Well yesterday was payday, so today I spent my day in the mall while my daughter went back-to-school shopping. She has been waiting for this moment since August 1st rolled around and all the catalogs began showing the newest fashions. She understands that August is not a good financial month for educators on 11 month contracts and patiently bided her time.

While she was waiting I had the opportunity to think about how I wanted to approach this shopping season. As luck would have it my Allure magazine arrived featuring Jennifer Garner Affleck, the quintessential girl next door. Her mother allotted her a budget of a couple hundred dollars and told her to have at it. With that money she had to buy a coat suitable for West Virginia winters as well as all of her other clothing items. From this experience she learned to craft a budget. While I doubt Ms. Garner needs one these days, it is a good skill to have. I thought her mother’s approach was pure genius and decided to give it a try.

I decided to do $150.00 just for fall/winter clothes including a coat. My daughter, teenager “H” is growing so fast that it is doubtful anything she buys now will fit her for more than a couple seasons. When I told H about her budget she thought this was a ridiculous amount of money and wondered how she would spend it all. Then she began looking at coats she liked. She quickly realized what she wanted and could afford were two different things, so she had to make some compromises. She also wanted some shirts, a dress, and various other items.

Our shopping day was an adventure. H grabbed her friend “L” for shopping support, but forgot to grab her cell phone or wear a watch. First, we went to Old Navy where the entire store was 30% off. I ended up getting many more items than she did and now feel totally stocked for next summer. Then we went next door to Dick’s Sporting Goods. This was eye-opening for me as H spent a whopping $22 on socks. Yes, socks. I never would have thought socks where such an important part of that girl’s wardrobe but apparently they are.

Then we headed over to Southpoint Mall at about 1:00. On our way over we discussed meeting up at 2:00. This gave H and L an hour to get their bearings and let me know their plan. I disdain malls and have no idea why I used to love them. Being the genius I am I told the girls I would wait at Nordstroms Bistro safely tucked away from the crowd. Well, 2:00 rolled around and they were nowhere to be found. Then came 2:30. Finally at 3:00 I gave the Nordstroms Bistro lady a note and decided to go looking for them. In the back of my mind I was trying to figure out what level my Worry-O-Meter should be humming at. H is an uber responsible kid. She is the 5-minutes-early type that gets everyone into the car on time for church. Yet I also knew how intoxicating this day was for her and guessed she had forgotten the plan and was gleefully trying on clothing items. Her friend L has never paid attention to time so I was not confident she would be reminding H of our meeting. Southpoint isn’t exactly the most dangerous mall in America and I knew the girls won’t leave the mall on their own, so when considering all the facts my internal Worry-O-Meter just didn’t have the gumption to get past mild even though the evidence suggested it should be much higher.

As luck would have it, I spotted my aunt riding up the escalator — she happened to be at the mall too! We devised a plan. She covered Nordstroms Bistro while I searched on foot. Not five minutes after we began our mission the teenage girls showed up at the Bistro.

As a parent you have a few options in a situation like this. In addition to feeling relieved, I could have chosen to be mad, upset, or worried. I chose to be none of the above. My daughter has proven over and over again she is responsible over the years. She made a mistake that was out of character so I decided to acknowledge it and move on. Driving home she asked me if there was a consequence for her oversight and I said, “Not this time. If you do it again, absolutely. But you get a pass this time.”

Parenting is an interesting intersection of meeting yourself and navigating societal norms. When I make mistakes, I like it when I get a pass and someone says, “No worries.” That is the ‘meeting myself’ part. I hate making mistakes. I really don’t like to dwell on them longer than necessary because they make my skin crawl. On the other hand, life has real consequences and making people wait because you forgot the rendezvous time is poor form, causes worry, and many other negative things. I think most parents would have been upset as that is the societal norm part.

If it happens again then we will have a whole different issue. Of course, next time she won’t leave without a cell phone or a watch either. But I’m still going to Nordstroms Bistro — their tomato basil soup is ridiculously good.

I distain malls.