Monday, August 16, 2010

My Profound Apologies

Bed Bath and Beyond Storefont
Photo: BB & B

I would like to share with you sweet readers a little story about an unsuspecting Mommy and her darling child.  The story begins with high hopes for a normal outing--you know, a quick jaunt to Bed, Bath & Beyond, and assuming everyone was an Excellent Listener, a brief visit to the indoor playground at the mall.

Things started out okay, there was some general ants in the pants, and some volume issues that reminded me of Will Ferrell on SNL ("I HAVE A DISORDER THAT DOES NOT ALLOW ME TO MODULATE THE VOLUME OF MY VOICE.")  But no biggie.

Then what happened, you ask?  Well, there we were, moments from purchasing the elusive 6" bed-risers, which were strategically hidden in a way that forced us to circle the store 10 times before finding them, when my 3-year old decided to bring it.  Not that he's never had a meltdown, please don't misunderstand.  But through divine intervention his meltdowns have mostly been private.  Until now.  And he's 3 and a half!  Truly, I thought we were past the point where irrational crazed meltdowns could occur in the aisles of our local stores, but I was once again proven woefully misinformed about something Mommy-ish.

It all started when the baby pushed him in the face, repeatedly, and I had to ask numerous times for Biggest Boy to use his superior strength and smarts to stay out of the baby's way.  But Excellent Listening just wasn't gonna happen that day, and BB decided that getting pushed around was ample provocation for chomping down on the baby's little finger.  LB started screaming his head off, and all I could think was "Uh-uh, no he didn't!"  Like it was Jerry Springer and not my own life.  So I calmed the baby down and then told Biggest Boy that when we were done we couldn't go to the playground because he had just, you know, BITTEN THE BABY.  Poor thing-- immediate tears sprung into his eyes, which I expected.  But what he did next I could never have predicted.  My child turned right around and--without a word--stalked off!  Again, like a guest on Springer rushing off the stage.  "Whaaaaa...?"  I couldn't believe it.  There he went, right into the curtain section, where they have roughly a thousand display racks of 12-foot curtains perfect for hiding when you are 40 inches tall.  Its like a misbehaving child's fantasy land in there.   There we played a ridiculous game of Hide N Seek while I whispered his name furiously and he silently fumed and also actually laughed at me.  When I finally got close enough to grab the boy, I confirmed we had indeed failed to be Excellent Listeners, and that's when the fan got really hit.

The child lost all control.  He started screaming loudly in unintelligible words which would surely have been profanities if he knew any, little face getting redder and redder and tears freely flowing down his cheeks, while I briefly considered changing my mind and buying him some ice cream just to get him to calm the heck down.  Instead, I picked him up and carried him over my shoulder, casually hauling him from the far back corner of the store waaay up to the front, pushing a double stroller with my free hand, and refusing to answer the one question he was shouting repeatedly and all of a sudden with perfect annunciation for the whole store to hear: "MOMMY!  WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?  WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?"    I may still have burn marks where the other customers' death stares put holes into my back as we made our escape.

Except we couldn't escape.  I found myself in this weird, lonely corridor leading out to the parking lot, but still attached to the store and thus attached to people's eardrums.  And now I realize why sometimes you can't just leave.  My child is 35 pounds.  I literally could not have kept carrying him, flailing and kicking, over my shoulder.  I also could not redeposit him in the stroller.  And because he refused to walk, I couldn't hold his hand through the parking lot.  So I had to choose between utter, ongoing humiliation and him roaming freely among the cars outside.  Obviously, we stayed put.  FOR THIRTY MINUTES.

That's right, for thirty minutes he tantrumed, lying on his back in the entryway to BB&B, sobbing hysterically.  Thank God Littlest Boo is patient and just sat in the stroller watching this thing go down.  I am sure he was taking notes for fun ways to get Mommy to turn red.  One positive: no one in the store heard a word I said because I refused to contribute by speaking above the tiniest whisper.  I was sweating and my heart was racing as I watched this child rage, and wondered where my sweet boy went and who was this demon in front of me.  To top it all off, an older woman and her grown son walked by at some point, and she looks down at me (she had to, because I was kneeling next to the child begging him to stand up) and says, "He (points to her son) used to do the same thing all the time and he turned out alright!" Verrry comforting, Stranger in the Sheet Store, verrry comforting.

At long last Biggest Boy calmed down enough to choose between holding my hand or riding, and we made it out of there.  On the way home, my nerves got the better of me and I finally shed a few of my own tears.  I would never step foot in there again, that's all there was to it.  And then my child showed me (again) what it is to be a parent.  When we got out of the car I told him to go inside and take his shoes off, and he headed out into the grass instead.  I was seconds away from losing it, when he bent down and plucked a clover flower from our front lawn.  "This is for you, Mommy."

The best apology a 3-year old could give.  And it no longer mattered that I was humiliated, or that we all had a terrible hour, or that countless people wanted to punch me in the face.  What mattered was teaching him.  What mattered was loving him.  And, in spite of my decision to never go back, we went back the next day to try again.  Got the bed-risers and got to go to the playground.  So Moms of the World Who I May Have Judged Because of Tantrums in the Store, I apologize.  (Also, my apologies to any of you who may have been shopping at B3 that day, although I suspect that no amount of apology is sufficient).  From now on I vow to have patience with that Mommy whose child is splitting my eardrums at the grocery store.  I think she's probably trying her best, even if her child is acting like a crazed little demon.


  1. I've had to eat a lot of words.....I've since decided never to judge! It seems to always come back to haunt me!

  2. Good job, Mama! I am proud of you! :)

  3. Oh boy do I remember that....we had to sit on a curb and ride out the mutha of all tantrums at Marine World of all places. I was mortified, my son went berzerk and people either commented that I just needed to hang in there or gave me the last place mother of the year award stare.


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