It was the best of times. It also fucking sucked.
The other day I had one of those days where parenting tested me. More so than usual. And I am pretty sure I failed on at least three to four counts. After a while, you start to lose count with these kinds of things when your kids are screaming at you saying, “I HATE YOU MOMMY!!”
Let me back up a little.
It all started out pretty great. Some nice family time in the morning. The afternoon was spent with some close friends at a pediatric cancer awareness fundraiser for Journey 4 a Cure.
It all started out pretty innocently.
“Mommy, I need some more supplies for my desk at school. Can you buy me some?” Shaila asked.
She listed out all the things she needed which I had been delinquent on buying to keep her supply box up to date so she could keep up with Joneses in her first grade class. She asked if we could go to a craft store, because they only had the BEST stuff.
Now I’m not that adept at most of this motherhood business, but shopping? That I can do.
And so it came to pass that after a busy Saturday morning and afternoon, I found myself heading to Hobby Lobby with Shaila and her four year old brother, Nico. I had never been to Hobby Lobby before, so I wasn’t fully sure what to expect, but as soon as we walked in, I knew we were pretty much fucked.
There were just so many things. Interspersed amongst all the wall decor with Biblical proverbs and crosses were aisles and aisles teeming with shit that we had absolutely no need for but which I knew my kids would go apeshit for.
Bubble gum in a gun dispenser.
Little stuffed animals imported straight from China.
Coloring books that would go ignored after one use.
Candy mints in the shape of the Jesus fish.
Every size and shape of random paraphernalia involving dinosaurs, super heroes, freaky doll heads with a large sprinkling of Disney characters thrown in.
Basically, a lot of stupid shit which I already have in abundance in my house. The kind that I am always secretly throwing away when nobody is looking.
I don’t know what it is about Holly Lobby, but it changes you. You walk in there rational, prepared to leave with a few packs of crayons and pencils and the next thing you know, you’re contemplating buying inspirational artwork, furniture, and walking out with a sign that says “Jesus Loves Me.” (I’m a non-practicing Hindu, but I hear he is very accepting).
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one intoxicated by the heady air of the store. The kids were gasping, pointing and squealing and we hadn’t even made it past the floral arrangements yet.
I knew that I needed to focus though, so after repeatedly putting things in my cart and then pulling them back out in a great show of restraint, I managed to get Shaila the things she needed for her supply box for school. We then trolled around the aisles a little bit and bought a few extra crafty things for the kids and I was ready to call it quits and head to the register.
And that’s when it happened.
There in front of us, were several action figure themed racing car sets. Priced at 100 dollars.
And Nico was staring directly at them, pointing and waving and salivating over the Spiderman one.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have a history of telling John I am running out to get something like frozen spinach, only to come back a few hours later with a new sofa. It never ends well. And I have promised my husband that he can trust me. So it would not be okay for me to say I just needed to hit the Crayola aisle and come back with a new hundred dollar toy. One that Nico would probably ignore after a day anyway.
“I’m sorry, Nico. We can’t get that toy today,” I said. Firmly.
“But I love it. I want it. I WANT it!!”
“You can pick a small toy, but we are not getting that toy.”
At this point, he was trying to physically catapult himself from the shopping cart seat. We were starting to attract some attention, but I was adamant that I was not going to budge on this.
It became clear I had to remove him from the cart because he was going to hurt himself and potential passerby with the wonky way he was trying to lunge from the cart towards the toy. So I took the cart to the register, thinking I could appease him with a small toy or candy at the register.
When we got to the register, he started throwing himself on the floor and screamed in the loudest little squeaky four year old voice, “I am NOT your mommy anymore.” (He still hasn’t figured that whole thing out). Now we were getting stares, but because this was Hobby Lobby and it’s a nice Christian store, I am pretty sure nobody was judging me.
And that’s when he took off. He was disoriented so he didn’t know which way to go though. He somehow found his way to the fabric aisles and I chased him up and down them, trying to locate him. Every time I would catch him though, he would run again.
Shaila tried to help me. “Mommy! He’s here! I found him!” And then I would hear a loud grunt, only to find that Nico had punched Shaila in the stomach. Now I had a crying six year old, looking at me saying, “Why, Mommy?” and a shrieking four year old screaming, “I hate you, mommy! I want my Spiderman!”
After about a half hour of this and me managing not to somehow curse even ONCE (I just couldn’t with all those Biblical proverbs staring back at me) he decided to stage a sit-it in the yarn aisle.
We were all exhausted at this point. Shaila was probably the least disturbed by the whole event as she sat reading things like, “Love is patient. Love is kind.” with all the wonder of a child who never goes to church. Nico and I had hit a stalemate. But Hell would freeze over before I walked out of fucking Hobby Lobby with a $100 toy in my cart.
I picked up his squirming, kicking, screaming body, feeling every blow (he’s small, but he’s strong) as we made it to the checkout counter. I was ready to just leave our cart and go when all of a sudden, the hellion in my arms went limp and said very sweetly, “Mommy, can I have that?” pointing at a three dollar Transformer.
I know, I know. He shouldn’t have gotten anything. But my God, my arms and body were just so freaking tired, guys.
As we waited to pay, he turned to me and said sweetly, “Mommy, I am sorry I was so yucky,” as if he hadn’t just been giving me the four year old version of “FUCK YOU, MOMMY” for the past thirty minutes.
I just looked at him incredulously. Sometimes, there are no words.
That’s the thing isn’t it? Sometimes there are no words to describe the ups and downs of parenting. The moment we think we have this thing down and start giving ourselves proverbial pats on the back, our kids manage to take you for a ride so fast and furious, you would think you were in an amusement park. But there is nothing amusing about it (until much later, and usually after some alcohol has been consumed) and there really are no guarantees that your next ride won’t happen as soon as the next day.
I used to wonder whether I would be a good mother. A good parent. My idea of what that means has shifted greatly the more years that I parent. The biggest shift is that I realize that I do the best I can everyday with what I am given. That may sound like I am setting the bar kind of low, but I think that sometimes as parents, that’s really the best we can do. You take each tantrum, each growing pain, each boo-boo as it comes and do your best for your child in that moment.
My day at Hobby Lobby was not one of my shining moments, but I shone as brightly as I could given the shit that I was dealt. And heck, we’re all still alive, so Hallelujah! (No, I put the Hallelujah! sign back too).