My oldest daughter, now eight, recently came to me with a request. "I've finally saved up enough money to buy high top sneakers. Can we please go to Justice today so I can buy them?" (The request may also have involved a great deal of hopeful hand-wringing.)
I still recall the first time I entered Justice. After gaining my bearings amidst the proliferation of peace signs, glitter, and neon, I had one thought cross my mind: I'm not ready for this stage of parenting. A second thought came close on its heels: this store makes my teeth hurt. The animal prints, the conflicting patterns, the music, the slogan-strewn shirts, the overwhelming saturation of pinks and purples -- the entire store, in fact -- seems calculatedly fabricated to incite dizziness, cloud judgment, and dull reasoning until you're deluded into thinking, "Oh, a storewide 40% off sale... that's a novel thing..."
But there was something so genuine about my daughter's request. She had saved up her own money, after all, ferreting away loose change and the occasional dollar bills that had been tucked into cards from grandparents and relatives. So, we went.
Originally, she gravitated toward pair of hot pink high tops decked out with plaid and lace. I gently talked her down from that ledge, and she then turned her attention to these sneakers, which are downright neutral in comparison.
She carried them to the counter, paid with a combination of coupons, coins, and scrunched up dollar bills from her change purse, and carried her package home proudly.
I thought that this story was finished at this point. I really did. But later that day, a loosely-formed question flitted across my consciousness. "Reese, we were just near the mall earlier this week, so why did you wait until yesterday to tell me that you had saved enough money?"
"Because I didn't have enough money until yesterday."
Gears started spinning. I couldn't recall any opportunity for her monetary advancement in the previous 48 hours. "So, how did you get the extra money?"
"Oh, that's simple. I sold Brooke some stuff."
I felt my eyebrow involuntarily rise. "What stuff?"
"You know, that bracelet that I just broke. She always liked that bracelet."
I'm not sure I want to know, but I'm compelled to ask anyway. "How much did you charge her?"
"Just eight dollars. Maybe nine."
Safe to say, we've now had a brief lesson on the ethics of extorting younger siblings. You know, it's all part of taking small steps to prevent further injustices at Justice.