Every so often, as a little treat, my wife and I like to chuck the kids in the car and take them down to Smyths Toy Store for a little family outing, where the timing of our visit suspiciously coincides with an impending Birthday or Christmas.
And naturally, the kids love it.
Of course, my wife and I need to be tactful, and we’ll spend most of the visit batting away requests with the velocity of a Red Bull swilling Ping-Pong champion. But by the end of the visit, we will have narrowed their choices down to what they’d actually like rather than the things they think they’d like (which is basically everything they see).
For some visits, that can be a heck of a task.
But recently there was something strange in the air. A shift of sorts.
My eldest daughter, who’d been drifting from shelf to shelf, eyes rolling over the merchandise, had something in her eye I couldn’t quite place. I didn’t comment on it at the time and we browsed some more. I watched her scan further over brightly coloured boxes, books, bikes, scooters, craft kits, but curiously she held the same vacant gaze. And it was at that moment I realised the look in her eye was something I’d never seen from her while in Smyths before. It was disinterest.
If I’d have just asked her to have a deep dive into how wheelie bins are made or to leaf through a collection of budget lampshades with me, I’d get it. But we were in Smyths! Toy town! Last I heard, even Father Christmas’ elves were retraining as Florists and Data Protection Analysts because he’d jacked in the toy making because Smyths already had it all.
I was confused. But then she made it unequivocal, announcing there just “wasn’t anything she wanted from Smyths anymore”.
Was I hearing her right? Was she actually saying she was too big for toys?!
I guess the signs were there. And come to think of it, when recently asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” she simply answered “Someone’s boss”.
Had we suddenly become closer to the grown up version of my daughter than the child version? The one that would line her teddies up with an easel to play Teachers had packed her students away for good?
If I squinted hard enough I could see an unexpected future. I’d always thought she wanted to act or teach drama perhaps, and maybe she still does. But with an answer like “Someone’s boss” pre-loaded and fired from the verbal chamber, I found myself not so sure. An answer like that conjured up visions of more a corporate daughter, the kind who bursts into a board room, owns the room and ensures no one leaves without her business card, highlighting her Arse Kicker job title and BSc (Hons) in Ball Busting.
Of course, whatever the future holds, I’ll do whatever I can for her.
When you have kids, you often hear phrases like – cherish them when they’re little because it won’t last for long. And after a while, sadly, nuggets of wisdom like this become throwaway platitudes because you’ve heard them so many times. But actually, if you can take them with a degree of substance and a moment of consideration, there’s usually something in them.
I know my kids are growing up and there’ll come a time when their childhood days are behind them, and we’ve only our unreliable memories and a bunch of photos to remind us of those childhoods.
Just need to remember to tell myself to cherish them when they’re little because it won’t last for long.