Let her cry

A couple of people have suggested that I try to write a “positive, uplifting” post. This one isn’t going to be it. I will, however, try to incorporate a little more positivity into my posts I guess. Even though that’s not really my thing.

The Girl is quickly becoming my most difficult child, a title Boy Two has proudly held since birth. Yesterday, we went shopping for school supplies and I was that parent with the screaming baby in Walmart. If you’ve been that parent before, you know how stressful it can be. I used to be one of those people that would think, “Geez, can’t you quiet that kid down?”  As punishment for all the times I had that thought, I have now been the Screaming-Baby-at-Walmart parent more times than I care to admit. I’m to the point now where I just tune it out and continue my shopping. Sometimes it’s best not to try to fix it, to just power through and get out as quickly as possible. I don’t care if it annoys the other shoppers. At least they get to go home. I have to take this thing home with me and listen to this all evening.

So anyway, we started off on the wrong foot because she had brought along a doll that she wanted to take inside. I stopped allowing kids to take toys into stores when Boy One was a toddler because he took it to the extreme by carrying 2-3 grocery bags of tractors with him wherever he went. He ruined it for everyone and I had to enact a blanket policy prohibiting toys in stores. I’ve fought this battle many times with more worthy adversaries than The Girl so she wasn’t going to win, particularly since the doll she brought had no clothes and was covered in some kind of brown substance which I pray was just dirt. So she was mad about the dirty doll and was already screaming when we entered Walmart.

Once we got started, she quieted down and started playing with one of the art boxes. This lasted about two minutes until she snapped it in half. Really, Walmart? You only had one art box option and it was so flimsy that a one-year-old broke it as soon as she laid her hands on it. Now, I’m not proud of this, but I put it back on the shelf and grabbed a different one. Is this stealing? Yes. Does Walmart make enough money off our family to come off of one $.97 piece of crap art box? Also, yes.

So anyway, the flimsy art box had been the only thing keeping The Girl sane and I, of course, couldn’t give her the new one because I didn’t want her to break another one so she went back to screaming. This time, I offered her a box of colored pencils. I thought she would just take them out of the box, look at them, hold them, whatever. We gathered the rest of our supplies and were just finishing when I looked down and realized she had completely shredded the box. I hate for my kid to be the one that doesn’t have his colored pencils in a nice, fresh box, but I had already put back a broken art box and I couldn’t, in good conscience, do the same thing with the colored pencils. At this point, I decided she could no longer be trusted in the cart so I removed her and tried holding her while haphazardly steering the cart with one hand. This wouldn’t have been so hard if she weren’t screaming, thrashing, and slapping my face.

We finally made it to the check-out and I sat her down to unload the cart. I placed the pile of shredded colored pencil box on the conveyor and began putting it together like a puzzle so the cashier could find the bar code. While I worked on that activity, The Girl went straight for the bottom shelf that contains all kinds of little toys and trinkets enticing to children. I know I’ve written about this before, but I’m going to touch on it one more time: I hate Walmart for screwing over all parents by putting those toys on that bottom shelf. I have never bought anything from that shelf, yet my children still beg for things from it every. single. time. At least 70% of the time, that shelf causes a meltdown from at least one of my children when I refuse to purchase anything from it. I understand it’s a marketing strategy, but I can’t imagine it’s making the store any money. How many kids have stealthily stashed a small item in their pocket and made it out of the store with it? More than the number of kids that are lucky enough to have a parent willing to buy something from it, I’m sure. Anyway, I hate that shelf, and I try to prevent my kids from even looking at it, let alone touching anything on it, but I was already stressed and I had to finish the box puzzle, so I let The Girl go to work on the shelf. Have at it, dear. Annihilate that stupid shelf.

So anyway, The Girl was distracted with rearranging the forbidden shelf as I finished up our purchase. Then I pried a bunch of tiny toys (that I had no intention of buying) out of her hands, kicked the rest of the tiny toys on the floor out of the way so no one would trip, and drug her out of the store the same way she came in: kicking and screaming.

She never did calm down as we headed home and that was when I realized that we had lost her pacifier. Yes, she is too old to still take a pacifier and I wish I had a better excuse than “I’m just to lazy to get serious about taking it yet” but I don’t. And it definitely isn’t going to happen today so, even though the last thing I want to do is go to another store, we have to stop at Dollar General. By the time we pulled in, she was in full-on tantrum mode: purple-faced, back-arching, sweating, shrieks. There’s no point in even trying to quiet her. I just scoop her up, hold on as tight as I can, and carry her in. Dollar General is a small store and there are rarely more than a couple people there at a time, but of course today is different. As soon as I walked in, I was met by a ridiculously long line of people waiting to check out and they all immediately looked my way to see what the problem was with this loud baby. I hurried by, clutching my psychotic baby, trying not to make eye contact. I basically sprinted back to the baby section, grabbed the first package of pacifiers I saw, savagely ripped it open, shoved it in her mouth, and she was instantly fixed. Who am I kidding? I don’t care if this kid takes a pacifier until kindergarten. That thing is magical.

So yeah, pretty much every part of this shopping trip was an absolute nightmare, but as per request, I will let you know that there was one positive part:

As I was standing in line to check-out (at a store that doesn’t have the forbidden shelf – thank you, Dollar General, that’s why you’re my favorite), a decent-looking guy in an American flag tank top (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either, but he was making it work) struck up a game of peek-a-boo with The Girl. He had witnessed our grand entrance and was impressed with her ability to recover so quickly and we had a brief conversation, comparing notes about our kids’ pacifier usage. When we went up to pay, he ended up buying her pacifiers. As he drove off in his truck which was, of course, outfitted with an American flag decal covering the entire back window, I thought, “What a nice guy…Wait – was he hitting on me?” As soon as I had the thought, I realized how far out of touch I am with the flirting game if I think that having a discussion about pacifiers then buying said pacifiers for a frazzled mom at Dollar General is some form of a come-on. Whatever happened to buying a girl a drink? Anyway, if I were a single mom, it might have worked, if the American flag tank top hadn’t already sealed the deal, but I’m pretty sure he was just a friendly stranger.

So thanks for the pacifiers, Captain America, and thanks for providing me the required positive element for this post.

 

Mama, I’m coming home

So my grandma passed away a month ago. Today, we attended a memorial event at the cemetery that included a balloon release. I’d never been to a memorial balloon release. In case you haven’t either, this is how it’s supposed to go:

  1. Distribute one balloon per each loved one being memorialized.
  2. The family of the loved one writes a heartfelt message on the balloon.
  3. The crowd stands silently as each name is read and they release their balloon when the name of their loved one is read.

A balloon release is always a risky place to take children because, to a child, losing a balloon can be a traumatizing event, often resulting in tears and devastation. A memorial balloon release has all of that with the added expectation that the child stand quietly and respectfully.

There were a number of issues at the memorial balloon release. Since our group was only memorializing one loved one, we only got one balloon to split between three children. I managed to find an empty balloon string on the ground, which satisfied The Girl, but I still needed an additional balloon. I had two options:

  1. Kill a member of our group so we could get an additional balloon, or
  2. Dishonestly obtain a second balloon for our group.

I went with the less radical option – lying at a memorial service. Now that everyone had balloons (or balloon strings) in hand, we were back on track, and the boys wrote their notes on their balloons.

Boy One wrote a sweet note about how much we miss Nana:

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Boy Two, on the other hand:

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Yes, you read that correctly. “I love mom.” Other attendees looked on with pity at this poor, sweet boy who had apparently lost his mother. I felt like I should correct them, but who am I to say anything? I just lied five minutes ago to get the stupid balloon for him. Also, it doesn’t actually say his mother is deceased and it’s not really his fault if  others read between the lines. And finally, maybe he knew something I didn’t? The day isn’t over yet.

In the end, his fraudulent balloon message ended up being a blessing and here is why:

As the event wore on, the boys became more and more restless. As boys typically do, they started a game of hitting each other in the head with their balloons, which I was powerless to stop without reverting to Option 1 above. This resulted in Boy Two’s special balloon memorializing his mother coming undone and being released. You will recall that he had firmly decided that he would not be releasing his balloon so this was an issue. Luckily, a kindhearted stranger with a soft spot for orphans offered her balloon to him, but her balloon was red, not white. This was another issue. He proceeded to cry. Red-faced, gigantic tears crying.  I was mortified. This grieving woman gave up her balloon memorializing her loved one (who most likely is legitimately dead) and he’s crying like a spoiled brat because it is the wrong color. I managed to look up through my embarrassment and when I did, I found misty-eyed, sympathetic faces looking back. Then I saw what they were seeing: an innocent boy who had already endured the loss of his loving mother (probably untimely cancer or maybe a tragic car accident). Now he has lost the only thing he had to memorialize her. His whole life is just loss and grief. How much pain can one little boy endure?

Shamefully, I just went with it, although I did stop short of referring to myself as “Auntie” while comforting him and reminding him of what a wonderful person his mother was.

Stand by me

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.