Three Kid Circus : Mall Mania

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Mall Mania

It's my oldest's last day of preschool, ever. I've been procrastinating about what to give her teachers as a thank you gift, especially since we are re-upping and enrolling my soon to be 4 year old son in October. I did gift certificates to Starbucks before Winter Break, which was well received. Is it tacky to do the same thing again?

Obviously, some sort of shopping mission is on the schedule today. We'll go fast, shop hard and return to base before the mall knows what hit 'em. We're well known around our local mall. In a fit of "I'm still hip, doncha know" while pregnant with my son, I bought a leopard print baby sling. I never ponied up for a double stroller. I have a monstrous bike trailer/double stroller, but it won't clear most doorways, let alone aisles in stores. Not that my yahoos will stay seated anyway. Restraints, for the most part, bring out the Houdini in my kids.

Picture this. I have a regular, single stroller with a basket beneath it. I put my son in the stroller, my oldest stands on the basket facing forward, and I wear my youngest in the leopard sling. We are like the Peking Acrobats. Hup hup hup hup *Pose* Hey!

When we come rolling into the mall, it's like those old spaghetti westerns. Shop keepers rush to flip over the 'closed' signs as we pass by. Other shoppers hurry out of our path, throwing worried glances over their shoulders. I half expect to be challenged to a showdown with the Sheriff. "You best get them chillen out of this here mall by sundown, stranger."

There is no such thing as browsing with my herd. I plan each stop of our journey, punctuating with trips to the bathroom and reminders that children who behave get to play with the trains at the toy store. This has backfired on me the last few times. The Parenting Gods recall a time in my smug parent days where I uttered "I can't believe that child is whining and demanding that toy. That mom is a doormat."

Well, lay me down and walk all over me, honey. I have bought the most ridiculous things just to clear the store without a band of villagers chasing me with pitchforks. After an epic, face down, flailing and wailing tantrum by my two big kids at the end of a train-play session the last time around, I have decided never again. I will entice with ice cream.

We also have to go to the library to return books. This is one of those places that make my kids go apeshit. We stand in front of the library for 'the lecture.'

"What are the rules?" I demand. "No running, no jumping, no screaming," the kids chant obediently. "We are clear on this?" I fix them with the old hairy eyeball. "Yes, Mommy," they singsong.

We've been improving. We can usually get the return books on the counter and spend a few minutes browsing the children's section. Waiting in line to check out the books is where it becomes difficult. Someone always has to pee. Someone needs a drink. Someone decides to sing the alphabet song. We've been shushed rather forcefully by the reference librarian. Everyone is relieved when we manage to get everyone back onto the stroller (hup hup hup hup *pose* hey!) and out the door.

Honestly, I don't know if other moms struggle like this. It dawned on me, just now, that my son probably thinks its normal to talk and talk and talk with no one listening, because I have a constant hiss of words streaming from my mouth in public places. "Keep your hands to yourself. Get your feet off the wheels. Don't. No. Please come here. Now, please." I'm so busy correcting my kids that I don't notice if other moms are doing the same thing.

I took one of those internet quizzes a while back - something about your parenting style. It said I was high strung. This gave me pause. I am generally laid back - my house is far from perfect, I don't feel like I'm expecting too much from my kids or myself. From the time that I discovered that my first born would only eat Cheerios if they were scattered on the ground like chicken feed, my visions of idyllic motherhood have gone out the window. Maybe I need to put my head up and stop hissing.

Or maybe I need to buy everything online. Yeah!