“You want a unicorn doll that poops glitter?”
Did I actually say that?
No one prepares you for these moments of parenthood. The moments when your kid says something ridiculous (or in this case, asks for something ridiculous). The moments when your child wants a toy you think is useless, so much so that they say they want to spend their piggy bank money on it. The moments when just getting them the dang toy feels easier than hearing their continuous whining over said toy.
My oldest child saw these glitter poop dolls on a commercial one time and has been asking for them ever since. My responses have varied from: “Maybe, honey,” to “Mommy and Daddy can’t buy toys whenever you want, they cost a lot of money,” to “Wouldn’t you rather use your own money on something… better?”
She’s told me how cool they are, how much better her life would be with glitter poop in it, how wonderful of a mother she would be to a beautiful unicorn doll. And sure, I feel for her. I remember wanting things when I was little—a new Barbie, a clear telephone for my room, millions of pogs—but I didn’t get all the things I asked for. And guess what? I survived. Dare I say, I turned out *fairly* well-adjusted. (Thanks, Mom and Dad.)
I felt bad at first, when my oldest became more aware of the world around her, enough to notice cool things she wanted, too. I wondered if I should be buying her more things since I didn’t always get the toy I asked for when I was little. I felt guilty. She was such a good kid, maybe I should be rewarding her with toys? I piled them on at birthdays and holidays to make up for always saying “no” on our Target runs.
But over time, my mindset changed. We added two more kids to the family and lots more stuff. My plate was full with work and motherhood and marriage and managing our household. I was at peak overwhelm and decided some of our stuff had to go. And in keeping with that theme, my husband and I decided it wouldn’t make sense to add more stuff in while we were trying to get stuff out.
So I stopped feeling bad about saying “no” to toys.
I mean, our kids—at 6, 4 and 2—now mention other toys or things they want fairly regularly. A new American Girl Doll when they find the catalog in the mail pile. A new toy suitcase when they’re playing at their cousin’s house. A PJ Mask backpack when they see a kid at school carrying one. A cellphone when they’re playing the Sesame Street app on my phone.
We’d be broke if they got everything they asked for all the time. And I now explain that to them. I say things like, “Since toys cost a lot of money, we can’t always buy them. Mommy and Daddy work hard to make money to buy our food and new pajamas when you need them. Or to save up to be able to go on an airplane to visit Uncle Pat in California.”
I certainly don’t want to burden them with worrying about any sort of financial responsibilities at their ages, but I do want them to understand that money doesn’t just grow on trees. (Wow, I sound like a “real” mother, right?)
We’ve also talked about how when we have too much stuff packed into our cozy home, it makes it hard to find the things we really love to play with. Or how, when we have too much stuff, our house gets messier more quickly and it’s hard for our brains to be happy if our space is always messy. (Not to mention the fact that ‘stuff’ doesn’t equal happiness in general.)
Most of the time they’re fine, honestly. We discuss how we can keep certain special things in mind for their next birthday or Christmas, and then they move onto playing with something they already have. We have a well-stocked craft table, plenty of dolls, science experiment kits, blocks, Magnetiles, puzzles, dinosaurs—you get it. We have plenty of beautiful, useful toys in our home already. I have eliminated the guilt of needing more toys to please them because I know they have more than enough.
I’ve heard them say, “It’s not fair!” in response to my saying “no” to a certain purchase request. And while I remember the rage I felt when my parents told me “Well, life isn’t really fair,” I never understood them more than I do now. You were right, guys. It most definitely isn’t. And I think it’s okay for my children to be aware of that now because they’re certainly going to learn that lesson over and over and over for the rest of their lives.
A life without adding another unicorn doll to their already-quite-full unicorn collection may not be fair to a 6-year-old, but that’s truly okay by me.