One of my the fondest childhood lessons did not come from a book,teacher or class, but rather from my mother in the toy aisle at Kmart at the age of five.
Being one of five, Mom had little time for nonsense. So on the rare occasion when we did make it to the store, which was almost always the local Kmart, the superstore of its time, we were expected to stick to her like glue. Which, we did of course.
Knowing the floor plan of Kmart like the palm of her hand, she had the ability to get in and out of there more often than not without ever passing the toy aisle. But on the rare occasion that she had a moment to spare, she would surprise us and let us roam the toy aisle for a minute or two.
In those brief moments of exploration, we did what kids do. We went crazy. Looking, exploring, playing, dreaming and if we felt Mom was in the mood, presenting her with a toy she could perhaps give “the nod” to take home.
Rarely did we get “the nod.” But over the years and through trial and error, we did figure out how to increase our odds. The toy generally had to consist of three things. First and foremost, it had to be reasonable priced (read into this on sale). Second, it had to be creative or promote growth. And third, it had to contain the words “No Assembly Required.”
We picked up on the first two criteria pretty quickly. “On sale” and “good for you” were part of our family vocabulary. But the third criteria, “No Assembly Required” took some time to figure out.
I discovered her third rule after giving her a toy for consideration. As I watched her go through the steps: On sale? Check. Good for me? Check, I caught her reading to herself, “No Assembly Required.” She then turned the box back over, looked at the front again, looked me in the eye, smiled and gave me the Nod.
Excited, I hugged her and thanked her.
Beaming as I held my toy, waiting for my sisters to pick out something for consideration, I asked. “What does “No Assembly Required” mean?”
Smiling she said, “It means you don’t have to put it together. You can open it up and play with it right now. It’s whole. It’s perfect just the way it is. Just like you.”
“Just like me?” I thought to myself. “Mom just said I was perfect like a really cool toy. Oh my God, I could explode with joy!”
Not knowing how to respond to her affirmation of my worth or even knowing what an affirmation was at the time, I hugged her and thanked her again and then realized I had to tell my sisters what I just discovered. Running through the toy aisles I whispered to each of them, “It has to say, “No Assembly Required” on it. It has to be whole and perfect just like us!”
And to this day, on the rare occasion that I do go shopping, I often find myself taking a second to walk through the toy aisle and turn over a box or two to read three of my favorite words, “No Assembly Required.”