One afternoon we were having lunch with my mother-in-law at a restaurant with a gift shop attached. She told each girl they could pick out an item that was under $10. This provided us a good 20 minutes of adult time to chat and finish our meal.
The kitschy gift shop had plenty of unique items to choose from, including small, interesting toys. The girls examined each item with great care as if they were choosing a wedding dress - picking them up, testing them, reading the fine print on the packaging and consulting one another. They returned to the table after their exploration excited to show us what they had chosen.
My 11-year-old chose a small easel with two canvasses and a set of paints and paint brushes. She informed me that she was going to "create some art," which sounded like a good activity for a somewhat cold and dreary afternoon. My 7-year-old chose a "spork." I had no idea what it was until she shoved it under my nose and made me read the text.
"It's not a spoon. It's not a fork. It's a cross between the two. It's a spork!" She said proudly having bought into the promotional diatribe on the package. "And, Mommy, here's the best part. It gets longer and shorter. It's retract-tant-table."
"Wow, are you sure you want this?" I asked imagining the spork never being removed from the package and gathering dust under her bed or in the back of a messy drawer. I hate buying things my kids don't use, and I find that more often than not, they get bored with toys after awhile and stop playing with them, that the things they really like are often not toys at all.
"I'm sure," she said holding the spork to her heart with both hands.
"What are you going to use it for?" I asked one more time, just to be sure.
"Lots of things," she replied. And so, her grandmother got her the spork.
Immediately, the spork demonstrations started.
"Look, Mommy, I can eat my mandarin oranges from across the room. Isn't that cool?" She said while her sister diligently painted a sunset on her tiny easel.
Every day the spork had to be washed and put in the lunchbox because apparently it was a big hit with the second graders. One day her dad grabbed it and examined it.
"Honey, I think this is actually a backscratcher," he said extending it behind him from his neck down to his waist.
"See, Mommy, she said. It has a whole lot of uses," she said with a grin.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including two on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.