Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Advice in a check-out line

I went to Target tonight, and while I was waiting in line I noticed a little girl lovingly caressing whatever it was she was holding. When her mom had emptied everything out of the cart, she came over to the girl, snatched the thing from her daughters hands, and set it on a nearby shelf. The girl didn't say anything but draped herself over the edge of the cart in a classic 8-year-old pout.

Apparently this was a family outing because soon the girl's dad came over. "Did your mom put that Littlest Pet Shop back?" The girl, eyes narrowed, nodded and I saw her dad notice the misplaced toy. Now that he'd identified it, I realized that she'd been carrying around a toy her parents had said no to. As her dad turned around, her little brother came over and started pushing the cart back and forth even though she was still hanging on it, saying, "You can't have that! You CAN'T HAVE IT!"

This girl must have REALLY wanted those little plastic cats and their little plastic scratching post (I checked it out when I walked past it), because believe it or not she did not react to her brother. He grew bored of teasing her and went to talk to his dad, and she stood there, mourning the toy she would not be taking home with her, pouting and talking to herself.

I sort of related to her, that little girl whose stupid little brother didn't understand her FEELINGS and whose parents couldn't understand HOW MUCH she loved those cats. Like, really LOVED them. More than anything. All those other toys she had ever wanted? Her love for those paled in comparison to those little cats. And I sort of wanted to buy them and slip them to her while no one was looking. Because even though the last time I felt like that was probably 15 years ago, I knew how she felt.

And then I snapped out of it, and I knew what I really wanted to do.

I wanted to tell her, seriously, honey, you will not care about that toy in 5 years. Truthfully, you probably won't care about it in 5 days. I know it doesn't seem like it, but that toy is not important. It will not make your life, which looks like it's probably pretty good (not to judge you on all the other stuff that your parents bought, but that's not really the point, is it?), any better, or more fulfilling.

When I got to the word fulfilling I knew that I couldn't go that direction either. Even though that's the truth. Sure, there are those epic toys that you never forget for the rest of your life, but I saw those ugly little bug-eyed things that girl wanted and those? Those are not epic childhood playthings.

By the end of this internal struggle I was fighting with myself, the family was walking out of the store, and although the little girl looked like she was feeling a little better (see? You didn't even remember for five minutes!) I realized what was absolutely the right thing to say: "Don't worry, kiddo, from the looks of your little brother he would probably just break it to make you mad anyway!"

I know I definitely could have understood that logic when I was 8.

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