"Are you here today for a birthday or special occasion?" asked the cheerful Build-A-Bear employee as she led us to the giant blowy stuffing machine.
Cassandra has had a slight eye turn problem for the past couple of years. It's not at all noticeable just by looking at her. We only see it when we bring a pencil slowly towards her nose, the way someone learns to cross their eyes. At a certain point close to her nose, one or both eyes give up and shoot in the opposite direction. This could be a horrible hindrance to her future, severely limiting her opportunities in the pencil-staring industry.
Actually, it could cause problems with her reading ability, if gone unchecked. Something to do with her eyes converging on the page. So we have her in vision therapy, doing eye exercises on the computer. It was supposed to be weekly, and now we're back to four times a week. With homework, dance, gymnastics, and play dates there's never a good time to do these exercises. Therefore, it has become quite a struggle to get her to put much effort into them at all. (I have to admit that it's my wife bearing the lion's share of this burden.)
In an effort to keep Cassandra interested, we've turned to the tried-and-true parenting technique of bribery. She'd been asking for another trip to Build-A-Bear Workshop for a while, and I wondered if letting her pick out six or seven outfits along with a new friend would give her weekly incentives to do her eye exercises without complaining. A few weekends ago, we went and picked out a koala Cassandra had seen in the catalogue and accessorized with a box full of outfits. KiKi (inexplicably pronounced "kay-kay") was the reward for that first week of exercises, and she has since earned KiKi's glasses.
We weren't sure what to do about Alex. If he got a bear not as a reward but just as a gift, would that diminish Cassandra's incentive? If he didn't get one, would it be punishing him for not having to do eye exercises? We really didn't have any comparable task or behavior-change for him to achieve. I was also wondering, would he even want one--is he too old for this now? (I don't think so, but then I was the guy with stuffed Chip 'N Dale dolls in my college dorm room.)
Things actually worked out about as well as we could have hoped. Alex was interested in getting a new friend and a single outfit, and Cassandra didn't say anything about it being unfair that he got a bear without having to "earn" it. Alex doesn't play with Donou (the bear comes with a doughnut, as well as sprinkles on his ears and nose) as much as Cassandra plays with her animals, but he still likes having him around.
My children are growing up quickly, but in this era where it seems everything is pushing them to mature more quickly than ever, it's nice to see that there's still "kid" in them, yet.
And this was way cheaper than American Girl would've been.