It’s been a while since I was actually in a McDonald’s restaurant, but I vividly remember the old menus growing up that, at the very end said, ‘’Smiles are always free’’. My experience in being a mom is that the best smiles are, in fact, free but that doesn’t stop me as a parent from chasing the need to see my child smiling through my unnecessary purchases.
I don’t even realize I’m doing it most of the time. Last weekend I had to go to a local big box store for an item. I was there to return something, that was it. I had no intentions of even walking around the store but when I realized I had some freedom (I was alone, no kid, no husband), I decided to capitalize on my few free moments and wander through the aisles. Given that I actually hate shopping, and am very much someone who likes to accomplish as much as possible in any given day, it was out of character for me to even want to do this, but I did.
I was scoping out the newest stuff and staring in disbelief at all the Christmas stuff that was already out, as Halloween hasn’t even passed, when I found myself walking through the book aisle. Again, innocently browsing at what was there, I instantly picked up a book with my daughters favorite character’s on it. The thought process was something like this:
‘’I need to buy this for her! She will love it and put a big smile on her face when she sees it!!’’.
At $3.50 I wasn’t breaking the bank but, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was doing it selfishly. Though the book was for her, the book was more for me. For me, as her mom, to see her eyes light up and smile when I hand it to her.
It wasn’t until after I gave her the book when I realized what I had done. Though she was appreciative of the gesture, and thanked me for it, what she really wanted and what really got her excited was me. I had been away from her for a few hours and she wouldn’t care if I had a 10 pound chocolate bunny in my arm, she was just excited to see me and go back to mommy-daughter play time.
When I really think about it, the biggest smiles and reactions are never from when we give her something, be it a special after dinner treat or new book, it’s from when we’re sharing time together, building forts on the floor and hiding from invisible monsters, when we’re in a tickle fight or coloring a picture together. Though I will still buy things for her, I won’t buy something with the selfish intention of seeking out a smile because I know in my heart I have it in me to make her smile bigger than any object.