She wanted the pencils, I could tell she did. Her daddy was sitting in the too-small chair in the children’s section of the bookstore and she was vacillating between a small, brightly colored and obviously educational activity book…or the set of pink princess pencils. She held them both, one in each hand and she quietly asked her daddy which one he thinks she should choose. He repeatedly told her it was her decision to make, she could choose either one. No sooner had the words come out of his mouth, than he was giving her a list of pros and cons about each potential choice: the pencils are pretty, but the activity book might last longer; the pencils have to be sharpened and then they get smaller and smaller, but the activity book has pages and pages of endless fun. “But the choice is yours to make,” he was sure to add.

I smiled to myself as I noticed the fathers’ inability to remain uninvolved in her decision. It was obvious to me which she would choose after his comments…what 5 year old would choose the pretty pencils after daddy clearly explained how impractical they were? I missed what happened next as my own daughter came up to me with several copies of the same board book and I realized she was rearranging the entire Sandra Boynton collection. I was somewhat glad for the distraction as it helped me maintain my cover.

When I looked up again at the daddy/daughter duo, I realized they were standing up to leave and she seemed very satisfied with herself. As they passed by me, I noticed in her hand she held the pretty princess pencils and in that moment, a strange realization came over me. I never would have chosen the pencils no matter how badly I had wanted them. And it made me think of all the other things that I do to please people or in attempts to make the “right” decision. Not only did the little girl make her own decision despite the implied frivolousness of that choice by her father, but her dad actually let her make that choice and seemed glad that she did so. And he was happy to buy the pencils for her.

I want to be more like that. Not making foolish decisions in haste or greed, but in those things where the outcome is neutral but the process is the point, I want to give myself permission to make the choice that is fun and exciting. I think as a kid I was always so worried about making the “wrong” choice in things that I had a hard time just being a kid. Sometimes you just have to choose the pencils. I think it is a liberating experience.