Doing things in public with your kids isn’t always easy. Especially when, like in the case of my daughters Maddo and Little Sis, they are under pre-school age. Those of us with kids know that doing anything with them ends up taking more time than we ever plan on. I touched on this topic a bit in my last entry here. And by “touched on” I mean “rambled on for about 1,800 words.”
What we also learn, and quickly, is that little kids don’t necessarily know how to behave in public. Take going grocery shopping, for instance.
Bring your kids into the grocery store and they wander off. Or they run around. Or they grab anything and everything off the shelves and displays as you drive them around in the shopping cart. Or they pitch serious fits, just like the one Little Sis did at my local Trader Joe’s this past weekend.
Now, anyone who has been to Trader Joe’s at 3 p.m. on a weekend afternoon knows what kind of a scene this place is. First off, the store is always smaller than your standard Safeway or Albertsons. This means that things, and people, are crammed in together tighter than college kids on dollar-beer night at an off-campus bar. And then the remaining floorspace seems to be completely taken over with display and racks of produce, wine, flowers and, at my local TJ’s, greeting cards. Add in all the shopping carts and there isn’t a lot of room for maneuvering your way over to the pre-packaged lunch section.
And it’s noisy, too.
This is a grocery store, remember. Not a church. Not a museum. Not a dark, high-end restaurant with five-course prix-fixe dinners where kids are frowned upon. It’s a grocery store. There is always some kind of racket going on. And on this Sunday, in particular, that racket was coming out of the mouth of Little Sis.
For whatever unknown reason, this normally adorable 23-month-old moppet was madder than fire when we got her out of her carseat. She twisted, yelled, nearly knocked my sunglasses off my face and generally behaved like a rabid badger. And she didn’t let up much once we put her in the stroller and started our combination shopping excursion/bumper-car ride around the store.
As we often do in these situations, my wife, The Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, took Little Sis and I handled Maddo, placing her in the shopping cart. Maddo loves going to TJ’s for two reasons: The stickers the cashiers give her as we check out, and visiting the person she calls “The Customer”…You know this as the person who is usually stationed in one of the far corners of the store and doles out whatever samples of food TJ’s is putting out as special that day. He or she is also typically next to the free-coffee station, which in and of itself leads to many shopping-cart tieups. We may be many things as Americans, but regardless of who we are, none of us like to pass up free food and coffee.
My wife and I tend to shop at different speeds; she likes to go up and down every aisle, while I, like most men, approach shopping like we are being waterboarded. Except, of course, when it comes to drooling over the ribeyes and porterhouses in the meat department. My wife and Little Sis were over on the aisle with spices, pasta and assorted cooking needs like slivered almonds, while I was working my way through the frozen foods. I could hear Little Sis let loose with one of her periodic screams.
About 30 seconds later, my wife came around the bend, pushing Little Sis in her stroller, and looking startled. Having just heard Little Sis’s yell, I figure that was the reason for my wife’s appearance.
Yes, it was…but not exactly.
“Gimme the keys,” she said. “I’m taking Little Sis out to the truck.”
“OK,” I replied, surprised. “Is she alright?”
Little Sis was alright, but probably because she had no clue about what had just happened. And my wife proceeded to tell me:
“Little Sis screamed, and this woman put her HANDS over her EARS, closed her EYES, and said, ‘PUH-LEEZE!’”
I said what most husbands would when their wives delivered such a statement to them while trying to avoid getting run over by a bunch of shipping carts:
Then I got mad.
“WHO? WHAT? WHERE IS SHE?”
I’m pretty sure I stammered out a few incomprehensible syllables after that, and I handed my wife the keys to my truck. She rolled Little Sis out of the place and Maddo and I finished up the shopping. When we got outside, I saw the truck doors open and my wife holding Little Sis, who was thrashing around like an alligator just caught by Billy The Exterminator. It ended up taking two, somewhat rational adults to get this 23-month-old Mini Us strapped into her car seat so that we could leave.
As we were backing out of our parking space, my wife thought she saw the woman who couldn’t stand Little Sis’s cry and who also put the psychological zap on my wife. She couldn’t be sure, and before we knew it, the possible culprit was around the corner and gone.
Now, I love my daughters, but I am a realist. I am not one of those dads who acts like every move my girls make is a miraculous act and everything they do reminds me, immediately, of the glory of the cosmos and how life is to be cherished at all times. Sometimes, my kids drive me crazy. For example, when Maddo gets home from her daycare, the first words out of her mouth—and I mean the very first words are, “COULD YOU PUT DIEGO ON, PLEEEEEEZE!” This, in and of itself gets the point across. But, when she repeats this 20 times as I am getting her out of her carseat and doesn’t let up for the next five minutes as we unload my wife’s car…Well, it’s enough to make one consider whether you can still find the receipt from the hospital, if you know what I mean.
What I’m saying is that I get it. Kids can drive you crazy. Especially when they are someone else’s and, maybe, you have little or no daily experience with them. They can be annoying pains in the ass.
But, come on…Try to keep some things in perspective, Hands-Over-Your-Ears Lady. You were in a grocery store. I assume you had been there before and were familiar with all the noise and racket that comes with weekend shopping. My guess is you probably have heard a kid or two lose it on the cereal aisle before. This wasn’t the Louvre. And if you’ve been there and dealt with the crush of humanity squeezing in to see the Mona Lisa, you’ll know that scene can be just as brutal as coming upon a crying kid next to the racks of Trader Joe’s apple juice. Get over yourself.
Well, she can keep her hands over her ears, and she should probably close her eyes, because she won’t like to hear or see this, which I borrow from the legend of Sir Winston Churchill, who used it to fire back at some dowager who upbraided him for being drunk:
“Ma’am, my daughter might be crying and screaming, but you, ma’am, You are ugly. And in a couple of hours, my daughter will be adorably asleep in her bed. But you ma’am, you will still be ugly.”