To me, the aisles of Walmart after a long day of work are a labyrinth, designed to hedge me in and prevent me from ever going home. To my 5-year-old son, Luke, the aisles of Walmart after a boring afternoon at home are interactive exhibits in a children’s museum, designed to be experienced with all five senses.
“Please, I beg you, put that down and don’t touch anything else until next week,” is my refrain on our family shopping adventure.
Even in “Baking,” the most boring food aisle of all, he makes a beeline to the packaging with the brightest colors.
“But Mom, these are healthy for you!” he cries. “Look: ‘Mini fruit marshmallows.’”
Over her shoulder, my wife, Hailey, says, “They’re just trying to trick you.”
At first, Luke looks outraged at being so casually dismissed, but then he looks inquisitive. Maybe Mom is on to something. Trying to trick me? “How do you know?” he asks.
But if he’s hoping for any further wisdom from his mother, he’s going to be disappointed. It’s late, and we have aisles to go before we sleep.
“Because I’m smart, and I’ve seen marshmallows before,” she says.
I turn to Luke to see if he’s persuaded by this explanation, but he has already teleported to the next sugary treat.
After hearing the word “no,” in every possible intonation, Luke knows that neither Hailey nor I will fall victim to his fantasies of a Willy Wonka shopping spree. Rather than get upset, though, he tries a more sophisticated tactic: financial independence.
“How many moneys do I have?” he asks.
When Luke earns money or gets a cash gift from grandparents, we don’t actually give him the cash; Hailey updates a Google Sheet on her phone.
“Never mind about that,” I say.
“I’ll buy it with my own money!”
“Now is not the time, Luke. You still have so much Halloween candy at home.”
But how can we in good conscience deny Luke’s inalienable right to spend his own money as he pleases?
The parents are foiled again.
Luke triumphantly rides the grocery cart out of Walmart like Jack on the bow of the Titanic, clutching his treat of choice: watermelon mints. (Whatever those are.)
Before long, the groceries are unpacked at home, and Luke has already plopped his watermelon mints in a glass of water at the kitchen table, completely wasting them and making a mess at the same time. In other words, in Luke’s eyes, an unqualified success of a shopping trip.
Before long, I’m in bed, drifting off to sleep, visions of mini fruit marshmallows dancing in my head, on the grave of a Google Sheet full of cash.