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  • As we strolled down the colorful isles with they're tempting toys and products of all sorts, I braced myself for the dreaded question that was really a command under its disquise. Who knew you could feel so helpless to the little, innocent child that you love?

    Jean, only six and riding like a queen in the little red stroller, looked around wide-eyed; I could see her mind playing, bargaining about which toy was best and would be most allowed by mom. At least she was playing fair and leaving it up to me. But jean was still in a 5-6 year old mind set, to her, I could do anything, buy anything if I was in a good mood. That was very sweet of her, and I wished I could do everything. But it wasn't a matter of if I was in a good mood or not. Well, it was partially. Mostly, it was a matter of money. And space. Jean couldn't sense the lowness of money. To her, it was the paper and pretty silver coins that appeared out of a pocket. She couldn't mind the clutter closing in from the edges of a house. It was heaven for her.

    Now, when she asked that dreaded command, she would start in that sweet little voice, polite little voice, and I'd force myself to gently say no. But no could not be taken for an answer, and it was no longer up to me because I didn't have the answer she wanted. She would bug me with pleases all around the isles, and I would have to resort to a harsher tone. Sensing my anger, Jean would bawl. I knew the routine. Later that day she would ask again, and all through the week, making threats. I would have to stay strong and not break down until the need faded.

    then, at the corner of my eye, I saw her mouth open hesitantly, and I paced faster and hardened myself, bracing for impact.
    "Mommy, um, that pretty, furry kitty cat over there looks lonely. One more toy wouldn't hurt. You wouldn't even notice. It really is cute."
    Sneaky kid, trying to get under my borders. Looking back, I saw the Pretty, furry kitty cat stuffed in among many other bean-blooded animals. Jean had a thing for stuffed animals. The kitty cat was medium sized. Looking at the price: $8.99. I couldn't believe this. Kitty cat would end up at the bottom of chest in two weeks if I turned soft, the money could be used for a good snack for Jean. Jean wouldn't know this, though. She thought kitty was what her heart desired most. Well, mom knew best.

    I decided to make it final in a different way. Jean was to familiar with the "No's". I had to surprise her, make her understand why I was saying no, that this kitty that would soon be abandoned was not worth it. It was time she started making some of her own decisions and understanding the hardships with money, that it didn't just flow out of a pocket. That was all a big life lesson. Now, how to say all that? I decided to rephrase an old saying.

    Looking meaningfully into Jean's eyes, I recited:

    Give a child a toy, they'll play for a day
    Teach a child how to shop, they'll play for a lifetime.

    Jean looked back steadily, a little confused. It was a little more meaning then her growing mind could digest. But I could tell that she had grasped the point. Let some other mom buy kitty and present it at their child's feet. I was teaching mine how to survive in the modern world.

    "Teach me how to shop then, mommy."

    I smiled. "Well, be prepared. It's a bit harder than you think."
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