So. Let’s get on with it, shall we? This morning, we arrive at the mall with no stroller. And now you know, with just one brief sentence, to which genre this story belongs. “When the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on it’s tragedy.”
When you venture into the world beyond your living room with one of those children that’s not a stage-four clinger, you need one of three things: a stroller, a leash, or a pet carrier with wheels. Pretty sure that last one is illegal. And even the leash is not my fave because it doesn’t prevent the ol’ Drop & Resist. (I’ll explain later.) Basically, you need a straightjacket with wheels to keep things contained and moving forward.
Rental stroller it is. Best kind.
So we shop around, la la la whistle whistle whistle, life is good. We go to Winners and I tell Max he can have one thing. So he picks a Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle book. Improves cognitive skills and under seven bucks – excellent choice, son!
Yeah, yeah, I know. You shouldn’t give your kid something every time you go to the store as he will come to expect it and then what next – the world? Mon dieu! I don’t do that. I mean, not every time. Just most of the time. It’s a small price to pay for my sanity for the next two hours, okay? I see it as a seven-dollar cover charge for entering the mall in the first place. I build the loss into my budget.
So we get in the checkout line that’s a little too long under these toddler-toting circumstances. But he has his book; his patience will be rewarded. Suddenly Max lets the book slide to the floor and makes no effort to retrieve it. I know where this is going…
Oops, you dropped your book there, buddy.
I pick it up and put it back in his lap. His grip on it is weak. He is having doubt. He is vulnerable. Oh God no, don’t look around! The shelves around the checkout, of course, are loaded with crap, strategically placed there to fuck with you.
He sees it: a monster truck. Want it, want it, want it.
Damn it, damn it, damn it.
You can only have one thing, so do you want the truck or this awesome, amazing, stupendous book?
Son of a.
Improves motor skills and… ten dollars??? Shit. Okay fine. If it means I can go to one more store in peace while he plays with this big-wheeled bastard, so be it.
So we pay for it and head to Sears. About 20 minutes later as I am going through the Sears checkout, I notice the truck is gone.
Where’s your new truck, Max?
Blank stare. He has no idea and doesn’t give a rat’s ass.
The lady behind me overhears and says she saw a toy truck down in the slipper section. Yup. Here I am paying for slippers. Truck must have slipped right out of his hand. That can happen when you’re in the slipper section.
Great, so he hates it already. Ten bucks up in smoke. I go back to the slipper aisle, find it, and place it back in his lap. He would have shown more excitement if I had handed him a potato.
Okay we’re done here. Let’s bring back the stroller and get the heck outta Dodge before naptime creeps up and bites me in the arse.
Too late. As I am taking all the stuff out of the rental stroller to carry by hand, Max starts saying – no, demanding — Thomas book! Thomas book!
No way, Stockwell Day. He always does this. Picks one thing over the other and then changes his mind when it’s too late.
A really lazy mother would have taken him back to the store and got the book, right? A smarter mother might have said, Oh we’ll go back and get that book, we just need to go to the car and get more money. And never go back, obviously. I am neither lazy nor smart. I simply explained that he had made his choice and we were going home now.
And then the ginger fever took hold. Crying. Stomping. And the symptoms were bound to get worse. I mustered up all my courage, took his hand, and beelined for the exit.
We had to walk the length of the mall to get to the exit where I had parked. It felt like the distance of the Tely freakin’ Ten. As we were passing through the main lobby, my disgruntled leprechaun kicked things up a notch with the ol’ Drop & Resist. If you’ve ever had a kid, you know what this is. He plops down on the floor, refusing to go any further. I try and pull him along by the arm, but he throws himself backward, making it virtually impossible to move him without looking like the mother from Carrie.
Very clever, children of the corn. And quite maddening. Max likes to add an extra twist by biting my hand to make me let go. Ever been bitten by your own kid? I know you have. And I know you had that split-second desire to punch them square in the face. But you didn’t. Because you love your kid. Especially those little serrated teeth. Love bites.
Oh, and we weren’t just in the lobby with Saturday afternoon foot traffic comparable to Grand Central Station. We were also smack dab in front of a bunch of cute firefighters who had an info table set up there. Well that’s just peachy. I chuckled and did an exaggerated eyeroll that said, “Kids… what are ya gonna do?” I had sweat dripping from my face, but I tried to keep my cool so they wouldn’t have to use their hoses to put me out.
By the way, I should tell you – I would have thrown the scallywag over my shoulder and stomped out of there five minutes ago had I been born an octopus instead of a fox. I had Max’s backpack in my hand, and a bulky bag of new purchases. I was at capacity. Physically, and now mentally.
I did try to carry him along with all the stuff, but I just couldn’t position Max in a way that prevented his feet and hands and teeth from maiming me. He was a shark trying to escape a fisherman’s net. Yes, a shark with feet and hands.
So I tried to ignore him, like so many mothers so kindly advise. But here’s the thing. Ignoring is definitely the most effective option – at home, in the shopping cart at the grocery store, even on foot in a more secluded area of a store. But in the busy lobby of the mall it’s a little more challenging. And yes, half of the challenge is my own embarrassment. People were looking at me, damn it! Oh that poor girl, with that savage of a child… I just wanted it all to end! And knowing my headstrong mini, we could be “ignoring” this episode for a good 10 or 15 minutes. (The other morning, he wouldn’t let me get him ready for daycare so I put him in the naughty chair and he sat there for 15 minutes just staring at the wall. When I asked if he was now ready to get dressed, he said no, and went back to sitting and staring. Maybe the naughty chair is a little too comfy.) Next time I resolve to hang tough for as long as it takes, no matter how many witnesses.
I managed to drag him over to a bench outside of Winners. We were so close to the exit now. So very close. I just needed to gather myself together and prepare for the parking lot, where flailing gingers and hard pavement do not mix well. And why did I park so far from the door? I hate me.
En route to the bench, by the way, I saw my cousin Chris and his new girlfriend. There was an on-the-fly introduction and they ran for their lives. Chris is probably home right now hammering his nuts with a mallet.
I tried to sit Max on the bench, get him to calm down a tad. There was no reasoning. The impenetrable wall of crazy was up and I was but a fetus with a slingshot. His arms were flailing, his teeth were gnawing, and my face was a bowl of sweat on the concrete floor. I think I just saw a freckle float by.
A young father was sitting on the bench next to me with a little boy in a stroller. The kid leaned over the side of his stroller to look at the spectacle unfolding before him. His father looked astounded too.
What? Like your kid is perfect! Look at him – he doesn’t even have any hair and what is he – five? Get that kid a toupeé for Christ sake!
That’s what I was thinking. What I said was: Wanna trade?
His silence meant no, I guess. Fine be that way.
The manager at Winners was working near the store entrance and flashed me a couple understanding eyes. I love understanding eyes. If every person perfected that look, the crime rate would plummet. Of course, he would have really impressed me if he had offered to carry my bags to my car while I carried the Savage Patch Kid.
So I bit the bullet and grabbed everything – child, crap I wish I hadn’t bought, sweaty hog face – and headed for the parking lot. He was jammed under my arm like a sheep about to be sheared. When I got through the door, I set him down and dragged him by one arm across the parking lot, crying all the way. He was crying too.
We were almost to the car when he plopped down between two trucks, still saying “Thomas book” over and over until there’s not enough vodka in the world to erase the word from my mental chalkboard. I told him a big truck was coming and would squish him to a pulp if he didn’t get in the car. He jumped up and took my hand, suddenly compliant. If that hadn’t worked, I would have resorted to the age-old threat: If you don’t listen to mommy, the big man is going to come and take you. I haven’t used that one yet, but it’s probably gonna happen.
I will have my revenge one day when I am the one pooping in my pants and going ape-shit on the floor of the senior citizens’ home. I want more pudding, damn it!
And in the meantime, while I’m waiting for that fine day to arrive, I will show his teenage friends these photos.