Surviving a trip to the dollar store with my two oldest boys and walking out empty handed is like surviving three hours of church with my baby and walking out without him pooping all over his Sunday best.

Neither happens very often.

For some reason my boys LOVE the local bargain store. They could spend all their time – and money – shopping around its shelves. I don’t know what they see in that place. I don’t know what they see in the toys they find there.

Me? I’d rather steer clear. Because if I get anywhere near that place I know I’m probably going to end up with a new cheap toy that will get broken, or worse, lost.

It doesn’t matter what I go to the discount store to find, the second we step foot inside my boys make a beeline to the back wall. They know that’s where they’ll find all kinds of realistically fake and desperately discounted treasures – knives, swords, guns, ammo, helicopters, dinosaurs – you name it. And all of them priced $6 or less!

I hate how I have to hustle down the aisle hot on their heels because I’m scared to death that they’re going to wreak havoc on the cheap made-in-China-plastic-99-cent bargain toys. Let’s be honest, most of the toys sold in dollar stores aren’t made to last. Well, they don’t last at our house anyway. But I would like to be able to have the chance to take them home before busting them. I can’t tell you how many of our swords split in half or our gun triggers crack.

But my children are more than willing to take the toy-breaking risk. They’ll pay good money for the stuff.

When it comes to shopping at our local bargain outlet, they never seem to run out of spare cash. I know they get money from their grandparents for birthdays and Christmas, but that only happens twice a year. I know that my oldest son sold a ladybug to the neighbor girl but he only took in $0.79 cents for that. Where are these extra $1 bills coming from?

Because the second I announce we are heading to the store I turn around to find my two oldest boys stuffing their pockets with cash.

Every once in a while it’s me who chooses to go to the dollar store. I like to go there to get little gifts for neighbors and friends.

Usually on these occasions I try to prep my boys and get them in the giving spirit. But it doesn’t matter how many times I tell them we are there to buy something for someone else, they don’t understand. Or they don’t listen.

I took them to the store last week to help pick out a little something for our friend. On the way to the store I told them at least six times that we weren’t going shopping for them.

Sure enough, less than 10 minutes later we all ended up in the far corner of the toy section butting heads about buying another cheap toy.

I stood my ground and we checked out buying only our friend’s gift. But we went back the next day to buy what they “had to have.” And according to my 4-year-old, “that was the best day of his life.”

I want to be able to take my children to the store to help pick out gifts for others, but I don’t want to fight them every time.

I guess it’s only natural for them to want to get something when they see that someone else is, but I’ve got to figure out how to teach them that it’s OK to give – even when they are walking out of the store empty-handed. Otherwise I’m going to go crazy with all these cheap, crappy toys.

Now if I can teach them that, and manage to make it through church one of these weeks without my baby’s diaper exploding, I’ll have it made.

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