Thursday, February 26, 2015

Target Tantrum: A First for Me

I will make a confession. Until last week, I had never experienced a public tantrum in my 4-plus years as a parent. My oldest seems to be of the misbehaving-behind-closed-doors variety. She will give it to us in the privacy of our own home and then act an angel in public. This is all well and good, but it also frames me as a total jerk when I roll my eyes and tell a story of her craziness. The receiver of my story will give me a look as if to say, "We could never see that angel acting a fool! You must be an awful mother!"

I suppose that kind of behavior is better than public insanity, but it's all relative. I, personally, do not allow myself to feel any sort of shame or embarrassment when it comes to my kids going nuts in public. I equate my mentality to that of Billy Chapel in the movie, For Love of the Game. When he's on the mound, he hones in on the catcher's mitt and thinks, "Clear the mechanism." Then all the noise and outside distraction goes away.

This is what happens with me. I am focused on one thing: survival. Get the child. Get child into the car safely. Do not lose wallet in the heat of the battle. Anyway, on to my story.

The tantrum was performed by one, Jack, in the toy aisle of Target. It was a classic Jack moment. I was open to getting them each one thing. He zeroed in on Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. Then he didn't want that, he wanted Spiderman. Then he wanted something from Planes. Whatever. As long as the cost was low, I didn't care. Problem was, the mere asking him what he wanted threw him into a tailspin. This is typical of him. Ask, "Which one do you want?" Then his response is something horror movies are made of.

I don't get it. I really don't. He ended up lying on the floor of the Target aisle (gross) in a glass case of emotion. At that point, my only concern was that he not pee his pants. Frankly, I didn't want to deal with the mess. I had all three children in tow (I had already declared myself Mother of the Year for that one ... perhaps that was my first problem), so toting a pee-soaked almost-three-year-old out of Target was not on my list of fun things to do for the day.

So, I cleared the mechanism and managed to strap him back into the cart. In his efforts to make things difficult, he straightened his body stiff as a board, which looked particularly uncomfortable. Whatever. His choice.

Now, I know the suggested disciplinary action in response to this kind of behavior is to drop all things and leave the store immediately. I, for one, do not agree with this. I'll be damned if I'm going to waste my hard effort of fetching groceries while carting around three children under five. I was going to finish my shopping trip. I collected the couple items I needed and headed for the checkout. Jack was still screaming. Abby had her hands over her ears. Evie was sleeping soundly. We're training her to be a bang-up third child.

In the heat of getting myself and my kids out of the store, I successfully ignored anyone staring at me, but I did not have the luxury of avoiding Target employees. The guy ringing up my groceries seemed like a nice enough person, but I'll go ahead and wager he didn't have children. Why do you ask? Well, the first thing he asked upon me pulling up to the register with a screaming child is, "Ma'am, would your children like a sticker?"

I'm not sure if he thought a sticker would pop Jack right out of his rage, but I suppose it was a sweet gesture anyway. Abby gladly took the sticker. When he handed her the sticker, he said, "You're pretty! You're going to be a really pretty lady when you grow up!" Really, dude? I didn't even have the ability to glare at him because I had to handle my crazy child.

I (impressively) managed to pay for everything and get to the front of the store. Now came the challenging part. Getting all three out the door, with groceries, alive. I had been navigating the store using one of those giant cart contraptions that allowed for two kids to sit facing the cart. I had Evie in the car seat in the back because I didn't have a sling to tote her around in.

I also had my stroller wedged between the kids' seats and the cart because, apparently, I couldn't leave it at the guest service counter because they didn't want to be responsible for someone stealing it. I think when the girl told me this, I stared at her blankly in disbelief. Really, lady? You think anyone is going to go behind the guest service counter to steal my crappy travel system stroller I've had since 2010? Thanks. Thanks for nothing.

My idea was to transfer all of my bags and Jack into a regular cart, put the baby in the travel system stroller (or have Abby push it) and walk out. I thought this was a reasonable goal. First step: put baby in the stroller. Check. Second step: transfer groceries. Check. Third step: put Jack's coat on. No dice. When I attempted to put his jacket on, he did that dead-weight thing where he just dropped to the ground (ew). At this point, my annoyances peaked and I just dropped him and turned to putting Abby's coat on.

I ended up putting Jack into the cart sans coat (your loss, dude) and heading out of the store. I pushed the Target cart while pulling the baby stroller and made sure Abby was walking between me and the row of parked cars so she wouldn't get hit by traffic (solid parenting right there). When I was about halfway to the car, a woman behind me asked if I'd like some help. Not one to turn down help when I really need it, I told her she could push the baby. I was just revering this woman as a wonderful do-gooder in my mind when she felt the need to comment, "He's really worked up, there!"

Thank you, Captain Obvious. I really appreciate you pointing that out to me. I hadn't noticed.

With the help of the captain, I got all three, my groceries and myself into the car. Abby was smug over being the angelic, behaved child ("Mommy, I didn't cry!") and poor Jack was still sniffling. Evie still asleep. Again. Great third child.

So, I am officially part of the Moms Surviving Public Tantrums Club. Do I get a sticker?