My son knows what he wants … at least until he doesn’t want it anymore.
The streets of downtown Gatlinburg are lined with storefront windows, all filled to overflowing with souvenirs. There are airbrushed t-shirts and leather handbags, knives and swords and cowboy hats, billowy caftans and homemade fudge, lace tablecloths and wood carvings — and of course, there are toys. Brightly colored and battery operated, they are good-time guaranteed, and few children can resist their charms. My ten-year-old son is certainly not immune; on the evening we arrive in town for my husband’s birthday weekend, he walks the sidewalks as if hypnotized by the plastic playthings calling to him, sirenlike, from every window. He has 20 dollars in souvenir money burning a hole in his pocket and he won’t be satisfied until it’s spent. We stop in front of a closet-sized toy store and my daughter and I agree to wait outside while he heads in to peruse the shelves. He comes to the store entrance a few minutes later, clutching a pack of trading cards.
“I want these,” he announces.
“No,” I respond.
His brow furrows. “But it’s my money.”
“And you’re my son,” I say. “You can get them in a couple of days if you still want them. But not tonight.”
He sighs deeply and goes back inside to return the cards to the shelf while I press my lips together, knowing full well that while the battle may be won, the war is just beginning.
My son knows this, too. “Let’s go next door,” he says with faux nonchalance when he rejoins us. Instantly, I feel a migraine coming on. The ‘store next door’ is called simply Fidget Spinners and its contents are true to its name. They could just as easily have named this place Kid Crack.
“We’ll stay out here while you look,” I tell Bruiser. I can tell he doesn’t really care what I do — As he enters this 10-year-old boy paradise, his pupils are already fidget spinner-shaped and slowly whirring.
My daughter and I watch him from the window as he lovingly runs his fingers across the small cardboard boxes covering the walls. He takes one down from its hook, appraising the fidget spinner inside with the seasoned scowl of a veteran diamond inspector. After a long moment, he replaces it and takes down another. This scene is repeated 257 more times. Two Ice Ages and an epoch pass before my son finally emerges with a determined look on his face.
“I know what I want to spend my money on,” he says breathlessly.
“No,” I reply.
“It’s this fidget spinner with the thing that turns and it’s eighteen dollars and I know that’s a lot of money but it’s super fast and it’s made of metal and shaped like a hexagon with legs and it spins up to 2 minutes and it lights up at the ends and I know that I want it because there’s nothing else I’m going to want as much as I want this fidget spinner I promise Mom, REALLY.”
“You already have two fidget spinners,” I remind him.
“But this one is different.”
“Maybe so,” I say, “But we’re not getting it tonight.”
“But it’s my money!” he sputters.
“And we can come back and get it in a few days if you still want it,” I say. “But I’m not letting you spend all of your souvenir money three hours after we’ve gotten in town. Let’s go.”
We begin walking toward the Earthquake Ride, where we’ve arranged to meet my husband. Bruiser doesn’t relent.
“I don’t understand why I can’t buy that fidget spinner because it’s my money and I want to have it tonight I want to play with it tonight and enjoy it on my vacation I know that’s what I want to spend my money on and it’s not going to change, you think I’m going to change my mind, but I know myself and I know my mind is not going to change, if I want to spend my souvenir money on a fidget spinner, I should be able to spend it whenever I want.”
“If you want it so much now, you’ll definitely still want it in a few days when you actually buy it,” I say. He shakes his head vehemently.
“Why should I wait a few days when I know that I want it?” His voice arcs higher, a sure sign that he’s only beginning to settle in to what promises to be an incredibly detailed defense. “There’s nothing else, absolutely nothing else, that I could possibly want to spend my money on, except for this fidget spinner. It is the nicest fidget spinner I’ve ever seen before and it is a great price. Why can’t I get it tonight? This doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s my vacation too, and I would like to be able to play with my new fidget spinner while I’m on it and…”
Words continue to spill out of him, forming a verbal haze that jostles and jars me as surely as the tourists passing us on the sidewalk. Five minutes later, we reach our destination. The kid won’t let up.
“…every fidget spinner I’ve seen is not as nice as this one and not as good of a price, and this fidget spinner spins way longer than the others, if I got a different souvenir, I wouldn’t even play with it or look at it because all I want to play with is a fidget spinner, also it would keep me from being stressed out if it gets too hot outside or if I’m bored or we’re at dinner and…”
“We’re here!” I said brightly, interrupting him. “Let’s find a place to sit and wait for Dad.”
“… so I promise there’s nothing I’ve ever wanted more than a fidget spinner,” Bruiser continues, undaunted. “I may already have two, but this one is different this one has lights a fidget spinner is the only thing I would ever spend my money on and I don’t want to wait two days to get it I don’t see a reason to wait two days when I could have it right now and play with it in the hotel room, especially when I know my mind is not going to change I know myself and I know when I’ve made up my mind and this time I’ve made up my mind. Really. I mean it because…”
By this point, I can’t take it anymore. “Look, Bruiser,” I said, “I’ve heard everything you have to say and my decision is final.”
“STOP. NOW.” My voice drops an octave. Bruiser’s mouth abruptly closes. He settles into a disgruntled silence beside me as my daughter and I discuss the things we want to do while we’re in Gatlinburg. A minute or two passes before he speaks again.
“Actually, I think I don’t want the fidget spinner after all, Mom,” he said. I look at him in surprise. His expression is untroubled. The charms of the fidget spinner have faded fast.
“Oh, really?” I ask.
“Yah,” he said. “I think I want to save my money for a game I’ve been wanting to buy instead. It’s called Fight ‘Em and there’s no blood, I promise, and these little guys just go around in groups and they fight each other and Brandon and Taylor both have the game and they say it’s their favorite and if you let me get it, we can all play together online and you can set the game so that you only talk to your friends so you don’t need to worry and I know that I want it and that’s what I want to spend my money on and…”
As his chattering continues, my daughter and I steal a glance at each other. It’s all we can do to keep from laughing.
(If you’re wondering, he did NOT manage to save his souvenir money to buy a video game. Instead, he bought this handmade wooden viking axe — and my daughter bought a crossbow — from ‘the compleat knight’ booth at the awesome Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair. Both were heartily parent-approved. )
Header image via Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr Creative Commons