What My Kids and I Learned in Line for Build-a-Bear’s Pay Your Age Day at the Mall of America

After reading a myriad of responses online and the news media frenzy over Build-a-Bear’s Pay Your Age Day, I feel like a reasoned response is necessary from someone who actually went there, stood in line with two kids, and walked away with a positive experience.

The line at MOA by 9:00AM

I like to think of myself as a thrifty mom.  A real deal hunter.  I want the most bang for my buck and I want the best quality of stuff I can get for it.   So when I saw the Build-a-Bear “Pay Your Age Day” ad, I was totally down.  I made plans with a mom friend, we brought toys and snacks and books and strollers and baby wearing devices.  We knew there would be a line and we got there early.  I checked the rules on Build-a-Bear’s website and knew one of us would be able to hop out of line for potty or food emergencies if need be.  We got there at 8:40, made it up to the store by 12:30, and were out of the store with bears by 1:00.  My kids did a great job, all things considered, even though there were frustrations and potty emergencies and babies crying when they should be napping.

The line at MOA by 11:00am

Did I know walking into this just how long we’d be waiting?  Nope.  Was I prepared as much as I could be?  Yup.  Was I absolutely ready and willing to walk right out of the Mall of America with empty hands if my kids were having total melt down temper tantrums or they ran out of bears because we didn’t get there soon enough?  You betcha!  Whether it was my four year old having behavior issues or my baby just being a baby or too little supply and too much demand, it didn’t matter to me BECAUSE… and I really can’t stress this highly enough…


These are heavily discounted stuffed animals.  These are not emergency food rations.  There is no Hurricane Katrina rolling through this shopping mall.  To quote the great philosopher Brian Regan, this is NOT the last helicopter out of Vietnam.

Whether we walked away with a stuffed bear/cat/dinosaur/dragon/unicorn for each of my kids or not ultimately DID NOT MATTER.  Because at the end of the day, they have other toys.  They have clothes on their backs and beds to sleep in and homes to live in and a family who loves them.  They would have survived.

Would we have been frustrated and disappointed if we’d waited for hours and hours and not been able to get a bear?  Absolutely.  But there would have been at least a dozen simple, but extremely valuable life experiences for my four (almost five) year old in it that he would not soon forget.


Life. Isn’t. Fair.  You can’t always get what you want.  Sometimes even when you show up and do exactly what you’re supposed to, things don’t work out the way you planned.  There’s a difference between wants and needs.  Resources are finite, not endless.  People make mistakes.  The early bird gets the worm.  And even the good ole’ “There are starving kids in Africa who don’t have *ANY* toys.”

These may seem like folksy dated colloquialisms, but there’s so much wisdom in them.  And they’re necessary lessons we all need to learn!  Disappointment is a valid and important life experience that everyone has to go through and learn to deal with.  To deny my kids a chance to experience that reality would be not preparing them well for the world I will one day release them into as young adults.

Entitlement.  It’s deeply embedded in us as Americans, isn’t it?  We’ve been told we have certain unalienable rights, and according to the Constitution, we do.  But despite what our hearts and clever advertisements and even popular philosophies tell us, we aren’t actually entitled to happiness.  We are entitled to the pursuit of it.

We all learned a lot of things yesterday.  I learned my kids are capable of a lot more than I give them credit for.  My four year old learned that enjoying the end goal made the work of waiting totally worth it.  Not only that, there is no way he will forget this experience and that said, there are tons of lessons I can teach him as he gets older, using that as an example.  Moreover, I learned my baby actually can nap in his stroller, can wait more than a few mins for what he wants— a life changing lesson for me for sure!

And believe it or not, my four year old actually asked me this morning if we could do it again, including the long wait, so he could get a sparkly dinosaur for his Auntie.

I couldn’t be more proud of them.  And given the opportunity to learn all of these valuable lessons, I’d do it again.  In a heartbeat.  Thanks, Build-a-Bear and MOA!