I fanned my neck with the Shedd Aquarium map and searched the signs overhead for the entrance to the dolphin show, oblivious to the dangers lurking behind me on row upon row of overstuffed, expertly lit shelves. Only when my daughters dry humped my legs, their squeals of excitement echoing through the crowd, did I turn toward the source of their frenzy.
The museum gift shop.
Specifically, the stuffed, near life-sized beluga whale display.
I gripped my purse strap tight to my body, as if that simple act would protect me from the onslaught of their impending souvenir attack, and searched for a distraction. Sharks! There’s nothing like sharp teeth and beady eyes to distract frenzied, pint-sized consumers.
Without comment, I quickened my pace and headed toward the Wild Reef exhibit.
“Mom, come back! These beluga whales are only $4.99! Can I get one? Can I?” Ava said.
I should have used my well-honed selective hearing and kept walking. Instead I looked at the price tag – $49.99. Whaaaat? Did my kid need glasses? Or a remedial math lesson?
“Can I get one too?” Rhys said.
“No. These whales are expensive. Let’s go watch the dolphin show.”
“But Mom, you can get it for my birthday next week,” Ava said.
“Me, too.” Rhys said, forgetting her birthday was in May.
Unwilling to be the bad guy yet, I said, “I’ll think about it. Let’s go see the dolphins.”
As the dolphins flipped and splashed, Ava elbowed me every three minutes to ask, “Did you think about it yet?” I cursed the gift shop and myself for my rookie delay tactic.
My children aren’t easily dissuaded. Like Great Whites eyeing a shiny appendage, they smell my discomfort with saying no, then circle, strike and clamp on for the kill.
If I didn’t handle this firmly and decisively, my daughters would badger me incessantly, like feral birds nipping at Tippy Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film.
“Girls, we’re not buying souvenirs today. Our gift is coming to this museum.”
And then we held hands and skipped off together to fondle the live stingrays.
Thankfully, the hallway outside the gift shop was filled with moans and wails from other kids whose parents refused to buy another stuffed anything.
I wanted to tantrum too. But first I needed a snack.
As we ate our popcorn amid exaggerated silence and pouts, I wondered how fun mommy had quickly morphed into tired and pissed off mommy. Screw that. I decided to have fun even if my daughters were disappointed and sullen.
Once I made that decision, I ignored my kids’ exasperated sighs and complaints and enjoyed the rest of our oceanic outing, especially the playful beluga whales. I may buy myself a stuffed one. Just for fun.