Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mommy's Moment: What Could Have Been


A wall of toys stood before me. A handful of blue tokens were tightly gripped in my little hand. Weeks of tutoring at Sylvan Learning Center and finally I could cash in on my hard work. The Muppet toy caught my eye. But was it the right purchase? A pack of Kool-Aid straws, for some odd reason, also caught my eye. Trying to be reasonable and feeling pressured, I went against my gut, and cashed in my blue tokens for none other than, Kool-Aid straws.

I remember my mom asking me, "are you sure that's what you want?"

It wasn't. But I felt pressured. Pressured to buy "just the right thing." And though I knew I'd enjoy the Muppet game more, I cracked and made a purchase I regretted. Obviously, because here I sit, 30 years old, still remembering that moment.

Flashforward 22 years.


I just returned from Pier 1. I love Pier 1. It was my store of choice before the tightening of the spending due to the arrival of children.

A $10 off of $10 coupon sent me and the three kids on an evening errand to this previous paradise. I can't pass up 10 free dollars, especially not now when the money is extra tight. But with the excitement, comes the pressure.

It sends my mind whirling.

Who do I buy for? What do I buy? What can I buy that hits as close to $10 as possible? Pier 1 makes it really hard to spend exactly $10. Their prices are $9.97, $8.78...I know your scheme Pier 1. And I'm not happy.

The kids, hoping to stumble upon a special toy, eagerly enter Pier 1 Paradise.

"They don't have toys," I say, much relieved.

But, nonetheless, they add to the pressure. Not only am I on search for "the perfect find" but I'm also under time constraint. How long do I have before a child knocks something over, screams, or possibly falls out of the stroller?

It's not long until Grant says, "can we please go home?" or Hannah knocks a nick nack off the shelf, or Kate leans a little too far forward, almost tipping out. Okay, there is a seat belt but in the rush of getting in and out I did not take the time to fasten her in. I know, bad mother. But she never fell out, for the record.

So I start to sweat. I hit up the jewelry (did you know Pier 1 has jewelry now?). I spot a necklace that I could get a sister for Christmas. Some cute earrings for Mom perhaps. $7 each. Dilemma. I've got to add $3 to my total. To the kids excitement, and to my astonishment, toys junk, that should cost NO MORE than $1 sit overly priced right next to the jewerly. In a rush decision I tell them they MAY be able to pick one toy out. Tell your kids MAYBE and to them it means YES. In the midst of their excitement I return the necklace and thus, turn my MAYBE into a NO. Bad mistake. Suddenly my $10 has turned into THEIR $10 and they immediately begin to whine about what THEY want.

Hoping they'll forget what they just saw, we take yet another walk around the store. Grant still whining he's ready to go home, Hannah pleading her case about how she wants something. And Kate, well, she too has discovered if she can reach a little farther out of her stroller she too can pick something out.

To make a long story shorter, my mind was troubled. I felt pressure. Pressure to buy just the right thing. Pressure not to spend beyond the $10. Pressure to get out of the store as fast as possible.

It was Slyvan Learning Center all over again (minus the kids).

And just like 22 years ago, I began to crack.

I spotted a nice hand soap and hand lotion set. It didn't fit in any of my gift slots. It was just something "nice" I could put in my kitchen. I didn't WANT it or really NEED it.

It was $9.98.

2 measley cents away from $10.

But, like I said, I was cracking. My thought process was shot. I returned to the overly priced toys junk. We'll grab something for $1. Good luck. After several negotiations with the kids we somehow ended up with a butterfly net contraption for $2.48 for them to share.

My mind frazzled. Ready to leave. We checked out. We paid $2.74. I could have done so much better. But, my mind no longer was willing to cooperate. We loaded up in the car. I took a deep breath. I sat with a buttefly net hitting my head and a handwash/lotion set sitting next to me. No gift crossed off the list. No immediate need met. And spending $2.74 I would not have spent if I had just not even gone to the store.

It was Sylvan all over again. Not getting what I wanted. Making a decision I would regret. Buying something out of pressure.

The ride home brought clarity to my thoughts as I realized what I should have done that would have left me with only paying cents and with an item more likely to be used or given as a gift.


What's done is done.

Kool-aid straws, hand soap, and a butterfly net...all the products of my shopping pressure.

A Muppet toy and a nice Christmas gift, a fading reminder of what could have been.


The Noonan's said...

Girl - I totally know how you feel. I think I would feel that pressure even if I had no worries about budget but with the budget - it makes me either so crazy I want to walk out with nothing or I just have to pick and get out with whatever I can - hate the pressure! but I love your description - makes me feel a bit more normal...and thanks for letting Jeremy crash there last night - he was grateful for sweet Grant offering his pjs - sweet kids!

travelingstacey said...

I totally relate to the pressure of trying to find the perfect thing. I also understand about the tight budget, which makes the pressure of trying to find the best deal ever even greater! Ugh. I wanted to get that coupon, too. But, I passed. I think I knew deep down I knew it would be too much to try and get there and then pick out the right thing...lol. Maybe we'll get there one day! : ) Stacey

Courtney said...

That's how I feel about couponing in general - it is SO MUCH PRESSURE! It makes me sweat and worry and fret. One time, when I didn't get the right deal at the gas pump (due to Bi-Lo rewards), I started crying. I know, it was a matter of pennies, but the idea & energy spent to try and save money sent me into tears, like a lot of tears. It's so crazy how much (unnecessary pressure) we put on ourselves. It's a good goal to save money and all, but really, it's not worth all that sista. Great story, though. But I was almost in tears for you, my friend. Love you!

Jess said...

I seriously think you are a Mommy hero for even attempting to go in Pier 1 with three kids!!! Places like that scare me to bits, and I always end up spending money I wouldn't have spent in the first place. I remember QUIET moments spent smelling all their fancy candles....what 3 years ago? We traded in Pier 1 for CVS, I guess. Hey, your little adventure made for a fantastic blog post!

Mary said...

I agree, you are a hero for attempting this...my blood pressure went up and I felt clammy and stressed just reading the post about it! And look at the bright side...you are going to have some very clean, soft and great smelling hands!! :)