I was brought up in a society where you could not touch what you were not going to buy. As a child, I could not grab a chocolate and put it back, or touch clothes at a boutique, specially, white ones. I had to learn very early on to keep my hands away from anything or scolding would ensue, and store workers and owners would fulminate my parents and me with their mean looks, and sometimes even words. So, I am still surprised at all the displays at food and department stores, strategically placed, so little fingers will actually grab the candy, chocolates, gum, toys, basically, anything, and beg their parent, guardian, or anyone accompanying them, to spend more and more. Even though there is the downside of hurting your wallet because of this “in your face” availability of consumer goods, one can also use it to entertain children without spending much, particularly, at department stores.
My three year old loves to enter the world of department stores… or, maybe, it is just any store which holds good hiding places… Just a couple of days ago, my husband decided to go shopping for some shirts and pants, and Santiago and I chose to go along. From the get go, my boy was in heaven: so many clothes to hide in! As my husband proceeded to try on several items, Santiago and I played a “not very obvious form” of hide-and-seek. I would close my eyes and he would walk to one of the round clothing displays. Then, he would find his way to the middle, sit on the floor, and call out that I could now begin my search. I would walk around two or three displays, as if completely unaware of his location, until I would decide to find him and tickle him. We must have spent over half an hour in the same exact section, but Santiago did not become upset at any moment. He was truly entertained by the simple game.
Santiago is my fourth child and, I believe, I have finally learned to relax a bit with the kids and to realize that if they have a good time, I will as well. Had I become impatient with Santiago, I can assume he would have resorted to crying, and our outing with my husband would have been ruined. By allowing a little healthy silliness, everyone stayed calm, and we even went on to buy some sugary cinnamon sticks. Am I trying to convince parents to allow children to play and roam freely in stores? Of course not! One must be aware of what is appropriate to do when, where, and with whom. But, if the noise level is acceptable, no one is getting hurt, nothing is getting damaged, your child is being cooperative, and you are pleasantly involved in your child’s silliness, why try the hard road? Why insist that your child sit in the buggy or hold your hand while tears run down his/her face? Why yell at your little one because s/he likes to play peek-a-boo with you while you are trying to find the correct sock size?