In a moment of temporary insanity, I decided it was a good idea to take my 2- and 4-year old to the mall.
Let me explain that we go to the mall all the time. It’s kind of a fun, air-conditioned place for my kids to roam around while the Arizona summer is raging on outside. We pick up balloons at Nordstrom’s, play in the play area, and hit up the Disney Store. After two hours of fun, my kids peacefully fall asleep in the car. Cake!
But not this time! This time, in my latest crazy mommy moment, I wanted to take both kids to the mall to actually buy clothes. Why? Because I needed to find them head-to-toe outfits for my brother’s wedding next month. I went off on my own once before but none of the clothes worked and I had to return everything the next day. This time, I thought it would be better if the kids came with me so they could actually try some stuff on. How hard could it be?
We get to the mall, and after only pausing once to wait out a brief crying fit because there is no time for balloons today, we make it to The Children’s Place. First off, can someone please explain to me why they have a store for babies and children that has zero room to actually push a stroller through the aisles? I swear, I almost knock over an entire rack of pink and purple sunglasses before I decide to give up the stroller and park it somewhere by the front door. And if you’re wondering why that’s a big deal…No stroller means my kids think they’re free to run wild. See what you did there, Children’s Place?
Too late now. As I am trying to find wedding appropriate but kid-friendly attire that somehow match each other’s, that can go from day-to-night and that can also be adjusted for inclement weather (call me the Rachel Zoe of kid fashion if you will!) my daughter hits up the rack with oodles of giant sized hair bows and accessories. OK, fine. “Just make sure you put everything back. No, we’re not buying that. No, not that either. None of those things. Just looking, OK?” My son, in the meantime, is nowhere to be found. “Where are you?” I hear a giggle under a bunch of dresses. Dresses – perfect! I grab my son from underneath the spinning rack and take a few dresses in a few different sizes. While I’m at it, I also pile on a handful of bolero jackets in different shades of pink on the fly before grabbing the only pair of sandals I am able to find in my daughter’s shoe size. Now, where is my son? He is on the other side of the store taking down most of the sunglasses I was able to spare just minutes earlier. “Come over here! Put that back. No, all of them. No, don’t throw stuff. When we come home your football will be in time out.”
Next, I try to herd everyone into the boys’ section. I’m looking for a white shirt. Found it! Long sleeve? Short sleeve? Whatever…take ’em both. We’re here, we’re doing this! We need to get everything today. We are not coming back. “Where are you? Leave your sister alone.” Pants…which size? T2 or T3? Black or gray? Whatever, pile ’em on. Shoes? Why don’t they have decent boy dress shoes that also look somewhat stylish and not like a 45-year old accountant would wear to a working lunch on casual Friday? “Look what I found, mama!” “No, put that back.” Where are the dressing rooms?
I manage to get everyone to the back of the store and shove my kids and the mountain of clothes I’m holding into the one dressing room available only to notice that I left my purse in the stroller. The stroller, where the heck is it? “Don’t move. I have to find my bag.” I leave both kids in the dressing room as I dart to the front of the store, grab my bag and run back as fast as humanly possible.
But too late. There she is: Mean Mom. In front of the dressing room, waiting with her tween daughter, a baby in one arm and a pile of clothes the size of mine in the other. Where did she just come from? Mean Mom is staring daggers at me as I’m rushing past her to finally try on my kids’ outfits. I smile apologetically before I disappear into the dressing room once again. While I was gone for 10 seconds, my son thought it would be fun to sprinkle all the clothes on the floor as my daughter is crying that her brother threw her shoes somewhere and they’re nowhere to be found. From here, everything is just going (more) downhill. And fast! By now, it’s way past lunch time, everybody is whining, we’re taking forever. “Pay attention! Hold still! No, the other arm!” I can just feel Mean Mom impatiently tapping her foot on the other side of the door, cursing me and my brood for taking so freaking long. I can barely handle the pressure!
As we finally emerge from the dressing room with one dress, one bolero jacket, one pair of sandals, one pair of slacks, and two white shirts (long and short sleeve just in case) that will actually make it home with us along with the heap of discarded no-nos, I look at Mean Mom and sincerely apologize for making her wait.
However, contrary to what I expected, Mean Mom is not showing me any sign of understanding, solidarity and/or empathy. Mean Mom is not amused. She barely looks at me and ever-so-slightly rolls her eyes. She certainly thinks my apology is not enough to make up for the misery she has had to endure while waiting for us to be done. She is clearly judging me. And then I am judging her for judging me. I mean, who the heck does she think she is? I am really trying the best that I can. She has kids, right? Shouldn’t she know better?
Shaking my head, I make my way to the cash register and get in line to pay as fast as I can. We need to get outta here or I can’t guarantee for anything. “Mama, I have to go potty.” “Now?” “Yes.” “How badly do you have to go?” “Really bad!” says my daughter who is already doing the potty dance. Crap! I squeeze past a bunch of other moms who are waiting in line and slam my stuff on the counter while asking the sales clerk if I could park it there for a minute. “Also, where is the nearest bathroom?” “It’s just across the way next to Build-a-Bear.” Build-a-Bear? Where the heck is Build-a-freakin’-Bear? “Everyone in the stroller!” Where is the stroller?
Looking and feeling completely crazy, I rush out the store as my preschooler isthisclose to peeing her pants if I don’t find the potty STAT. Luckily, we make it to the bathroom without any accidents. We take our time going back to The Children’s Place to finally pay for and pick up our stuff. I’m exhausted! Relieved to be done, I am trying to wrap my head around all that just unfolded. I need a drink!
And then, as we are about to leave, the impossible happens: Mean Mom comes up to me and with the utmost sincerity says, “I am truly sorry if I was at all rude to you. I should know better.”
Turns out, Mean Mom is not so mean after all. She is probably just another tired mama whose patience is stretched dangerously thin from constantly worrying about her family’s health and happiness, who is trying to make it through the day without completely losing her mind. You know, the usual…
**Photo Credit: © Diego Vito Cervo | Dreamstime.com**