He pulled a knife and pointed it at the woman. “I am disappointed in my decisions,” he said sadly.

“What?” she said, eyeing the knife.

He repeated, “I’m disappointed,” and the knife turned in a slow circle in his hands.

The woman raised an eyebrow at his mother and me. We shrugged and I bent and grabbed his thin wrist and gently pulled it back down to his side.

“He said he is disappointed,” I explained, still struggling to point the boy’s plastic knife in a more respectful direction. “He is showing you his new knife that we just bought him. He was tricked. It’s… it’s sort of complicated.”

The woman started to say something, but instead, she just smiled and went back to talking with Andrea. I was relieved to not have to explain, yet again, why my little boy was pointing knives at people and saying how disappointed he was.

You see, Gideon had just learned a very important lesson at the State Fair and he was eager to share his fresh revelation with everyone we met from now on. This poor lady was the third or fourth person that he had pulled a knife on in the passage of about five minutes, and this streak would continue until we finally got into our car. What Gideon had discovered was the terrible secret about state fairs, the disconnect between the PRICE of an item and its QUALITY.

Gideon and his sisters had begged us, ever since we arrived, to go into one of the toy booths so they could pick out a toy. We had made the mistake of giving each of them a budget that they could use on “Food, treats, games, rides, and possibly toys”. This was supposed to pull them back from the ledge of overspending, but our plan had backfired when the kids immediately were trying to spend every cent of their budget on garbage from the moment we walked through the gate. This meant that their mother and I had to try and protect their budget until they had at least spent some of it on dinner for the evening. And then after that, we had to set them free to make their own bad decisions.

I admit, I still could not bring myself to allow Lydia to spend $12 on a ‘Likable Girl’ doll, even though she had very deliberately saved for it all evening, and now I’m on the hook to spend an equal amount on a REAL Barbie doll that does not come with a sticker that reads “Today overjoyed, bought lot of things!”. Also, Clara, to her credit, picked out a respectable collection of gummi pizzas and gummi hot dogs (that cost the same as a real pizza and hot dog at Costco), and I think she came away pleased with how things had turned out. But Gideon. Well, Gideon had his heart set on a knife.

And not just any knife. The knife he chose was in a big ugly package and was part of a “Pirate set”, meaning it also had an eyepatch. (Which is a terrible idea by the way. Who’s idea was it to give children a knife and, oh I don’t know, also throw in a partial blindfold, just to make things interesting? Knife and a blindfold -For Kids!) There were other items in the pirate set as well, but they were just printed on the packaging and didn’t actually exist. The only upshot was that this all sold for the low low price of $1. So, I let him do his thing, knowing full well that the little would-be pirate was himself in the process of getting plundered.

He proudly paid his dollar, stepped out of the shop, tore a hole in the back of the packaging, nearly threw away the eyepatch which didn’t really interest him anyway, and took hold of the knife.

Instantly the excitement drained from his face and he collapsed into the dirt in tears. I lunged to pick him back up as confused fair goers maneuvered around him. His knife, I saw as he shook it violently in my face, was only a knife on one side. The opposite side was just a hollow space where the flimsy mold had been. That half of the knife was not needed because it was hidden inside the packaging. Gideon had been tricked into buying half of a knife and now he wanted nothing to do with it.

He was persuaded to continue on. He even agreed to wear the eyepatch for about twenty seconds while I took a picture. And he carried his cheap plastic knife dejectedly down to his side. Then every fifteen feet or so he would sulk up to random strangers and point it at them and mumble, “I am disappointed by my decision” and I would have to pull him away and apologize quickly trying to explain while also trying to just get him away from people.

Perhaps next year he will take my advice and get the samurai sword. Or maybe, MAYBE, this $1 disappointment was enough to scare him away from buying junk at the Fair ever again. If so, it might just be the cheapest investment I have ever made on my children’s behalf.