- September 13, 2016
In the checkout line at Target this week, my 4-year-old daughter, Ellie, held up a red-and-yellow package of fruity chews. “Can I get some Starverse?” she asked, her unruly brown curls dangling across her face.
“They’re called Starbursts,” I said, stalling. She and my two sons had already been spoiled by their grandparents, who bought ice cream for them after lunch earlier in the day. What kind of parent would I be if I allowed her to also get candy?
And so, a compromise: “How about if we get some to share?” I said.
With her big blue eyes, she looked at the Starbursts in her hand, then up at me. “How about if I share with myself?” she offered.
We were on a family shopping trip, my wife and I trekking up and down the row of shops around Target, looking for shoes for the kids, including Ellie. It was bound to be a three-hour tour, at minimum.
And so, I decided to allow the Starbursts. Something to keep her busy. We set up a system in the large pockets of my cargo shorts, just above the knees. In the left pocket, she could keep the Starbursts. In the right pocket, she would put the empty wrappers.
In one store and out the other, she kept close to me the whole time, circling back and forth from one pocket to the other. I didn’t help her unwrap the candy, so it took a while, as she tore off little strips at a time and emptied her hand into my right pocket.
But, she got slower and slower as time wore on.
“Are you getting sick, Ellie?” I asked.
Sluggishly, but gravely, knowing what was at stake (the rest of the Starbursts), she shook her head back and forth. No, Dad. I can finish. Don’t you worry about me.
After eating the last Starburst, she sat on a bench and handed the wrapper to me, too worn out to circle around me. “Can you put this in your pocket?” she asked. Then, just to make sure I didn’t mess up her system, she clarified: “The one with the dirty wrappers.” She pointed to the pocket above my right knee: “Right there.”
Fortunately, I was able to keep everything straight, and the project was complete. My left pocket was empty. My right pocket was nice and padded with shreds of paper, like a rodent’s nest.
Oh, yeah, and she also managed to find two pairs of shoes to wear to preschool next month.
As we walked back to the car, I was ahead of Ellie and my wife, and I overheard a scrap of their conversation.
Hailey was asking in disbelief, “Did you eat all those Starbursts?”
But think of the lessons the little girl learned: sorting, fine motor skills from all the unwrapping, endurance, negotiation, and, finally, the difference between healthy food and Starverse.