Mary and the Tots Go to The Mall
Four toddlers and a baby. The baby is snoozing in the stroller, the four toddlers walking. The mall was pretty quiet, so I let the big kids let go of the stroller, with instructions to walk behind and stay close. Whenever they toodle along behind me, I am tempted to quack. Momma duck and the ducklings trailing in my wake.
It works pretty well, but for Grace the Vague, who tends to wander to the side, her gaze caught by passing dust motes, or lag far, far, faaaaar behind, her footsteps slowed by a passing thought. Or something. She ended up hanging on to the stroller again. She wasn’t offended. There are dust motes close to the stroller, too.
We are going to the bank, then to Grand and Toy for a binder and more of my favourite pens. Two items. Two items, and an ENTIRE MORNING outing. Really. We walk to the mall (50 minutes). We go to the bank (5). We coo over the adorable kittens in the window of the pet store right beside the bank (15 minutes). We meander down the length of the mall to Grand and Toy (5 minutes).
Before entry to the store, I gather the children around the stroller to review the Rules for Stores. First I must catch their attention, all at the same time. Not an easy feat.
“Guys, look at me. Look here.” I point to my eyes. “I want to see all your eyes. Jazz? Daniel? Eyes, please. Grace. Grace, my eyes. Look at my eyes. Okay. So we’re going into a store. When we go in, you must hang on to the stroller.”
We arrange them so that they’re each hanging on to their hanging-on spot. Then I continue.
“Okay. Look at me again. Eyes. Eyes, guys.” Three sets of eyes meet mine. One set is gazing still communing with dust motes. “Grace?” I cup my hand under her chin. “Look at my eyes, lovie. Everybody looking at me? Good. There are lots of interesting things in the store. Will you touch any of them?”
“Nooooo.” They all chime in unison, a long, serious, lowing. A couple of passers-by grin.
“That’s right. Nooo touching. But what can you do?”
“We can YOOK!” Daniel is very pleased to know the right answer.
“That’s right. Good job, Daniel! You can look, but you caaaan’t touch.”
Having established the Rules for Engagement with Stores, we proceed. It takes a few seconds to locate my pens.
“May I hold the pens for you, Mary?” Jazz asks. This is something they do. It’s a treat for them, but serves a secondary purpose. Hands that are holding things for me are less able to touch stuff on shelves.
“Sure, sweetie. Here you go. Thank you!”
And then to the rear of the store, where, after some discussion, we decide to get a pretty pink folder with pockets rather than a binder.
“May I, may I, may I hold that, Mary?”
“Sure, Grace. Here you go. And that’s it, guys. We can go home, now.” The aisle is narrow, and I’ve instructed the children to stand together in one spot so I can manoeuvre the stroller around the corner. When I turn to call them to me, Poppy’s head hangs low, her shoulders slump, her lower lip out in the absolutely perfect Gerber-baby pout. She is the very picture of dejection, and it’s freakin’ adorable.
“Poppy! What’s wrong, little missy?”
“We are all done shopping!”
“Yes, we are. Now we can go home and have lunch.” (Lunch is usually a big draw for Poppy.)
“We are all done shopping, and I didn’t get to CARRY ANYTHIIIIING!”
Poppy’s lip quivers. Perfect round tears tremble on her curly lashes. Her eyes meet mine, glimmering with the unshed tears which will soon trickle prettily down her downy pink cheeks.
Oh, honestly. Why is it that some people (Poppy, Daniel) can look unbelievably adorable, scoop-me-up-and-comfort-me, when they cry, when others of us (Grace, Jazz, me) turn into blotchy, snotty, red-nosed, red-rimmed disgusting messes of revolting misery? Why wasn’t I blessed with the Cute Cryer gene? The rest of us, we are revolting cry-ers. It’s not that our sadness is any less real. It’s just blotchy and … slimier. Instead of yearning to scoop us up and cuddle us, people take one look us, throw us a thick towel, and hope we keep our distance. NOT FAIR.
However, even the cute cryers feel true misery, and Poppy is feeling it now. If the shopping is all done, she won’t get to Hold Something for Mary. She won’t get to carry it through the store. Most heart-breaking, she won’t get to put it on the counter for the cashier.
Because putting things on the counter, that is THE BEST THING EVER!!! Poppy looks at me, quivering in utterly adorable misery. Daniel gazes at me hopefully, his eyes threatening a similar glimmer.
Which is why, three minutes later, I slipped FOUR purchases into my bag: pens, a pretty pink plastic folder, and two rolls of scotch tape. Yes, I’m perfectly capable of saying no. I can tell a sorrowful two-year-old that she can carry something next time. (I can do this and know that she will NOT throw a screaming, flailing tantrum in response.) I can do any number of things that don’t involve buying more stuff … but, meh. This time, I wanted to.
Christmas is coming. We’re going to need tape.