Shopping has gotten much harder since I’ve had kids. I remember how terrified I was to go to Costco solo after we had our first kid. What if the baby starts crying in the middle of the frozen section because she wants to nurse? Two kids later and I look back at 1 child version of me and think, “What the hell was I scared of? It’s like a vacation when I get to go shopping with just the baby. Babies are easy! What a whimp I was.” Shopping with 2 kids was challenging, but they were both small enough that I could shove them in the cart and still get everything done pretty fast. On a good day, I was able to bang out 6 stops in 4 1/2 hours.
But now? Sam’s Club alone takes me 3 hours. 3 hours! In 1 store! My baby is a cluster feeder and the other two eat like hobbits, so we had to stop to eat before we even started shopping. Then there’s all the bathroom breaks because the first two are potty trained, and let’s be real here–my bladder will never be the same after 3 kids.
There’s no room for Things 1 & 2 in the cart anymore, so I have to let them walk. I believe that leashes are only for dogs, so I have to say a prayer and hope I don’t lose them. The baby started screaming in the car seat, so I had her in my Baby Bjorn. Of course Things 1 & 2 have to touch everything and climb on every display of stacked boxes. We’ve been sick practically all winter, so now my germaphobia is on full alert, and seeing them put their little hands on everything makes me want to panic because all I’m thinking about are all the germs they’re probably gathering and shoving up their noses that they are shamelessly picking.
Their walking speeds are Painfully Slow or Running, with nothing in between. So basically, I spend 3 hours saying, “Don’t touch that / Get down / No / STOP PICKING YOUR NOSE / Please stay with me / We don’t need that / I’m going to leave you if you don’t hurry up / NO!!”, on repeat. God forbid the baby starts fussing, because then I have to add bouncing and singing to my broken record. Plus I have to remember everything that I came to this God forsaken place for?
After we checked out today, I led everyone to the bathroom because I didn’t want to hear the dreaded, “I need to go potty!” on our way home. And by led, I mean I chased Things 1 & 2 as they darted into the family bathroom without me, while pulling our cart that was literally overflowing with stuff. All I was thinking was, ‘Please don’t be on the toilet without a cover or lock yourselves in!’ Thing 1 pees no problem, but Thing 2 does not. I remembered that I forgot something, so we pick it up and wait in line AGAIN. The lines are now much longer than when we checked out the first time (of course), and the girls are climbing all over a nearby patio set up. After getting them off of that, they proceed to try to steal giant bags of M&M’s. As if I can’t see the 2 pound bright yellow bag.
Then it happens–Thing 2, (who is only 8 days into potty training and not wearing a Pull-Up), says, “I need to go potty!” I turn towards the woman in front of me and explain that despite the overflowing basket I’m lugging, I really only need to buy one thing and can I please go ahead of her so my kid won’t piss herself. She graciously lets me cut and also allows Eowyn to yak her ear off while I’m checking out. I then rush us and our overflowing basket back to the bathroom to have Thing 2 sit on the potty for 5 seconds and declare that she’s done.
All 3 of her names were used as I told her in my scary Mom voice that she was not getting off the toilet until she put pee in the potty. After a full 60 seconds of physically restraining her while still wearing the baby on my chest, she finally pees. Why must they make it so difficult?!!
It’s 9° out, so then we have to go through the production of putting jackets on. And by “we” I mean me. 6 zippers later and we’re all bundled up (why each jacket needs 2 zippers is beyond me). The baby is screaming at this point because she doesn’t want to be in her car seat. I’m not one of those parents who’s grown immune to their baby crying; it instantly stresses me out.
I had just given the Things yet another stern talking to about running away from me, so their pace walking to the door was back to Painfully Slow. The one good thing about having had 2 transactions, was that I had 2 receipts, so there was no fighting over who was going to hand it over to the employee at the door. But then Thing 2 didn’t want to give me the receipt back. While we were standing in between the two sets of exit doors, she starts screaming. Over a receipt.
Enter: Raging Mom. I grabbed her and lifted her up as I said in my piss-your-pants Mom voice, “Don’t. do. this.” I remove the diaper bag that had been occupying the space next to the car seat and shove Thing 2 in. While I’m doing this, Thing 1 is purposely standing in the way of the second set of exit doors with her arms stretched out, letting people go past one at a time. I yell at her to get out of the way while I contemplate how in the hell I’m going to get to the car carrying a diaper bag and ginormous thing of paper towels and push the overflowing cart of screaming children while making sure that the other one doesn’t walk in front of a car.
Then grace stepped in in the form of another mother, who had been lucky enough to come shopping alone. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“Yes, please!” I said.
She grabbed the paper towels and walked me to my car. “Do you need help loading or getting the kids in the car?” she asked.
“No thank you. I’ll be fine once I get them in. Thank you so much!”
That mom caught me in a not so great mom moment: yelling at my tantruming 2 year old and hyper 4 year old while completely ignoring the screaming 4 month old. But she didn’t judge me or pass any condescending looks. She extended some much needed grace to a fellow frazzled mama, and it made a world of difference in my life.
Thank you, Anonymous Mama.
It turned out that I continued to have a tough mama day after we left Sam’s Club. Even though I got us back in time for nap, Things 1 & 2 did not sleep. Thing 2, who had been doing so well with the potty training, took 10 steps backward and had 4 accidents this evening. She even splashed around in the last pee accident, getting it on practically every part of her naked body (she refuses to wear clothes). Since they were overly tired, they were throwing tantrums left and right and fighting with each other the rest of the day. I lost count on how many time outs were given. Neither of them ate the Turkey Corn Chowder that I made from scratch for dinner, and then complained the rest of the night about how hungry they were.
The woman who let me cut in line, the woman who helped me to the car, and my husband doing the dishes despite the discomfort it caused him (he has problems with both wrists, and recently had a surgery on one of them) were the three saving graces of my entire day.
Be kind to your fellow mamas. We’re all trying our best, and sometimes we need help. So if you come across another mom with a screaming kid, don’t just walk past, grateful that it’s not you this time. Help a mama out, because next time–it will be you. And you’ll wish someone would extend you some grace.
And maybe if we all extend grace to someone else, we can start a chain of grace that reaches around the world and breaks through cultural and political divides, in one big hug that brings some happiness into our world.
Wouldn’t that be extraordinary?