Rosa Martinez

I was confronted with a great dilemma: which toy to buy? Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, June 23 — The end of the school year is approaching, and my little girl is among the top three in her class.  Although some psychologists advise parents not to reward  children for getting good grades in school, I ignored those scientific opinions and decided to encourage my eight-year-old Tania by buying her a nice toy.

After all, with her having completed 10 months of study, getting up early every day and doing all the other tasks demands by school, she deserved a gift.  Right?

With that goal in mind, I headed to the one place where I could reach my objective: a “dollar store” in my municipality (as for the stores that sale in regular domestic currency? – don’t even think about it).  In Guantanamo, contrary to other provinces, we don’t have a store that sells toys exclusively, so I went to the one that had the most variety.

Once there, I was confronted with a great dilemma: which toy to buy?  During the summer, most children —if not all— think only of jumping, running or walking; in short, expending the greatest amount of energy possible.

This made me think that a bicycle would be the best gift for my oldest child to enjoy during her well-deserved vacation.  But I was shocked when I saw the price; it made me want to shoot out of the store running.  It would have taken my whole salary for at least six months to be able to buy that mini bicycle.

The peculiarity of living on an island is that it holds us isolated from the world but allows all the children in the country to head for the beach during our steamy summers.  That made me think, “We always go to the river or the beach, so why don’t I buy her a beach ball, a raft, diving equipment or a volleyball ball.”

The Cuban school year is coming to and end. Photo: Caridad

Unfortunately, none of these options were possible. In the store there was no type of ball; and the raft that I found was too small, it was for two to three-year-old children.  And as for a “diving set,” the salesperson —dumbfounded— told me, “We’ve never sold anything like that.”

The idea occurred to me of a coloring book or one on animals, which she likes a lot.  “There’s no better a gift than a book,” I said to myself.  But she already has a lot of books that she still hasn’t read, plus she can always buy one of those.  So no, I finally turned against that idea.

I could have chosen to buy her a pair of shorts for this heat, or a baseball hat to protect her from the sun, but I don’t like giving her personal articles on special occasions.  Those I can buy whenever, it’s my obligation as a mother.

I was left with no other alternative than to buy what she least desired: a doll.  I haven’t got anything against dolls, and my daughter plays with any type or color – big or small, pretty or ugly.  She finds a certain charm in all of them.

However, I had the hope of coming home with something much more interesting.  Just like what must occur with all working parents here, with the little bit of money that I had and the few options, I didn’t have much of an alternative.

I got home with the doll, which —though it didn’t sing, didn’t speak and didn’t blink— cost me a good 10 CUCs (US $12).

I decided that since I couldn’t buy a really creative toy for my little girl, I would reward her with more outings than usual this year.  We’ll take more walks to the park, at least one trip to the zoo and another one to Santiago de Cuba, which always fascinates her as much as me.

Then too, we’d go on some other adventure to Santa Catalina, an area in the country full of vegetation, animals and fruits.  Along with her brother, her father and I, I’m sure she’d enjoy that more than the best toys. Don’t you think? 


2 thoughts on “A Gift for Tania

  • Rosa
    While it would have been nice you could have afforded those other things you wanted for your daughter I believe that what you describe (expending time as a family) is even better gift!

  • What a wonderful and universal story. In Canada, we also want to provide our children with the best. Although the choices are not limited-finances and money are. It was wonderful to read this tale and know all parents desire the same for their children. Enjoy your summer!

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