Instead of a birthday party, Mabel opted to take two friends to Build-a-Bear. So on Sunday I set off with three in the back seat and was astounded by how great they were – or maybe not astounded, because the other two are lovely and I knew they’d be no trouble. Mabel could have gone either way, mind you, since she’d been so keyed up about her birthday and the celebration that the actuality might have been too much to cope with.
But instead of anyone going off the rails, they happily read books to each other all the way there, did a conga line through the parking lot, and chanted happy Russian chants at me. (Have I mentioned that all the first graders are learning Russian? It’s hilarious.) They were thrilled to pick out their bears (actually, two dogs and a cat), watch them be stuffed, add the doo-dads, and pick a couple of accessories, and I tried not to gasp as the cash register gobbled up all my money.
The price you pay for an off-site party substitute is an actual monetary price, that’s all. Sometimes it’s worth it to not have to clean the house or bake a cake or think up entertainment or deal with screaming kids; and sometimes it’s worth it just because it really is exactly what they’ve always wanted.
And really. Ever since they were old enough to toddle inside, my kids have been obsessed with Build-a-Bear. They’ve gone in and looked around and basically played the poor orphan with face pressed up against the glass of the sweetshop while the rich children prance around actually making toys instead of pretending. And Mabel is a very gratifying present-receiver. She loves her new dog. His name is Bounder. She kisses him and talks to him and puts him to bed in his kennel box that he came with – and in a week he’ll be at the bottom of the giant barrel of soft toys but she’ll always love him just as much, and maybe even a tiny bit more, than her sixteen other dogs who all have names that she can tell you.
Not that she’s dropping any hints about what she’d really like for a present, or anything.