there will be toys there and that he will be taking one home.
I hear some parents in the toys sections of stores adamantly telling their kids, I CAN’T AFFORD THAT, WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY, THAT’S TOO EXPENSIVE, NO, NO, NO. I have decided that this particular way of communicating with a child is not my style. I don’t want my son to grow up with money issues. I want him to believe there is enough money in the world for him. I want him to know that abundance, that money, that buying things is great—but not possible, practical or something to expect with each visit to a store that carries toys, cars, sailboats, RV’s, diamond studded watches, Go Karts, giant stuffed animals, remote controlled helicopters, Wolf ranges, golf clubs, silver barbecue units and anything else fantastic that catches his eye at any given time, etc.
So now, before we hit the store I say something like, “Today, we are going to the store to get such and such and we can also look at the toys, but we’re not buying toys this time.” Bam. Simple. End of story. I watch him nod and process this information. And—praise all that is holy and right in this world—I watch him accept it. Once we’re in the toy aisle, he may ask, “Can we take this home?”, but I stick to my guns and say, “Not today, remember? We’re just looking.” Bam. Simple. I watch him accept this. If we’re having an I-am-tired-because-I-get-up-so-darn-early-and-my-nap-wasn’t-enough sort of day, in which case he will press the toy issue to the point of, “What? Oh, no!” and tears, I calmly stick to my “Not today, Love,” story until the weepiness passes. If he continues crying, I say, calmly, “I’m sorry you’re upset. Maybe we should go to the car so you can finish crying.” At which point he snaps out of his distress, continues looking at toys and eventually comes willingly to the cash register.
I do remind him of all the toys he has to play with at home. This seems to help him accept not buying a new toy. I do assure him he has birthdays and that Christmas exists and other special occasions. Assurances help. They really do.
I have no idea if I’m creating serious money issues for him at 3 and a half years old, making his life better or worse, but hopefully better and hopefully I’m not screwing him up, like I feel I would be if I kept telling him, “No, we don’t have the money.”
And so: I carry on in the world of parenting, gripping my sense of positivity (sometimes hanging onto it by a thread) so that I can feel good about myself as a parent at the end of the day when he’s snoozing and I can finally run for the cookies and milk with a sigh like an earthquake and so much love in my heart for that little boy I’m amazed I haven’t burst. No time to burst! Onward, parent!