Every mom blog has at least one post about the horrible experience of shopping with kids so I’m just going to get that out of the way right now:
The 18 Minute Rule: I have exactly 18 minutes, seat belt to seat belt, before my kids start acting like complete idiots on a shopping trip. I work with this by creating a carefully thought-out list, which is organized according to the layout of the store, so that I don’t have to think about the items I need, search for them, or backtrack to retrieve a forgotten item. There’s no time for any of that. All energy must be focused on maintaining control to ensure we make it the full 18 minutes.
Over the weekend, I decided I wanted to purchase four ferns and one flat of flowers. There were a few things in my favor on this particular trip: 1) My items were in the outdoor garden area, which eliminated the time it would have taken to actually enter the store, and 2) Shopping outside makes the kids seem less loud and abrasive to other shoppers. Plus, who doesn’t love the sight of the sun shining on a beautiful child’s smiling face against a backdrop of colorful flowers? This should have been an easy trip, but I went ahead and did my usual pre-shopping pep talk, just for good measure:
Don’t make me look like an idiot in this store or I will *insert whatever random creative threat seems most terrifying at the time*
I even embellished it a little bit since it was Mother’s Day weekend:
Seriously guys, please be good. Do it for me because it’s Mother’s Day weekend.
They nodded their heads and pledged to be on their best behavior. For me, because it’s Mother’s Day weekend. But then……
As soon as I get The Girl situated in the cart, Boy Two decides he wants to ride as well. I try to explain that he’s too heavy and I can’t maneuver the cart with him in it. I’m sure he just didn’t hear me because he went ahead and started climbing over the side despite having just promised to behave less than two minutes before. I decide to pick my battles and let that one go. Fine. Ride in the cart.
So now, because the entire cart is filled with Boy Two, we have to get a wagon to load the ferns and flowers. Boy One is charged with the coveted responsibility of pulling the awkward wagon through the poorly arranged, crowded greenhouse area. I apologized to the first two people he ran over. After that, I just acted like I didn’t notice. I had bigger things to worry about at this point. Boy Two decided he wanted to forfeit his spot in the cart to pull the wagon. Yes, that would be the cart I told him to stay out of in the first damn place. I refused to let him out. He got in the cart against my wishes, so I am not letting him out of the cart. I don’t care if I have to install bars over the top of the cart to keep him in. He’s staying in the cart. Because that’s what he wanted two minutes ago.
He continues arguing with me, gradually becoming louder and more insistent, and Boy One continues running over people with the wagon. I haphazardly select some droopy, brown ferns and the first flat of flowers I can grab. I’m starting to get flustered because my 18 minutes of shopping are apparently more like 5 minutes today. Even though it’s Mother’s Day weekend.
I’m still holding Boy Two captive in the cart and it’s a test of wills at this point. He wants out of the cart. He will not stop arguing with me about it. I want him to shut up. I kind of need him out of the cart because I have nowhere to put two of my ferns. I try to hang them on the handle of the cart, but then they are touching The Girl’s legs and that is completely unacceptable to her and she starts shrieking. It’s causing a scene and I could end it all by letting Boy Two out of the cart and putting the two ferns in his place, but I am not letting that kid out of that cart. Plus, that would open up a new conflict over which boy is going to pull the wagon. He’s staying in the cart and we are making a quick exit.
Then, along comes a well-meaning stranger. She asks me if my kids saw the bird’s nest that is apparently in the corner of the greenhouse.
“It has real birds in it.”
I smile and tell her we will check it out then turn around to continue trying to maneuver the two ferns to a position that allows me to push the cart while not touching The Girl’s legs, all while keeping my captive restricted to the cart. While I’m doing this, Stranger continues the bird conversation with Boy Two. The next thing I know, he is climbing over the side of the cart and following her over to the bird’s nest. I literally growl at him.
“GET BACK IN THE CART.”
My voice sounds like Cruella de Vil’s evil sister who makes coats out of the skin of little boys instead of dalmatian puppies. Boy Two puts on his sad blue eyes and sweet voice.
“We’re just looking at the bird’s nest, Mom.”
Stranger looks on with wide eyes probably wondering why I have such an issue with him getting out of the cart when he is clearly too old to be in the cart to begin with. Because I don’t want her to think I’m a complete psychopath, we follow her over to look at the stupid nest. She can see I’m still struggling to carry the ferns so she holds her hand out as if to help me. For a brief second, I feel guilty for letting her see my Cruella side. Then she takes the ferns and hangs one of them on the cart, right on The Girl’s leg. The Girl gives her a death stare. I quickly snatch the fern off of the cart to prevent what I know is about to happen as the stranger tries to hang the other fern.
“Oh, here, your hands are full. These will just hang right on the cart.”
The shrieking starts and I’ve finally had it. Time is up and I really just want to pay for my items and leave yet here I am, messing around with this bird enthusiast, trying to present myself as a kind and sane mother as my children use her as a pawn to defy me.
“I CAN’T HANG THE FERN ON THE CART. SHE DOESN’T WANT IT TOUCHING HER. Thanks.”
And I turn to leave. Of course the check-out line is a million miles long. Why wouldn’t it be? Now that Boy Two is out of the cart, the fight over who will pull the wagon has broke out and quickly escalated to the level of physical violence. Now all of the people that Boy One accidentally ran over with the wagon are watching him purposely ram it into Boy Two’s shins. The Girl never recovered from the second fern assault so she’s screaming. I have at least 10 more minutes in line and we’re quickly heading toward a physical injury with this wagon, so I get my Cruella voice back out and lean over to whisper at the boys.
“If you guys do not stop this, I will cancel the Mother’s Day cookout, take your tablet, and you will spend the rest of this weekend in your rooms. Be quiet and stand by me.”
I straighten up and put a smile on for the benefit of the other shoppers as if I was just whispering a secret to the kids, perhaps about a surprise ice cream treat or something. I’m sure they couldn’t hear my threats or see my crazy eyes. The boys start up a few more small arguments and I just calmly and firmly repeat, “Stand by me.” It presents an illusion of control to the other shoppers and my theory is that, by using that catchphrase, it will refresh their memory of all the things I just threatened.
It doesn’t work.
These jerks continue fighting all the way to the car. And actually even all the way home in the car. On Mother’s Day weekend.