I was told tonight by someone, a lovely stay-at-home-mom, that she would never dream of bringing her children to a supermarket. Her children never entered a supermarket until they were 8 and 10 years old. Bringing them to a supermarket, she said, would have just made “everyone miserable, cranky, and mad.”
I had to bite.
“What did you do with your kids when you shopped?” I asked.
“My nanny watched them,” she explained.
And then I remember my own early stay-at-home-days, running up and down the aisles of Safeway, screeching for my toddler son to stop running away. God he was fast. The second I turned my back to reach for cereal or flour, he unbuckled himself, slipped under the bar of our double-wide stroller, and bolted as fast as possible. Sometimes I ran after him, dragging the stroller behind me. Sometimes I just left my infant daughter sitting in the middle of the aisle. I knew she was safe: no one but me could maneuver that stroller out of the store.
The lovely mom tonight also told me she would never dream of bringing her children clothes shopping – for herself, or for them.
And then I remember the time we went to the Gap and my son spotted a Darth Vader tee-shirt. He couldn’t have been older than three.
He took it.
I found it much later. While I returned it to a sales clerk with absolutely no sense of humor, my son and his little sister hid under a rack of clothes until a stranger heard them giggling. I lectured them about running away, and about hiding, and about stealing. A man passing by remarked, “wow, they look a little young for jail.”
And then there was the ill-fated time we went Christmas shopping to LL Bean at the mall and my son decided to hide. To this day, I don’t know how he disappeared into the crowd so fast. I ran around, panicking, yelling his name, and soon other shoppers were doing the same. When the store management heard, they started screaming “Code Adam” into their microphones and told me they would lock down the entire store.
That’s when an old lady showed up, dragging my little boy behind her. “Does he belong to you?” she asked. For a moment, I considered saying no. Then my son looked at me, put his arms out so I could pick him up, and started to bawl. I scooped him up, and he [hardly] ever ran away after that – at least in large public places.
I don’t know, I guess it might have been nice to pay a nanny and go shopping by myself a few days a week. To have lots of help. But I don’t know, think of all the moments that would be lost. My children singing in the car. Pointing and asking, “What’s dat?” Explaining why Cocoa Puffs are not okay. Sitting quietly and reading a board book while I pick out shirts for school. Talking. Hugs. Lessons and love.
Life happens in the most unlikely places.