My brother decided to buy my daughter a play kitchen, which I was so excited about. I knew it would be something she would enjoy, and maybe, just maybe, she would use her kitchen to play instead of mine (jury’s still out on that one). Off we went on a Sunday afternoon for a “quick” research mission to Toys “R” Us.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been to hell, and its name is Toys “R” Us.

Toys -R- UsFrom the second you walk into the store, it’s clear the store’s mission is not to better your child in any way, but to sell you lots of stuff you don’t need. To even get past the entrance, you have to navigate a maze of junk food. We made our way past the lollipops, the cookies, the clouds of red dye #5. Luckily, my daughter is too young to be interested, but I can only imagine the fury that would ensue with a 5-year-old. That’s their game!

We got past candy purgatory and were now fully surrounded by toys. We found our way to the kitchens. There were several different models, with different features and add-on accessories. I felt like my suitability as a mother was being judged by how much plastic I would be taking home with me. If she did not have a shopping cart, a shopping cart for her doll, 10 different play food cuisines, pots, pans, and an array of small kitchen accessories that makes my wedding registry look sparse, I was clearly depriving my child. Or so Geoffrey made me feel. What irked me even more was the “gender neutral” kitchens versus the “girl kitchens.” I don’t even know what that means! Should I be hopeful that this is a step in the right direction because we are suggesting that boys should be helping in the kitchen? No, I am definitely not that optimistic. Pink is girl is pink. If only that were the worst of the genderizing…

I had to go to the bathroom, so I separated from my husband and daughter. Big mistake. I tried finding them again and got lost in a sea of pink. Oh no! I fell upon the “girls’ toys” aisles. All around me was glitter, fashion, dolls, makeup, tutus, pink, pink, and pink. There were no monster trucks in this aisle. Our friend Geoffrey is betraying my daughter at her tender young age. He is telling her she should focus on looking good, dressing up, smiling, and being pretty. He is teaching her that girls should not worry about such things as athletics and assertiveness. He is teaching her that she should take a step back for the big boys. And he’s not doing the boys any favors, either. He is teaching them that they need to be rough, aggressive, and macho. He is teaching them that to play with dolls and be nurturing is to be “girly,” which, apparently, is a bad thing. And, by the way, why are all the pretend play outfits in the girls’ section?

I found my way out of Pepto Bismol pink world and moved ahead. By the way, I had no cell phone reception, which made the whole experience even more maddening. All around me, toys were beeping, flashing, and blaring loudly. The speakers were playing that Godforsaken jingle. I don’t want to be a Toys “R” Us kid! I should note that my daughter doesn’t have many toys that require batteries. Yes, she has some. Guilty. But I much prefer the simpler toys, which “run on imagination.” Or, if she has toys with batteries, they are there to help her manipulate the world around her, which serves to encourage her to experiment further and develop more confidence in her abilities. They are not there to pacify, as the countless screens around her attempt to do. Again, I was glad she wasn’t old enough to have a case of the “gimmes,” although there was one big (battery-free!) rubber ball I had to pry away from her…

All in all, I learned my lesson. Next time I shop online.

Lindsay Goldberg is a working mom who then comes home and works there, too. She loves finding quick, healthy recipes to make for her family and lives for her Sunday morning escape to the gym. She has given up on trying to find balance, and is, instead focused on surviving and being Good Enough. Likes- books, family dance parties, morning snuggles, and drinking coffee when it's still hot. Dislikes- recipes with more than 10 ingredients or 10 steps, winter, and deadlines