Souvenirs For Everyone

imagesI 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.

Baby beluga, how did I not see that coming? stuffed beluga whale

“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.

Yeah, right.

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.

77 thoughts on “Souvenirs For Everyone

  1. My favorite line: “Me, too.” Rhys said, forgetting her birthday was in May.

    I sometimes forget my birthday too, Rhys, especially if there is a stuffed whale on the line. And I hate souvenirs. It’s hard to spell and they ruin everything. We are only visiting places without in. WHich means welcome to the beach where the seashells are free is our future. Our only future.

      • Inspect those seashells. Many years ago when my kids were small, we came home from Florida with an assortment of collected shells. The car trunk began smelling bad, and it became worse with each mile. They had fun collecting live shelled animals that were dying fast. We had to throw away every shells long before Chicago was near.

  2. “Only when my daughters started dry humping my legs …” — Haha! I can see this happening right now. I did the same thing to my mom whenever I wanted some overpriced stuffed toy that I would forget about within ten minutes of the purchase! Great post 🙂

  3. That’s the worst! I’ve been in that position babysitting before, and as a broke college student, let me tell you, there was no way those kids were getting souvenirs out of me. I’ve also been that kid before–my mom will happily tell you the story of my 6-year-old self having a temper tantrum in the street because she wouldn’t buy me a souvenir in Provincetown. You’ll be happy to know that they’ll grow out of that phase–at least I did =)

  4. cripes. I got stuck getting Lovie a stupid $12 light up thing last time we were there. because some lady was sitting outside the gift shop spinning the stupid light up thing. and my 3.5 year old saw it and HAD to have it. that was in early June. she hasn’t even looked at it since. I hate damn gift shops!

  5. Those gift shops are dangerous. My wife often gives the boys a limit, and they pick something within. I have no patience for it and often end up waiting on a chair somewhere.
    Good for you for holding strong.

  6. I’d like to chip in for your cery own beluga.
    We are the proud owners of a Yellowstone mini flashlight because those government-contracted souvenir shop MFers had tons of T-shirts, sweatshirts and novelty PJs to fit my big kid and zilch for my little kid (unless you count the already purchased build-your-own buffalo which she could not count because of “it’s not fair”). In a weak moment that felt like hours we talked her into the “shut-up flashlight”.

    I’m tougher on the home front & remind them to bring their own money. I swear.

  7. When my girls (now 16 and 13!) were little, every time we went to the zoo I would allow them to pick out a small plastic animal (the good kind, like Schleich, generally under $5). We added to the collection slowly over time and kept them all in an empty diaper wipe tub. That tub of plastic animals is one of the few toys I have kept over the years because they are classic and high quality. Maybe someday (far away, I hope!) my grand children will play with them!

      • Now that they are older, they are reminded before each and every outing to bring their own money (some allowance, some earned by babysitting or extra chores). If they want something, they must pay for it with their own money and when that is gone, it’s gone. Although I have been known to give them an advance on next week’s allowance for a good reason.

  8. Gifts shops are so evil. And especially gift shops that are placed right by the main attraction, or ones that you are absolutely forced to walk through to get where you are going. You are one strong mama.

  9. I seriously do NOT know how I’ve done it, but I have trained my girls to NOT melt down and beg after I’ve said, “you may look, and play, but we are not bringing anything home with me.” It continues to stun me when they say “okay” and then play with the stuffed animals, one of them being the mommy and one of them being the baby, and then they *actually* put them back when I say to. I really don’t know how I did it. (and I’m not bragging here, I swear!)

  10. Wow!

    I guess I’m glad your decision to change your attitude was the key to enjoying the day.
    Reckon learning to spend her own birthday money wisely is as good an idea as anything. I regularly get stiffed by Niece and Neff for stuff – but the other day they had £5 each to spend at the fair, and once it was gone, it was gone. Truly. But they got the £5s from us anyway…and we each added a further 50p for them…oops!

  11. Good for you for holding your ground. They put those gift shops in strategic places on purpose. They know how to strike when you’re tired and worn down. Its like an evil plot.

  12. YES – going to the aquarium was our present! Good line! I try to say, “No, let’s save that for someone else,” or “we’ll add that to your birthday list.”

    I’ve heard the Shedd can get really pricey when you add on the special exhibits…hope you enjoyed it despite the souvenir drama!

  13. Souvenirs? Stuffed animal souvenirs at that? Oh, hurt me! And I’m sorry, but stuffed animals are such dust collecting space hogs, I think places should give them away for free. No?

    • Yes!! Actually, I’d like to give our stuffed animal collection away for free! Take six, please! But my kids appear to be attached to every one of them (especially the ones still available for purchase!). 😉

  14. omg – our gift is coming to the museum! hahaha! there must have been a moment of confused silence before the pleading began again. we just came back from the aquarium and my youngest was turning blue in the face for a shark. my husband wanted to be the good guy, so he said fine, and bought it for him. he immediately ripped off the tag and bounced out happy, until 2 minutes later, when he decided he’d made a mistake. he wanted the baby shark instead. it wasn’t pretty. sometimes, you can’t win.

  15. Oh, girl, Lord knows I’ve been there! Kudos to you for having more guts and grace than me. I would have stormed out or just left the aquarium all together in a fit of rage…and then regretted it. Glad you had a good time – the gift shop notwithstanding.

    • I have to admit, I don’t like the idea of her spending her birthday money on this stuffed animal. I want her to learn her own money lessons, but geez it’s hard to let go!

  16. The leg humping line killed me. Totally caught me off guard. I will neither confirm nor deny that I L’d of the O.L. variety.

    I am well acquainted with that kind of humping. Both from the “I want it” kids, and the “I want it” husband. Neither are easily dissuaded, unfortunately.

  17. I hate hate hate gift shops. And my kid LOVES stuffed animals, so all of the overpriced souvenirs are a big problem here too. Good for you for having fun even though the girls wanted to pout.

  18. Hahaha, you are so funny, which is just one reason why I love you. After reading this, I remembered all the times I similarly tortured my parents at gift shops. I’m surprised they didn’t leave me there – I would have.

  19. My little guy always talks about how he wants to go to the Smithsonian so he can go to the giftshop to get such and such that he didn’t get last time or to the aquarium to get this and that or the zoo so he can get… I remind him that there are real animals and exhibits and things to see and experience but you know how that goes! 😉 So funny the line about “…dry humping my leg…” that is so what happens!

  20. Ha ha ha. Oh, this is a minefield every parent has to cross. Ours was when we visited Disney Land in Paris. After much no-noing we settled on a compromise. Out of the the 10 things my 3.5 year old desperately wanted, we asked her to choose 2. After much discussion and contemplation, she finally settled on a Minnie Mouse doll and a Pluto stuffed toy. Thankfully, she hasn’t lost her fascination with them yet. It’s part of her Disney Land memories.

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