It used to be you left any attraction through a normal ol’ turnstile. No more. Now everything exits through the gift shop. And if you don’t exit through the gift shop, you exit three inches to the right of the gift shop. Because, you know, you need a souvenir to commemorate that trip to the museum of SomethingtheFuck Happened Here in 1865.
Every parent despises gift shops. But preschooler parents have a special burning hate for them, because preschoolers:
1. Want all the things all the time.
2. Don’t understand the concept of money.
3. Throw tantrums in public.
Generally, you have two choices. You can walk through the gift shop briskly, look like the meanest parent in the universe, and deal with the resulting screams and shrieks as you drag your unmoving, going-limp-in-protest brood through the door.
Alternately, you can cave. And admit it: mostly, you cave. There are many possibilities at this point, all of them horrible.
1. You will be doomed to clean up whatever your kid buys. Your kid has too many toys already. You’re already stepping on Legos, and plastic sharks, and whatever else you bought on vacations of yore. Whatever your kid picks out this time will only add to the mess. And you’ll be the one cleaning it. Hopefully he won’t pick the Toobe O’ Tiny Animals.
2. Your kid will pick the Toobe O’ Tiny Animals. Found at zoos, museums, aquariums across the globe, these things cost approximately a dollar per made-in-China, inch-high, molded plastic figurine. They will get lost. They will clog the toilet. They will get everywhere, and this will be one of life’s enduring mysteries, because your kid will never play with them ever.
3. Your kid will demand the most expensive, enormous plushie in the store. You will find yourself trying to explain, rationally, to a non-rational being why a five-foot-wide octopus will not fit in your house, and that its price is more comparable to a weekly food budget than a souvenir purchase. You will attempt to steer them to the identical smaller model. It will not work.
4. Your kid will take forever to decide what he wants. A half hour later, your 5-year-old is still wandering dreamily between aisles of toobes and chompies and plushies, showing no signs of making a decision. Your attempts to prod him into a choice are all in vain. You will not be leaving until the need for dinner turns him into a screeching, tantruming monster.
5. Your kid will keep changing his mind. Every item will be more expensive than the last. Or bulkier than the last. Or have more tiny pieces than the last. You will approach the checkout line over and over, only to hear, “Wait! I’m not sure!” Dig in for doomsday.
6. Your kid has a normal enough name to want the monogrammed keychain that will stop flashing and provoke a tantrum in approximately 24 hours. You will rue the day you named your kid “Steven” when he demands everything emblazoned with his moniker. Alternately, you will curse the decision to name your hippie spawn Falcon when he freaks out that he can’t buy a pencil with his name on it.
7. Half the gift shop is filled with adult-themed, extremely expensive fragile glass objects located three feet from the kid-themed, super-cheap, easily-hurled projectile items. You will spend half the time trying to keep your kid from throwing things in their direction and the other half calculating what percentage of their glass seashell sales comes directly from preschooler breakage.
8. You have Amazon and can precisely calculate the markup on each item. It’s usually somewhere around 350%. But it doesn’t count, because it’s on Amazon and you’re in the Museum of Educational Things Immediately Forgotten in Wake of the Gift Shop.
9. You wanted to teach your kid about stingrays. You ended up teaching them about greed and capitalism. Face it: your kid turns into Veruca Salt as soon as he discovers the gift shop exists. The easiest way to avoid it? Deny them the privilege when they whine for it too much. You’ll still drag screaming kids out of the gift shop. But at least you frog-marched them through without buying anything.
Related post: 50 Lessons in Parenting Young Kids