Fathers of little girls are the most prone to falling prey, and once ensared in this trap, they are powerless to stop it. It is indeed a true WMD – weapon of mass debt.
Case in point:
My husband enjoys taking Sam to Southpoint Mall because there is a lot for her to do there. She already has her little routine: She starts with a trip to the outdoor fountain area, and then makes her way into Barnes and Noble’s children’s section for some reading time and play time. Sometimes, she’ll get away with asking for a new book to take home. Occasionally she’ll take a detour into the Apple Store to play with an iPhone or an iPad, but that’s only if we’re not rushing her to go inside the mall building. Then when inside, she will either want to eat her noodles with bread first, or will head straight for the playground and expend some energy. Then she will ask for her ice cream with sprinkles and her cookie with M&Ms, but she only ends up getting one or the other (because of the sugar high). Her last stop is in the Gymboree or Crazy 8 stores to watch a little bit of TV. Suffice to say, it is a staple venue of entertainment for the entire family; at least I get to window shop and to my husband’s delight, a major part of it only costs him some calories.
Sam has always been fascinated by the elevators and escalators, and lately she’s been wanting to ride them up and down to get to her various destinations inside the mall. One time, my husband allowed her to create her own path, and somewhere in the middle she stumbled across Frankie the balloon man. Of course without hesitation, she headed straight for him, jumping up and down saying, “I want a balloon Daddy! I want a balloon!” probably a little over a hundred times in one breath.
My husband was quick to check how much one custom-made balloon would cost, and when he saw people were putting in $1 as tips, he quickly agreed — what’s $1 to make his little girl happy? Sam shyly asked for a helicopter (The boy before her got one) and once she held onto it, never quite let it go after that. Her daddy was proud and pleased to have made her that happy. The mall routine carried on as usual, with an extra skip in both their steps.
The next time we visited the mall, Sam took my hand as we got out of the car and she told her dad, “I want to show Mommy the balloons Dad!” Read: Mommy’s turn to take me to get a balloon. So again my husband complied and handed me the $1 — I assume he was thinking once she got that out of her system, then his balloon days would be over. This time Sam decided she wanted a butterfly, and fluttered all over the mall with it.
A few weeks later, my husband broached the idea of going back to the mall, thinking that a sufficient amount of activity had happened between then and our last trip that Sam would have forgotten about Frankie. Of course, she did not disappoint and once she was released from her stroller seatbelt, she completely skipped a large chunk of her routine and headed straight for where she last saw Frankie. My husband and I were both amazed at her spatial recognition memory as she knew exactly how to get to him. The jumping and the I-want-a-balloon-Daddy chatting resumed once more, and again $1 went to a balloon hat.
After a few more trips, my husband noticed that her usual routine had now morphed into one that involved a stop at Frankie’s station, forgetting most of the activities that didn’t involve $1 tips. Each time as well, when he’d ask Sam what she wanted to do that day, instead of her usual reply of swimming or playing on the playground, she would automatically say, “I want to go to the mall daddy and get a balloon!”
There were even times he tried to park in a different area in the mall, or distract her long enough so that by the time we’d get to Frankie’s station, he would most likely be gone, but all his efforts failed. Sam knew where to find him, regardless of the entrance she came through, and she would hold her ground and refuse to eat or play unless she went to see Frankie first.
At one point I checked the playroom and we had a collection of semi-deflated balloon puppies, flowers, hats, butterflies and all other kinds of things. As my husband started throwing them out, you could see by the pained look on his face that he was counting the $1 tips he was about to throw away.
Nowadays, Sam requests to go to the mall just to get a balloon, and no matter how hard my husband tries to convince her otherwise or bribes her with other activities and tries to distract her from Frankie, somehow he finds himself dishing out his wallet for yet another $1 to please his persistent little Sam. Each time he looks at me thinking, “what did I get myself into?”, I can only laugh. That is between him and his daughter. But really — he has no idea…Frankie is only the beginning. 😉