The other day at Target, the girls and I did their back-to-school shopping. On the list? New backpacks for both girls.
Kallan quickly collects all of the smaller items on her list and then announces she would like to buy a ball with her own money. She runs off to select the perfect bouncy ball from one of those large steel cages that hold hundreds of balls. From all the way across the store, I can see the rejected balls rolling and bouncing in the aisles as she tries to free the perfect ball.
And Maj stays with me to look at the backpacks.
“I think I want one of those messenger bags this year.”
“Or maybe not, because then all of the weight is on my one shoulder. And I’m not sure I could fit my lunch bag in here. So maybe a regular backpack.”
“But it has to be the perfect backpack.”
“Mother? Stop helping me. How am I supposed to think if you keep interrupting?”
She pulls down a bright blue backpack, “OK, so this one is nice, but it just has one big compartment. I need two big compartments so my lunch doesn’t sit next to my folders.”
She puts it back and selects another, “OK, so not that one. This one has two compartments, but then it has weird extra zippers in the front. So not this one.”
She reaches for another one, “This one is good, but I don’t like the color.”
And this one? Has pull-strings where there should not be pull-strings.
And this one? Is too boyish looking.
Kallan reappears to hand me a lavender colored ball and to announce she is headed over to the shoe department to try on shoes.
Maj is still working through the backpacks. I sit down on the tiled floor and start emailing people on my iPhone.
This one? Has the manufacturer’s label too prominently displayed.
And this one? Has foreign words printed on it that she is afraid are inappropriate.
And this one? Has wheels. No wheels for Maj.
And this one? Is too difficult to tighten.
And this one? Has characters on it and is far too babyish.
Kallan reappears with shoes and several purses. She models them all for me, but has money to buy none of these items.
Maj again, “How am I supposed to think in the middle of a fashion show? Tell her to stop getting in my brain, Mother. I can’t think.”
Kallan heads off to return the shoes and the purse and to see if she can find a magazine she claims I promised to buy for her.
Maj is all thoughtful . . . this one? Is too girly.
And this one? Does not call to her.
And this one? Makes her look short.
And this one? Has stars in a weird shade of green that make her think of snot.
And this one? A girl she hates at school had this backpack last year.
And this one? Is too flimsy.
And this one? Makes her look like she’s going on a hiking trip.
And this one? Is maybe the one.
I hurry to compliment this last bag, “Oh, I like that one, Maj! It’s perfect! The right color. The correct number of compartments and nice zippers. The right size and shape and brand. It’s perfect. It’s you!”
Maj is pleased and twirls around, trying to get a sense of how she will look as she walks into school next Tuesday to start the new year. I walk with her to a nearby mirror and watch as she checks herself out. She seems pleased.
But on the way back to the backpack display? She is plunged into doubt.
“I just don’t know if this backpack is calling to me, Mother.”
“It’s perfect, Maj.”
“You say that. But I’m not sure.”
She takes it off and stares at it testily, “I want a backpack that exceeds all of my expectations. I do not feel as though my expectations are being exceeded here, Mother.”
“It’s your call, babe. I want you to be happy with your choice.”
Maj is quiet for a moment and then, “Is there any chance you will take me somewhere else to look for backpacks in the next few days?”
“Sure. If that’s what you want to do.”
“Because I am thinking this is not my perfect backpack.”
“OK, then. Put it down. No problem.”
She puts it down.
Kallan reappears, “Did Maj choose a backpack yet?”
I start rolling our cart down the aisle, “Nope. She’s going to wait and shop somewhere else.”
Kallan grabs the cart to stop me, “Wait! I still need a backpack. Which one did Maj almost choose?”
Maj points to the blue and green backpack that, in the end, did not exceed her expectations.
Kallan dances over to it, picks up the backpack, throws it in the cart, “I like it. I’ll buy that one.”
I turn to Maj, “Are you OK with that? Last chance, Maj. If you want this backpack, you can buy it. But if you don’t want it? I’m going to let Kallan get it. Your call.”
Maj is all crabby, “Let her get it. I told you I don’t want it, Mother.”
Since that day?
I have taken Maj to four other stores.
And she does not yet have a backpack.
Kallan has the backpack Maj wants.
And the bitterness of that realization?
Exceeds all of Maj’s expectations.