Friday, December 17, 2010

Pretty in Pink

For many college students, the week before break signifies Finals Week.  At least, it does at the college where my wife professes.  I remember from what seems like eons ago how stressful Finals Week was as a student - your schedule is all screwed up (why does the 7:30pm Tuesday night class have an 8:00am Thursday final?  Never understood that), your nerves are frayed, your eyelids propped with toothpicks and the coffee pot out on a Fair Wages strike.  Turns out, it isn't any different for the professors.  Yesterday, when my wife came home after another 12-hour grading marathon on campus, I shook her hand and introduced myself. 

As a Domestic Engineer, and with the Boy basically done schooling for 2010, weeks like this provide for  fun-filled days of Trying To Keep Child Alive and Entertained Until Mom Gets Home.  It's almost the season for Christmas shopping (usually it doesn't start until the December calendar is in the 20s), so to use up some of our time we ventured out to pick out some nice gifts for the 3 females in his life that he is required to shop for:  Emma the Babysitter, Carrie the Teacher, and Mom the Great.   As parents, my wife and I still do the rest - we pick up the tab for grandparents and aunts and cousins and uncles.  This is the first year we've asked him to make any gift selection decisions.

Buying presents for someone other than himself is indescribably torturous for this particular 5 year old.  To accomplish this feat among feats, it was going to take a highly effective, perhaps controversial, parenting method.  This was going to take sugar.

We headed out to Maplewood.  I used one Reese's Peanut Butter Christmas Bell to get him dressed, another to get his shoes and coat on, and a third to get him strapped into his booster.  Why Maplewood?  Well, you see, the Boy had only one thing in mind that he wanted to purchase for Carrie the Teacher.  He wanted to get her a new Grouptime Bell.  It looks like this:
Does Carrie need a new grouptime bell?  Is hers broken?

No, dad.  It's not broken.

Did she lose it?

No.  She just needs it.  She needs to have three.

Wait, what?  Did you say three?  You mean she already has two?


Why does she need three??

She just does.

This had gone on for two weeks whenever he wasn't pining after his birthday cake.  I gave up trying to change his mind towards perhaps a bookstore gift card or handmade something or other, but no - a dinner bell it will be.

After much online research (with search terms such as 'dinner bell', 'classroom bell', 'teacher bell', 'where do you buy those little hand bells that teachers use so they don't have to scream at young children?' etc), I eventually discovered they are called tea bells, (who knew?) and they had them in a store in Maplewood.  Off we go.

We picked up the bell from the small store in the stripmall, (On sale! Must be a hot item this year) and then headed over to Maplewood Mall next door.  The Boy was excited to be on such a grand adventure in a new mall, one he'd "never never seen before" (I didn't have the heart to enlighten him on the usage of double negatives, we still had two people to not not buy presents for after all).  This particular mall is amazing for pre-schoolers.  Amongst the more traditional coin-operated fancies, there's also a ginormous "double-stack" merry-go-round, and a train that provides overpriced rides around the first floor boulevard.   After the carousel, we headed towards the makeshift train station. 

The ride crawled at 5 mph past all the store fronts.  As we started out, a lightbulb went off in my $6 dollar poorer head as we climbed into the coal tender behind the $6 richer engineer: 

Hey, O - let's look at all the stores and see if we see something Mom will like!  Then after the trainride, we'll go to that store and get it!  Sound fun?

I knew he'd love the idea of shopping by train, and I was right!  He immediately went to work.

I should've probably waited until we weren't directly in front of Victoria's Secret's PG-13 display window, though.

I know what I want to get Mom!  She would love some new pretty pink underwears like hers! as he pointed to the scantily clad, Size Zero mannequin. 

She looked chilly.

I heard the 16 year old train engineer laugh out loud as she navigated through the kiosks and old people (it was Thursday morning, everyone else was presumably at work).  I broke into a cold sweat picturing myself walking into Vicki's lair with a big-eyed 5 year old trying to guess Mom's size.  Shudder. 

It took the entire train ride, and then some grape pop, to convince him to look elsewhere for Mom's present.  After 3 stores, we settled on a very nice gift and then headed to the food court.  More sugar later (Subway's chocolate milk instead of regular, cookie instead of yogurt), we headed out the door without finding anything for Emma the Babysitter.  We were both crashing - me from maneuvering the Boy away from the underwears store, and he from eating a pound and a half of sugar before midday.  I think maybe I'll just give her ten extra bucks.  Teenagers would rather have the cash anyway, right?

Parenting tip:  Mary Poppins is always right.  If she says that a spoonful of sugar will help than a spoonful of sugar will help.  Of course, she also has an unhealthy fondness for chimneys and their sweeps, and thinks her umbrella makes her fly.  Hmm.  I need to think a bit more on this one...

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