Children and Retail

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“Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!”

Her little high pitch squeals could be heard from across the store. She stumbled only once but caught her balance before she hit the ground. Her shoes lit up with every step, and glittered as the lights reflected in every jewel adorning the little sneakers. She only hesitated to take a breath maybe three times the whole run across from one end of the store to the other. Her eyes gleamed with pure innocent joy.

It fell off her head. She stopped, picked up the bra, and put it back on, looping her arms through the straps to keep it in place. Smart kid. She continued to run to the other end of the store, lungs fully warmed up. It was impressive. Her mother ran behind….frantic and embarrassed.

I laughed. This is what made retail worth while.

The variety of parents and children you see in retail is fascinating. I especially like observing the children. Not in a creepy way. In the kind of people watching way that the common (bored) employee does. It’s lively and authentic. I say that because every child I observe has the ability to add excitement to the trip. Some cry. Upset that mom isn’t paying attention to them. Some half complain and half entertain themselves with the varying objects they encounter. Some children try to be helpful. Some just run around the store gleefully expressing themselves with a bra on their heads. Those last two tend to be my favorite.

I remember one little girl a few months ago. Her mother had that look about her. High maintenance, wealthy husband, never had anyone say no to her. The little girl, just sweet as can be. Her mother was looking at jewlery and she so desperately wanted to help her mom. She was reaching for necklaces on her tippy toes and climbing on carts and counters to reach those pretty dangling chains. She’d slip them over her little head and dance over to her mom saying “Mama look. Oohlala!” In her little child voice that sounded so out of place. Her dress would twirl. Even now women love dresses that twirl. The mother would look, slightly amused, make a single comment, and then ignore her daughter to look further for an appropriate accessory. Sometimes she wouldn’t look, and her daughter would scold her. She just wanted to be pretty. She just wanted someone to notice her pretty.

I enjoyed that little girl. I enjoyed her sense of wonder. I enjoyed her little “oohlala” and the little fancy shuffle she did every time she put on something she though was pretty. I admired that spirit. That fearless confidence that children have. They don’t care what people say. They don’t care how they look with a necklace that hangs down to their feet. All they know is they like it. They need no approval, just attention. They want someone to look and admire their exploration of self. I admit I admire it and envy it. I wish I had that kind of innocent confidence. That need for no ones approval. To be that kind of childlike beauty.

I often wonder what happens to that quiet confidence in people. Where does that go? Does it become prey to social convention? Does it disappear when childhood does? Do we lose it when we realize that creativity outside of function, is frowned upon? I venture to suggest all the above. I think adulthood takes a great deal of our confidence and creativity away. Not because we lack creativity when we are older, but because to be creative can sometimes mean being deemed a little bit crazy. Out of the ordinary.

I love graphic design. I know it sounds like a random topic switch, but just hang with me a sec. I love it because I get to incorporate playtime with work. I love drawing. I love critical thinking and problem solving. I love coloring. I love being able to come up with solutions. I love playing with ideas on my computer. I love presenting the options and seeing that moment when a client gets the idea. When I capture their interest. I especially love when they are a small business owner who is finally seeing their dream come true. They get to see their creativity live. Have function. I get the perfect combination of learning and play. It’s almost as fun as playing dress up with mom at the store.

When I’m not designing, I’m critiquing designs. Figuring out ways to make them better. More functional. Because of my childlike joy with design, I also have the gift of childish authenticity…okay I complain like a kid who has been in the store too long. I say what I like and don’t like shamelessly. I don’t like things that are too wordy. I don’t like fake embossing and am not a fan of gradients and drop shadows. Foil printing in large amounts is gross. I hate the typeface Papyrus! Really hate it. It’s cheap. Awful to work with. So over used, and…over valued. Hate it so much….that I’m glad the Egyptian empire fell because they have hieroglyphics that were just to close to the style of Papyrus, and I don’t care how cool their culture is. That kind of hatred. I’m not afraid to say it.

Anyway I digress. Where was I? Oh yes…

We never take the time to just play. Or to find places for ourselves that let us play. We don’t take the time to do what we enjoy. To be a little crazy and funny. To laugh. To be ourselves. We just don’t take the time to be authentic. To be real. Honestly, we just don’t run around department stores screaming enough….especially with bras on our heads. That part is important. We should do that more.

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