Can We Go to the Mall Instead? (a.k.a. Raising Snobs)

“Do people actually buy this stuff?”

Yesterday, I learned that I am raising three little snobs. Now don’t take me wrong — my kids are mostly great, and I love them to pieces. But still, they are snobs. You see, after spending hundreds of dollars on school supplies and back-to-school outfits, I thought that maybe I should try to cut costs a little. I still wanted to buy the kids some shoes, and maybe a jacket or two. So I figured, let’s go to the thrift store. Brilliant idea, right? Cheap, gently used hand-me-downs to finish out our shopping list.

I took the kids to a popular nearby thrift store, where I once actually managed to buy a pretty decent winter jacket for one of my kids. The store was crowded with people: families with wailing toddlers, mischievous children racing through the aisles, immigrant women wearing long skirts and babushkas wrapped around their heads, and then some. My own kids, overwhelmed with culture shock, clung tightly to me as we traversed the aisles, examining clothing, shoes, and even mismatched used coffee mugs.

“How about this jacket?” I held up a somewhat stylish green hoodie for my daughter to see.

She gave me a blank look. “It has stains on it.” She was right. After more careful inspection, I also noticed the greasy black stains on the sleeve and bottom of the jacket. Hmm. No wonder it only cost $2.50.

After half an hour of searching, we came up empty-handed. “Let’s try a different thrift store,” I suggested, remembering one across town, where I had once managed to find a decent pair of Gap jeans for $7.

My kids groaned. “Can’t we go to the mall instead?” But minutes later, I was dragging them into yet another thrift store. This one was less crowded, but filled with the same strange odor of dust and laundry starch, and familiar shelves of useless knickknacks, ancient appliances, and broken toys.

“Seriously, who would buy any of this stuff?” my daughter asked, staring in disgust at the world’s ugliest armchair.

“Maybe I could buy this hat for Halloween.”

Okay, seriously…who WOULD buy this stuff?

“This place is so low class,” said my oldest son, shaking his head. “I think the rich people send all their old junk to this store so the lower-class people can buy it.”

I stared at him, open-mouthed. I was half appalled by his snobbish remark, and half amused by the accuracy of his analysis. Do I say something to discourage such classist thinking? Do I reprimand him for sharing his honest opinion?

My daughter delivered the final blow. “This store is so bad, I would rather shop at Walmart.” That did it. I burst out laughing. The truth is, I agreed with my kids. I can’t stand the thrift store. I am happy to drop off our bags and boxes of gently used clothes for those who don’t mind wearing the hand-me-downs of a stranger. But really, I am not one of those people. Does that make me a snob? Maybe. Who knows?

Needless to say, we left the second thrift store empty-handed, then headed to the mall, where there are aisles filled with sequined Bobs, and trendy sushi bars, and air that smells like Cinnabon, Yankee Candle, and brand-new Guess jeans. Just the place for my three little snobs and me.

Sushi for lunch at the mall…huge contrast to our morning at the thrift store

2 responses to “Can We Go to the Mall Instead? (a.k.a. Raising Snobs)

  1. I am certainly not one to give advice on raising children. After five years of separation during the Viet Nam war, He decided he liked his grandmother’s house better than mine regardless of what private school I sent him to or what advantages I could provide. The Jesuit dictum “Give me a child until he is seven and you may have him for the rest of his life” certainly proved true in my case. But the issue is not that, it is one of how can one instill a sense of humility in a child. An understanding that some people must buy from thrift stores. To me it is akin to lessons learned in church. It’s a small thing to wear a used coat or Levi’s to understand that one’s immediate family is a part of the larger family of humanity and “better than…” Those less fortunate. There but for fortune…is true in many ways. Love your blog and think your kids are great!

    • Oh, so true! That is exactly what occurred to me in that moment, that my kids are developing an unfortunate attitude of superiority. I wish that I hadn’t laughed, because I perhaps threw away a teachable moment. It was like those times when my child says something in a smart-aleck way, and I giggle, because I am so reminded of my own tendencies. I always regret those times, when I should be parenting, and not reacting and ruining the potential lesson. My children are already so cynical, like so many of their generation, and sometimes it can be a struggle to hold onto the innocence and wonder that should define childhood.

      There is another side, too. My own memories of being the kid in middle school with the horrible, unstylish clothes and shoes make it that much more difficult for me to force my kids to wear something they do not like as a means of teaching humility. I will have to give this some thought, in order to find that magic balance. Thanks for your response, Carlos. I always love reading and considering your comments!

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