Last week, my two-year-old threw a temper tantrum that, were temper tantrums an Olympic sport, would have earned a perfect ten. I know what you’re thinking—I’m his mother. Of course I’m biased and overrating what was probably a boringly mediocre tantrum—but you (lucky, lucky you) didn’t witness this tantrum. The decibel level was unparalleled, the arc of his flying fists and legs belied true athleticism, and the duration of the tantrum demonstrated unmatched stamina. Plus the venue—a grocery store—was an unquestionably classic choice.
When I pulled into the Raley’s parking lot, I knew even before I took Colin out of the car that he was going to tantrum. This is partly because I have that certain je no sais quoi that some call mother’s intuition, and partly because he kept saying, “Stay in car. No grocery store.”
I hate grocery shopping, too, and once I pull up, I never want to get out of the car either. Why didn’t I just leave and go shopping another day, you might ask, but I think I’ve outsmarted you there. See, I reasoned that if I gave in to Colin and left without shopping that day, he would think that he could always have a fit whenever I wanted to take him to Raley’s. Then, obviously, we’d never be able to buy food again, so we’d waste away in our house, trapped by our willful toddler. We’d spend our last days fighting over who got to scrape the rest of the margarine out of the tub, chew on the remaining bay leaves, or eat the last vitamin bear. I think it’s obvious that, based on that airtight logic, I had no choice but to make both of us get out of the car against our wills.
Immediately and perhaps predictably, Colin splayed himself on the sidewalk in front of Raley’s, wailing loudly about his unjust fate. I considered joining him.
Then the series of clueless people started to visit me, sort of like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, except that I felt grumpier and more Scrooge-like after they left.
The first was a woman who helpfully told me, “I raised five children. You have to take control and show him who’s boss.”
Now I don’t consider myself a violent person, but I gave her a look like the kind Seinfeld gives Newman, and she backed off. Good thing, too, because I was just about to show her how I take control.
Then, possibly to make up for it, she started repeating, “He’s so adorable,” while he was flailing on the ground and screaming so loudly we could barely hear each other. Honestly. Even I didn’t think he was adorable in that moment.
After I got rid of her and started pulling my screaming child toward Raley’s, another man approached me and asked if I knew where the skate shop was. The skate shop. Really. Of all the people. He thought he should ask me.
And I know what you’re thinking—you’re picturing him as a long haired teenager who’s a bit clueless. But no. He was in his thirties.
Next my wailing child, my one remaining ear drum, and I actually made it to the Raley’s entrance, and who do we run into? The “take control” lady! She was back! And she was wheeling out the shopping cart with the truck on the front, calling cheerily, “I went inside and got this just for you!”
I guess that’s thoughtful. The thing is that I really, really, really didn’t want that truck shopping cart because, and I could have predicted this, it set of a series of mini tantrums in which Colin screamed to get into the cart and then screamed to get out of it, repeat, ad nauseam. Somehow I let that annoyingly helpful lady leave with all of her appendages still intact. But, even now, when more than a week has passed since said incident, if I had her address, and if she had an alarm system, a pit-bull, and The Rock as her bodyguard, even then, her five children should fear for her safety. The skate shop guy isn’t safe either.
Once in Raley’s, I thought I’d forego our shopping list and just buy one item to make the larger we-have-to-go-grocery -shopping-because-I-said-we-were-going-to point and then leave. This decision was made to the intense relief of every other shopper in the store.
Before we could even make our purchase, though, another woman stopped me and started talking to me! She rambled, “Oh, you poor thing. I have a child too—a daughter. She’s 21 now. We’re going to Mexico next week.” Then she started to tell me about her vacation to Mexico, all while Colin’s wailing about the cursed truck shopping cart. Seriously—at least a hundred other people in Raley’s that day, but everyone wanted to talk to me about skate shops and Mexican vacations.
I’ve lectured Colin several times since his Olympic tantrum performance, and he now repeats like a mantra, “Grocery shopping. No screaming. Grocery shopping. No screaming.” And I repeat, “Grocery shopping. No committing bodily harm to innocuous and seemingly helpful customers.” But it’s a much longer phrase, and I haven’t fully committed it to memory yet. So next time you’re at Raley’s, if you see a mother with a screaming child and you suddenly get an overwhelming desire to locate the nearest skate shop, maybe ask someone else. Just a thought.