Thursday, July 17, 2008

Order Up: Would You Like Cocktail Sauce With That?

The signs were all there...

I have 1.5 hours to fill while N are M are at summer Nature Camp. I decide to head to a nearby megamart for some groceries. The G Machine and I head to the restroom just inside the door. As I chatter enthusiastically about going potty on the potty, G listens to the tinkles and peeks at my “doings” as I discreetly try to shield any unpleasant body views. He moves towards the flusher (no), plays with the paper roll (no), the mini silver wall wastecan (No! Ewww!), then moves on to twist the door handle 14 times, hesitates, then finally climbs under (NO!) just as I flush. Flustered, I “zip” out of the stall, purse flipping.

Gloop-gloop, pshhhh, whirrrrr. We wash and dry our hands a couple hundred times while I coach him verbally on what our shopping trip will be...” Mom will get a cart, you’ll sit down and be a good boy and you can drink a POP and help me get corn, pool stuff, milk, and so on – Wow, that will be fun,” etc…. He darts out the restroom door, through the automatic doors and straight down the aisle before I get a chance to wave to the greeter. I chase, catch, drag/carry him back KS (kicking and screaming) 4 times before the kindly senior greeter brings the cart to our struggling mess several yards away. G applies the “rubber legs” tactic when he’s caught, then the “stiff leg” maneuver as I struggle to wrestle him into the cart. We have a tantrum together and finally get going. I’m exhausted, sweaty and crimson only 10 feet into the door. G sings happily, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands…” Clap, clap.

Ever the optimist, I plod forward, determined to make it a fun retail adventure for my adorable 2.5 year old. I rush around, find him some items to occupy him when he gets crabby, and at all costs – avoid the little scanners every few aisles. He’s learned to recognize the overhead “Price Scan” signs, even though I alternate stores to throw him off. If he catches sight of a scanner, he lunges into the back of the cart to search for an item to scan or grabs something off the nearest shelf, waves it and wails until I flip out or scurry to scanner. Getting away from the scanner is an altogether frustrating prospect. This day, I have a little extra time and I let him scan every item in the cart only 3 times each before fighting him away from his little electronic friends. Beep, beep. As I wait, I map my plan of action, avoiding the enemy.

Mid-store, I park him at the tropical fish and internally thank the store designer for placing the tanks strategically so that I may travel a few yards to 4 different aisles to quickly grab some items while G talks to the fish. This time we avoid a “goodbye fish tantrum” because G spilled his barely-touched McD’s bribery pop all over the floor, thus distracting him from his usual separation issues with the colorful fishies. “LOVE YOU, Mom!” he sweetly yells about 64 times, delighting over his echo. I rush along, not wanting to draw attention to our mess. G alternates between loving hugs and crabby screeching. I notice the passerby only in a haze: an array of sympathetic looks, and scowls, stares and avoidance. I’m thankful that I’m travelling too fast to hear their comments.

YIKES! G throws a blue box of mac n cheese, grazing a lady’s ankle. “It’s ok, really,” she graciously responds to my horrified face and G’s bobbing blonde ringlets and toothy grin. “We’ve all been there.” This woman surely must be an angel. I apologize profusely, mentally kiss her sandals in gratitude and make my shamed escape, G blowing her kisses en route. Whew! Screech! Around the bend, we almost crash into a manager with huge brown eyeglasses and cleanup crew working on G’s pop spill on the fish aisle. I express my embarrassment that it was our mess and my regret that I couldn’t find anyone to report it. Mr. Specs was so friendly and sympathetic to my utter desperation that I might have hugged him, but I had to dash off. Whooooosh…G is silent and still from the cart’s intense G-Force.

I fly in autopilot, a frustrated storm brewing in my head. I vow for the bazillionth time to shop alone in the future. When did I turn into the wimpy mom ruled by a mere 2.5 year old? Is G that much more difficult than my other kids were at his age, or am I simply worn down? It used to be that I could chat on the phone, consult my shopping list, compare labels, leisurely check out clearance aisles, dance to the snappy music AND keep him content without resorting to begging, bribery, yelling, tears or SURRENDER. Now no matter of preparation or promises will work at this stage with G. I feel sheer panic when he into this mode. My white flag for the shopping battle is rising. Sigh.

G seems to calm down a bit when I get to the produce section. He “helps out” the most there and I’m glad that I travelled the store in reverse order and hit it last today. He causes a scene at the grapes until I give him couple. I can’t fathom buying sour grapes, so I try a sample on the sly - he has caught on - my fault. “Grapes, Mom. More please?” G stands and starts to reach, though I’ve positioned the cart 5 feet away for just this reason. I push him back down and a skirmish ensues. I’m beat at this point and he senses it – an easy target. “Mmmm-yum!” he squeals excitedly as I pop him 2 while I select 3 huge bags to freeze. Bonus – the grapes are perfect today. I no longer judge haggard looking moms who open packages of cookies in the store and shove them at their unruly children, whispering a prayer and rolling their eyes. I feel their pain.

We get to the register, the end of this fiasco in sight. I start to unload our loot and G excitedly helps grab items and puts them on the conveyor belt. He greets all within 50 feet at top decibel, “Hi! How are you? Good!” By this time I’m frazzled and totally task-driven so I don’t notice or foresee what happens next. I push the cart backwards to reach the pop down below. Standing back up, out of the corner of my eye I see G winding up... next a blinding FLASH then CRASH. My hand flies to my forehead, I look at the exploded shrimp cocktail sauce jar on the floor in front of us, then incredulously at G. Frustrated tears come immediately as the pain kicks in. Our cashier calmly comes around to clean up and I help, wanting something useful to do. The cashier in the next lane completely stops her order to bark out, “Bring ice, bring a chair, get a Manager!” The neighboring cashiers and customers are abuzz. A growing circle of red-shirted employees surrounds the end of our lane. A pretty woman in a power suit with a walkie-talkie appears to supervise the action. My new friend Mr. Specs the cleanup manager from the fish aisle runs up and helps bag and load the cart. My tears keep flowing, I don’t even try to hide them at this point. I bag our groceries to work off my nervous embarrassment. Power Suit Lady hands me ice and tells me to sit, looking very alarmed. I take the ice and cry harder, thank everyone and apologize. The red shirt brigade tells me that my head is purple and the bump is huge. It’s not just my imagination - it must look as bad as it’s thumping then. Power Suit Lady brings me around, “That big purple lump is not doing your sharp new haircut justice!” I’m grateful for the opportunity to laugh. I had just gotten a short new “do”, and now stood imagining how I would sport a colorful lump for awhile.

During all of this, G has the most amazing furrowed brow and look of confusion. He watches silently, careful as I finish my transaction. I talk the red brigade out of staying to sit and rest awhile. I simply can’t bear this attention! Power Suit Lady and Mr. Specs persist to our aid and accompany us to the car to load the groceries and even buckle in a bewildered G. They direct me to sit in the cool air conditioning for a few minutes with the ice on my head before driving off. Many instructions and thanks later, I wearily close the door and let out a loud wail. Hot, tired, grumpy. G breaks out of his confused spell, “Are you ok, Mom? Are you ok?“ Total role reversal I think, whimpering.

Game over, we both lose. I’m taking a hiatus from shopping with G for quite some time. As inconvenient and tiring it is to wait until I can get out alone late at night to shop, it will be so much less hazardous to my physical and mental health and less destructive all around. I imagine scenarios of him injuring a stranger, breaking something valuable, falling out of the cart. Not worth it. I should have stopped months ago when G became the epitome of a 2-year old shopper from hell. I guess this was his way of “knocking me over the head” with the obvious.

Guess what? I still have a beautiful bag of frozen shrimp with NO cocktail sauce.