My son had a blast. I was a little concerned that there might be a moment or two of panic on his part as the larger than life characters made their way into the audience to greet the little ones, but my son was very brave in the face of the giant fuzzy characters and so a fun night was had by all.
Attending the event, however, did provide for plenty of observation of the spending habits of other families. Being that my family and I are on a path to financial freedom we are very conscious about the spending decisions we make. As I’ve written before we were always pretty careful with money but have recently been viewing consumption from a more philosophical angle than ever before. From this perspective I often view the spending of money to purchase “things” as wasteful of more than just money and life energy but also wasteful of our planet’s natural resources.
So as we walked into the theater I was not surprised to see multiple booths with vendors selling various items made mostly from plastic or other petroleum based materials, each with Elmo’s smiling face stamped on it in some fashion. Parents were lined up, buying multiple items for multiple kids. Now before you think I’m a heartless parent who won’t spend money on her son, I will first point out that we spent about $90 to walk through the doors of the theater that night since Elmo wants $30 from each of us to enjoy the show. And that was a cost I was willing to pay because, of course, I wanted to have this fun experience with my son. Secondly, I will say, that I wanted to buy him anything that would make him happy, but I also know that he has a lot of “things” already and buying something here would only provide a short period of enjoyment on his part. We were there for the experience, not for “things”. That being said, I walked over to one of the vendors to browse their wares. I thought I could buy a $5 thing to bring a smile to my son’s face. However, what I found amazing was that there was no $5 thing. No, the swirly light-up Elmos that 90% of the kids around us were clutching were $15.
Perhaps it’s because I am new to this sort of event, but I thought that was nothing less than insane.
So I walked away determined to not spend any more money. We made our way to our seats and sat down to enjoy the show. My son noticed the vendors walking up and down the aisles selling cotton candy and popcorn. When he asked for some I reached into my purse and pulled out a sandwich bag containing goldfish crackers. He happily munched on his crackers and continued watching the show.
Then came intermission.
Vendors were once again sent down the aisles selling all sorts of items. The bundle of balloons that were shaped like Elmo’s face caught the attention of my son, as was the intention. I watched in amazement as one parent after another went up to buy a large balloon for their child. The fools, I thought. My husband and I laughed as we made playful bets with each other about how many of those balloons would be lost against the theater’s multi-story ceiling by the end of the night.
But, alas! At 15 minutes the intermission was too long and with the show not starting up quickly enough it became more difficult to distract my son from the inflated Elmos that were taunting us from every corner of the theater. I rationally thought, “Well a balloon couldn’t be more that $5. I don’t see anything wrong with buying one for him to take home.” My husband agreed and walked over to get the balloon. Of course, the balloon was actually $10. Yep. TEN DOLLARS. For a balloon. Now who is the fool? I told my husband to make sure he clutched it with a death grip lest we became one of the fools whose $10 floated away to the ceiling.
Am I Being a Tad Harsh?
I don’t want to seem too harsh. I understand that everyone there wanted to make their children happy and they were going about it in the way they thought best. But I also know that everyone there was spending about $30 a head to get in. And when you add in expenses for souvenirs or unhealthy snack food, some families were easily spending $150 to $200 that evening. It’s our culture – we consume. But is there a better way? Can we walk the line between too much and too little?
I certainly didn’t have to buy my son the $10 balloon that is condescendingly staring down at me from its lofty position on my ceiling. Its been floating up there since we got home from the show several days ago, my son having no interaction with it since we walked through the door.
No. I could have been logical with him and told him he would forget about that $10 balloon as soon as we came home and that it is a foolish, frivolous purchase and we try to live our lives differently from the other families that were at the show. Families whose multiple children were clutching balloons and light-up swirly Elmo gizmos that were $15 each. But that is hard for a four year old to understand and I caved when he looked up at me and sweetly asked “Mommy, can I have a balloon?” Isn’t it our duty as parents to sometimes cave in the face of such cuteness?
So am I a fool for spending $10 on a balloon?
The lifestyle that I’m trying to achieve right now is all about compromise and finding the right balance. I feel good about the fact that we walked the line between frivolous and rational. I don’t want to deprive my child of all the little magical moments of childhood in an effort to retire as early as possible. (Tweet this)
That is not what I’m trying to achieve.
Luckily for us, most magical moments from childhood are completely free. Chucking rocks in the pond. Playing in the freshly fallen snow. Hiking through the woods collecting acorns. Reading a bedtime story every night.
And sometimes a balloon shaped like Elmo’s face is magical. Even if it is $10.
What do you think? Did I step over the line to foolish? What are some foolish purchases you have made?