Going Loonie

I wrote this a while ago. Thankfully, since then I have stopped these little excursions.

 Going Loonie

As I unload my items for the cashier, I am overcome with guilt. Am I over-indulging my child? Are these dollar store excursions sending her the wrong message? Are these bargain shopping sprees programming my child to consume, consume, consume? As I fumble in my purse for $30, I catch the lady behind me glaring at my purchases and my shame is reinforced. I can almost hear the lady whispering: “Tisk. Tisk. Tisk.”  

By Christina Friedrichsen

 

It’s raining. Not a warm rain. The cold, stinging kind. My four-year old is ricocheting off the walls with boredom and I have the perfect solution. The dollar store.

I mention the words and in thirty seconds flat, my daughter is dressed and waiting at the door. To her the dollar store is just another word for paradise.

We arrive, and our eyes dilate under the spell of 100,000 things that cost only a buck. We take a deep breath, and succumb to the scent of Brand Newness. Subtle hints of polyvinyl chloride and molded plastic, blend with bubblegum, jujube and top notes of air freshener to create an elixir that goes straight to our heads. I ask the cashier if this fragrance is available in a bottle. She leads me to aisle five, but I only find cheap vanilla and a floral perfume that smells like a funeral parlour.

Next to eau de funeral home, I find a pregnancy test. A pregnancy test, for a dollar? Even though I don’t need one, and will never need one again (we hope) I am tempted to buy a few just because they’re only a dollar.

Three aisles over is what we came for. I tell my daughter she can choose one package of stickers, and that she’s better off getting the 1,022 Barbie ones (sure, they’re tinier than freckles, but they stick really well to hardwood floors), than the package with only 10 SpongeBobs. She chooses Little Mermaid, and throws in a package of smiley faces.

“Oh, what the heck, it’s only a dollar,” I tell myself.

Next, we head to the section that has colouring and activity books. I marvel at the selection. This could keep her occupied for at least a week. She puts three books in her cart and I add two more, just in case this rain keeps up for a few days.

After adding five cans of Play Dough (the ones we bought last week dried out), a magic wand, some Silly Putty, two plastic dinosaurs, a doll, a miniature doll house, a hula hoop, bubbles, a ball, two packages of beads, and a Kitkat, we head to the check out.

As I unload my items for the cashier, I am overcome with guilt. Am I over-indulging my child? Are these dollar store excursions sending her the wrong message? Are these bargain shopping sprees programming my child to consume, consume, consume? As I fumble in my purse for $30, I catch the lady behind me glaring at my purchases and my shame is reinforced. I can almost hear the lady whispering: “Tisk. Tisk. Tisk.”

When I get to the car I check the bill, just in case the cashier miscalculated. I wasn’t planning on spending $30. Did I buy that much stuff? I sure did.

We get home and you’d think it was Christmas. My daughter excitedly empties the bags on the floor. She can’t decide what to play with first so she plays with everything. I decide not to intervene because it feels good to see her have so much fun.

Half an hour later the ‘tisk, tisk, tisk’ returns and this time it’s louder than a jackhammer. My child has blown through three activity books, one package of stickers, half a chocolate bar and an entire jar of bubbles. She’s dumped the Play Dough on the floor, and she’s back to ricocheting off the walls, except this time she’s wearing a hula hoop and brandishing dinosaurs with very pointy tails.

I’m now convinced that these trips to the dollar store aren’t as harmless as I care to admit. Buying toys (most of which are plastic) that my daughter doesn’t need isn’t exactly an earth friendly act. Sooner or later these little playthings will end up in a landfill somewhere, leaching toxins into the environment.  And what kind of poison is belched into the air when this stuff is manufactured? What about the people being paid a pittance in dingy factories to make this stuff.

Also, I am greatly concerned about what I am teaching my daughter about consumption. Don’t worry if it breaks, dear, we’ll buy another one. Tired of the Barney colouring book? That’s okay, we’ll buy you the Barbie one and three more just so you won’t get bored. And the stickers you blew through in thirty seconds, well, there’s plenty more where they came from.

My child is only four. It is not too late for her. It is not too late for me.

Next time it rains I’m getting out the flour, the salt, and the food colouring. My daughter is going to learn that the best play dough in the world cannot be found in a dollar store, but at home, inside a kitchen where mother and daughter have flour in their hair and food colouring all over their hands.

And when we’re done making play dough animals and she’s back to bouncing off the walls, I’ll join her. Who says going loonie has to cost a dime?

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