We were in the middle of Walmart. For whatever reason I felt it was necessary on that Wednesday, when the kids had already had a rough morning, to go to one of my least favorite, most nerve wrecking, places in the world to get something I really didn’t have to have. Ironically, it was the wooden letters from the crafts section to spell “GROW.” We’ve been in the middle of a playroom remodel for about 2 months and I ‘needed’ these to wrap up a project for it. Now, I could have waited until Thursday when my brother’s girlfriend, Courtney, comes to help me with the twins so I can run errands, clean, etc. Instead I unwisely decided to visit my own personal hell, Walmart with all three kids at about 5:00pm.
On the way there, we pulled through Starbucks – a venti non-fat caramel latte later and I thought I was ready to take on the world.
The twins (3.5) were in the back of the shopping cart, Nora (1) was in the seat.
Coming down the main aisle to the back of the store, we hit the booby trap section. Like sticks covering a massive hole in the mud where you fall to your death…You know…all the cheap useless, seasonal, crap toys that your child can’t live without that if you don’t put them in the buggy right then, you’re in store for a mortal fit of a toddler tantrum for the rest of the trip. You know, that one. Target has it too — and they are even worse. They sprinkle it with fruit snacks, and Cheetos, and frosted animal crackers – and it’s the only way in. Damn them.
So, we are coming down the aisle of torment right out of the gate and Oliver takes out a row of beach toys – clears a shelf. Not intentional, mind you. He’s trying to grab the one behind him that he wants and in his spastic toddler boyness – he spins around and there it goes before he even knew it. Cleaned up – moving along – still calm – accidents happen. We make it to the back of the store where the letters were located – but what’s on the end cap – sidewalk chalk. Oliver, of course, needs sidewalk chalk, and Olivia needs Oliver to move so she can see. Naturally, the one Oliver needs is in the very back row. He gets his little hand on it, Olivia pushes him, and down goes a whole shelf of sidewalk chalk. Again, clean it up, scold the kids, and move along.
I get the letters – I had to have- and choose to get some grocery shopping done while we are there. As we cut down the closest aisle to head towards the cereal, it’s loaded with candy – every candy imaginable. Oliver wants jelly beans. Olivia wants gummy bears. No. No. No. Nooooo. Stop touching, keep your hands in the cart, and sit down. I’m getting more frustrated at this point, but this is the same aisle my tea and coffee are on. I turn to grab my box of coffee and I hear it – that sound – I know it all too well. Oliver pulled another – Oliver. 13 bags of jelly beans in the floor. One had busted open. As I’m raking together and picking up the rainbow of candy off the floor so no one slips – Nora decides to wiggle herself free of the strap and stand up in the front seat of the cart. A mild heart attack and leap for the baby later, we leave the remaining jelly beans on the floor and tell someone so they can finish the clean up without my baby falling to the floor on her head because stores refuse to put a five point harness in grocery carts.
Nora now refuses to get back in the cart. I’m still holding and savoring every tiny sip of my venti nonfat caramel latte. I’m not throwing it away – but I have to hold the baby, and can’t hold the baby, my coffee and push the cart. So, I’m holding Nora, put the giant cup in the seat wedged so it wouldn’t fall and we continue on our way.
On the cereal aisle the evil geniuses that plan store placement put the Trix immediately next to Kix. Kix – ok. Trix – not so much. But try explaining to two 3.5 year olds why they can’t have “colorful Kix”. After a kicking screaming tantrum and some dirty looks from the mom going down the aisle next to us – Alright you cereal stocking assholes, you win. I’m not having this fight today. I might as well of bought the freakin’ Jelly Beans.
In the produce section Olivia decides she doesn’t want bagged salad–like, it can’t even be in the buggy near her. After kicking at it until it was in the corner furthest away from her, she decided that still wasn’t far enough and threw it in the floor as we walked away. I pick it up and place my sadly bruised baby spinach bag in the front with my coffee out of their reach.
As we head, finally, toward the check out, Oliver decides he’s not sitting in the basket surrounded by groceries for even another minute. He’s standing, he’s yelling, at a volume that only Oliver can achieve, and he’s going to fall—-I’m having flashbacks at this point of when he actually fell out of the cart when he was younger and my heart is about to jump out of my chest– and I can just see it now.
Every line at the front is about 10 deep, all five of them. You are Walmart – you have 25 apparently useless registers. Why in the hell do you only have 5 open at 5 O’clock when every person in a 10 mile radius is stopping on their way home from work. At this point my blood is boiling – we go to the self – check out. I’m scanning groceries and those god forsaken wooden “GROW” letters (which they only had the G-R-O in stock), holding the baby and trying to keep a hand on Oliver to keep him sitting in the buggy.
As per usual – an older man walks by and says “You’ve sure got your hands full” with a chuckle. I could have hurled a can of green beans at his head. For the record – the last thing a mom of more than one child wants to hear on an e.v.e.r.y d.a.y. basis from every person they pass is – Man, you’ve sure got your hands full. No shit.
As I look up to smile, nod and shrug at this oblivious stranger for commenting on our chaos and momentarily distracting me, Oliver stands in frustration, forcefully pushes closed the seat part of the cart, crushing my venti caramel non-fat latte, exploding it – all approximately 15oz remaining – all over me, the floor, the baby, the scanner, and the sad bag of spinach. At this point – I’m pretty sure my eyes were glowing red, my hair was on end and venom was spraying from my fangs as I jerked around and lit into the twins. What are you doing? What is wrong with you? Why can’t you just listen? Just listen? That’s all I need you to do is listen!! Listen! Listen!! Listen just kept hissing out of my mouth. Definitely not my best parenting moment.
Olivia looks up with me with all the big doe eyed innocence a 3 year old can muster and says, “Mommy, why are you so mad?”
I finished up – scanned my dripping, soggy, bruised bag of baby spinach that seemed almost as damaged and defeated and as me and my ego and we left.
Kids buckled in, groceries loaded, I start the car and put my hands on the wheel and just sit.
That little question rang through to my very core.
Indeed, why was I so mad?
With three kids – or 2 kids, or 5 kids…or however many you have, it’s very very very rare (like never) that they are all going to have a good day on the same day, at the same time – even for a minute. 2 out of 3 happy is a good day. Hell, I’d take just one happy all the time. But the days that all three are ‘off’ or in less than chipper spirits are a dime a dozen. If one wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, that temper prone, whiny, irritability is more contagious than a snotty nose. Suddenly my two previously sunshine faced toddlers are in a puddle on the floor attached to my ankles in full on fits of misery. They can’t control it. They can’t just dry it up and stop it. The emotions they feel are real to them and are just as serious and earth shattering as my desperate need for a cup of Joe before they wake up on the mornings one of them or all of them were up all night the night before.
While you can’t control their tantrums or moods or irrational needs, you can control how you handle them – and how you handle yourself with them.
Forcing kids into situations that they aren’t going to fare well in on a good day is a risky choice on your part (my part) on a day that has already been challenging for them—what was I thinking??? Why do that to them? Why do that to me – yourself?
I’m not saying submit to the tantrums and mood swings and give into the behavior at all. Simply, don’t put yourself in situations that you know aren’t going to go well and expect anything different.
Don’t think that because you can’t stay in the house one more minute and there is something you absolutely have to have, that your kids’ moods and behavior are suddenly going to change and they are going to be quiet little angels on a blissful shopping trip.
So – truly – why was I so mad? I knew they were having a bad day already. I took them to a place I didn’t “have to” go, with an overload of stimulation and chaos, stayed longer than I needed to, and was then frustrated when the outcome was exactly what I could have predicted.
I chose to do that. They didn’t. They didn’t do anything other than react to their environment the way that 3 year olds know how.
So, as you quickly dress your kids and throw them in the car because you can’t stand to be in the house another minute and the walls feel like they are closing in, as the kids hang from your ankles crying over the wrong temperature of their juice, and the wrong cup holding their juice, and the itchiness of the tag in their shorts, and the dirt on their jelly shoes, and the dog sniffed them, and their baby won’t fit in her stroller right, and the magnetic blocks are stuck together, and the dogged licked them, and now their magnetic blocks won’t stick together, and their doll is stuck in her stroller, and the dog won’t come and play with them and, and, and, and, and….. that and, and, and, and…is not going to suddenly change when you walk out the door. It’s just going to be relocated to a new, more public, and more frustrating environment.
And as you reach your limits and cringe at the whining, crying on the floor toddler tantrum — take a deep breath, count to 3 (let’s be real-you don’t have time to count to 10) and smile at your kids. Resist the urge to throw them in the car and just get out of the house for ten minutes – because it’s not going to be 10 minutes – it will be 2 hours, and yes, you’re the mom – it’s your choice what you do. But do you really want to choose to pull a Walmart on yourself?
Why on earth would you take this fight outside? Keep in the environment and circumstances you can control. Yea, sometimes we don’t have a choice. We have to drag them out kicking and screaming to get a gallon of milk or dog food or whatever… but if you choose to stay out, you choose to test your kids’ limits, and you fail – that’s on you. You failed – not your kids. That’s your fault. You can control your wants, needs, emotions – frustration – and actions. They can’t control their feelings and emotions, or perceived needs at that age – so, if you’ve made the decision to prove to them that they are living in your world and you’re going to do what you want to do, regardless of how they feel, and you expect them to snap to and pull themselves together …. then they don’t and you are left with a soggy bag of spinach – why are you so mad?