This post appeared on my original blog in October, 2014

Hello and welcome back to the Traumatic Parenting Workshop. Today’s lesson is titled, “How to navigate the Build-a-Bear Workshop.”

Snowflake #1 and I had a Daddy-Daughter lunch date this week. It involved the mall (I’m not trying to name drop, but in these parts, “The Mall” decidedly refers to something else) and Dairy Queen.  Snowflake #1 also wanted some time in the Infectious Diseases Breeding Ground also known as the mall “play area.” The risk of becoming Patient Zero for some as-of-yet-unbirthed virus aside, given the rules of Daddy-Daughter lunch dates, a brief stop in the play area wasn’t out of the question.

The play area is strategically positioned outside of Sears, and because of this we’ve only had to visit it on the rarest of occasions. As Bethesda residents, we’re only really allowed to shop at Sears in times of emergency. I’ve never purchased anything at Nordstrom’s in my life, but I believe county bylaws actually require me to browse there first before venturing near Sears. Yes, I realize how snotty this sounds, but believe me, if I were truly into labels (other than IU and NYY), I’d have pasted Mercedes or Porsche tags all over our trusty Saturn long ago.

Anyway…

The Build-a-Bear Workshop is located next to Sears and (strategically?) facing the disease pit/play area… and they’ve come a long way since I last stepped foot inside (with my niece, at least eight years ago). Gone are the cute but mostly generic figures that the store’s title might suggest.

It was Olof who first grabbed Snowflake #1’s attention and stopped her in her tracks as though she was caught in a tractor beam. She was absolutely powerless to resist the store’s sweet siren song. Inside there were more magical and hypnotic temptations. Congratulations Build-a-Bear, you are quite literally the physical manifestation of addiction and parental love.

Snowflake #1’s favorite game at the moment is Disney Princess Palace Pets. It’s ingenious… you care for these digital animals—give them baths and jewelry and feed them—and it’s free… except for the “special” animals that aren’t… those cost $1.99 apiece. I’m not crusading against Disney Palace Pets or the fact that the only differences between the free and not-free animals is the fact the for-purchase ones belong to different princesses. It’s actually been a fantastic reward system, whether it was intended that way or not.

“Did I earn Summer today, Daddy?”
“Yes you did, Honey.*”
(* actual conversation that has taken place in our house.)

So… at the Prove My Parents Love Me Center, err, Build-a-Bear Workshop, the Palace Pets come in physical form. I would imagine that Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, or Albert Einstein had feelings of revelation similar to what what occurred to my daughter at the precise moment she noticed the Palace Pets. She’d unlocked one of the universe’s great mysteries, and she knew it. The world would never be the same.

I explained how Build-a-Bear was reserved for birthdays, aware that I wasn’t quite lying but wasn’t entirely telling the truth. I was being absolutely sincere, and there will be a time when we’ll indulge ourselves at Build-a-Bear. It just wasn’t going to be that time or that day. Most importantly, Snowflake #1 bought it, err, understood. My explanation obviously made a lot of sense. Such an amazing place couldn’t possibly exist for no reason at all.

Snowflake #1 wanted to look around, and I couldn’t deny the request. It will make our next birthday all the more special.

We found not only Olof and Princess Palace Pets, but also superhero bears (to anyone reading this, Batman Bear looked awesome, but NO, THANK YOU!) and… wait for it… My Little Ponies.

We meet again, Rainbow Dash. You’re looking as fabulous and adorable as ever.

Except you weren’t there at all.

I asked the “happiness consultant” who was obviously taking a break to replenish her cheeriness (I’m assuming that the tank was momentarily on zero because her reserves had run out). “Rainbow Dash is retired,” she told me, somewhat surprised that I wasn’t already aware of the news or had somehow missed the retirement party.

Excuse me?

Has she been put out to stud (yes, I know, I know)? Did she break a leg (or wing) and was tragically sent off to meet her maker (at the great Hasboro in the sky)? Certainly Build-a-Bear wouldn’t be so crass as to artificially create a shortage in the childhood fantasy department?

(That was a rhetorical question.)

When our birthdays roll around, it probably won’t matter. There are too many other options there that will provide happiness and elation (and prove to my girls that their parents love them, just as Build-a-Bear intended).

I also haven’t given up hope that Rainbow Dash will rise to the occasion and meet us, just in time, just like she did last time.

In the meantime, I can’t help but think it’s a little ironic that the store that enables you to “build” a friend, and give them a name and a heart, doesn’t seem to have one of their own. I should just get over it… or maybe start a Twitter-based shaming campaign.

What would Rainbow Dash do?

If you see her, please ask.