Monday, April 06, 2015

How sweet it is to spoil once in a while

From Saturday's Briefing:
When I take my children to special events, ballgames or concerts, I rarely spend money on extra stuff. I don’t pay for overpriced T-shirts or souvenir mugs or stuffed animals. Memories from the event are the only souvenir we need.
And food? Just the basics, if that, please. I’ve been known to smuggle in granola bars and juice boxes to ward off visits to unhealthy, uber-expensive concession stands.
Apparently, the rules don’t apply when I’m chaperoning other people’s adorable children.
Last weekend I took my 9-year-old, Katie, and our kindergarten friend Mattie to American Airlines Center to watch the Disney on Ice presentation of Frozen. We belted out the soundtrack on the drive down the Tollway. We admired dozens and dozens of tiny Anna and Elsa lookalikes as we stood in line to enter the arena. We posed for photos in front of cardboard snowflakes.
We were ready to embrace the entire Frozen experience, no extras required.
Katie, having lived with me her entire life, already knows my stance on vendor sales. She loves to look at merchandise on display, but she rarely asks to take anything home.
Mattie, on the other hand, knows nothing about my spending habits. Plus, she saw her mom hand me $40.
We’d barely entered the building when she spotted the first of many snow-cone stands.
“I want one of those!” she enthused.
“Let’s look at all your choices before we spend your money,” I advised.
She obliged. Yet nothing would break her devotion. The girl wanted a snow cone. And she was so charming and so polite — how could I turn her down?
So we stood in line for crushed ice drenched in bright red syrup and served in a plastic stein. Anna on one side, Elsa on the other.
Mattie, already bubbly about the show, was now positively giddy.
Snow cones may induce happiness, but they lack nutritional value, so our next purchase was a kid’s meal for Mattie — hot dog, potato chips and a small Sprite. Of course that meal lacked nutritional value as well, but at least she’d no longer feel hungry.
Before the show lights dimmed or a single performer skated on to the ice, we had our first tiny spill. A smidge of red snow cone dripped on Mattie’s pastel peach dress.
“That will wash right out,” I chirped, as I draped more napkins in her lap.
She’d barely polished off the snow cone when intermission began.
“I’m hungry,” she said. “I’m really hungry.”
A cotton candy vendor strutted nearby.
“I’d like some cotton candy.”
I exchanged skeptical glances with Katie. Neither of us knew the right answer.
“Does your mom usually let you eat cotton candy?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve had it before.”
Now, if this had been my own child, I wouldn’t have even entertained the question. Of course you don’t need cotton candy after eating a giant cup full of liquid sugar.
Yet this wasn’t my own child. This was a 6-year-old caught up in the magic of her favorite movie come to life before her eyes. She wasn’t greedy. She just wanted a little fluffy sugar to take the edge off her hunger.
How could I refuse?
Katie bounded down the stairs until she met up with the cotton candy vendor, then returned with a bag of blue and pink spun sugar, topped with a wearable crown.
By the time we walked out of the arena, crown on Mattie’s head and plastic stein in her hand, all the cotton candy was gone — except the bits stuck in her hair or clinging to her white sweater.
When we returned Mattie home, I sought forgiveness in lieu of permission for the excessive sugar feast.
I later learned that our young friend had a classic sugar-fueled meltdown later that day. She crashed early and hard — a little reminder of why I usually exert more parental control, and why it’s sometimes fun to slightly spoil children who aren’t your own.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at
Top: Mattie and Katie walk toward the arena.
Bottom: Katie, Mattie (and the snow cone) and me

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