This is the story of the time I lied to our four year old. No, not about the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I didn’t lie to her about how eating green vegetables will give her magic hair like Rapunzel or that if she isn’t asleep in five minutes the fairies won’t be able to come and sprinkle her with fairy dust (that is what I call regular dust in my house; our home is incredibly magical). I lied to her about dog clothes.
It happened so quickly, we were out with her and her brother buying dog food at the local pet store when she passed an aisle filled with brightly coloured clothing. There were sports-jerseys, cable-knit sweaters and tutus, yes, tutus. My daughter saw the clothes and rushed over, running her hand down the length of shiny and delicate fabrics. “Mama,” she asked me, “Are these clothes for babies?”
“Um,” I staggered, not knowing what the truth would cause her to want to do to our 14-pound poodle, Coco, so I lied.
“Yes, dear. Yes they are.”
We continued on to the back of the store, herding her brother like one of the cats that was on display for adoption, got the food we needed and headed home. I’ve been reflecting over why I lied to her, and why telling her the truth would bother me in the first place.
Now, this isn’t a post mocking people who buy those pet-costumes (I have to call them costumes, because the idea that an animal could have a better wardrobe than me is somewhat humiliating), nor is it a ploy to be judgemental or superior about how people spend their money. I’m sincerely intrigued at how marketers convinced a segment of pet owners that their animals were ill-dressed in their own fur and coats, so much that they needed to purchase man-made items to make them resemble little humans.
Back to the lie. I suppose I didn’t want to get into a discussion about why someone would buy clothes for their pets (because I, quite frankly, don’t have the answer to that), and I also don’t want my daughter thinking that she can use our dog as a living (albeit, hairy) barbie-doll for playtime. It brings me to why I try to avoid bringing her to big-box stores that sell their milk and vitamins alongside toys featuring her favorite animated character (she’s a 4-year-old girl, take a guess who that is).
It’s not that we avoid shopping altogether, but I’ve noticed that it is a very quick jump from “Mama, can I look at the toys?” to “I want this! I need this! Pretty pretty please?!” Desire breeds dissatisfaction [tweet this]. Sure, children get a bad rap for being greedy and demanding, but we adults often set the bar for that behaviour by acting even more entitled and unsatisfied.
Think back to the last purchase you made for yourself. Was it an article of clothing? Perhaps a kitchen gadget or a household appliance. How soon after purchasing and using it were you comparing the other items in your home to the newer, shinier, upgrade? “Now that we have a stainless stove, the fridge looks old and dingy” or, “My new leather jacket is nice but it would look so much better if I had some proper boots to go with it.” If we are continually on the lookout for the next best thing then we are unable to savour any enjoyment we receive from our new items in the first place.
I don’t think it’s wrong to have nice things. I don’t even think it’s wrong to buy something new. I just think we need to be aware of how closely our purchases and possessions are linked to our emotions and desires. By cultivating a spirit of gratitude and purpose, we will be able to look past the want for more. And perhaps, one day, nobody will know what that aisle of clothing in the pet store is for.