“Sorry, Bud,” I said. “We have to.”
“Nooooo!” he wailed from the back seat. I simply drove.
When we arrived at Aldi, I grabbed my purse and my shopping bags, pulled the baby from his car seat, and stood by the open van door waiting on R. “Come on, Buddy. Let’s go.”
“I’m not going!”
“You have to,” I said.
“No I don’t!”
“Fine. Come on in when you’re ready.” A power struggle with a 5-year-old isn’t really my thing, so I walked off toward the store. And just like I knew he would, R followed me. (At a distance. He had to save face, obvs.)
After I got to the front of the store and put my quarter in the little shopping cart slot, I dumped all of my stuff in (don’t worry, not the baby. I only drop him on accident.) I peaked over my shoulder, and there was R, pretending he wasn’t with me.
He was just hangin.’ He was gonna meet up with his peeps. Chill. Maybe post a snapchat with him and the quarter cart. Aldi is tope.
Since I know my son, I also knew that there was no way he closed the van door behind him. But lucky me, I have a key fab that will close it from a distance, so I pushed the baby and the cart over to a spot where I could get a clear shot to my van. As I stood there clicking the door button, this lady came walking toward me, looking bewildered and concerned.
“Is that your son?” she said, pointing at R.
For the love of doughnuts, how many people are going to ask me that? Yes, I pushed his enormous head out of my hoo ha, so he damn well better be mine.
“Yes,” I said.
“And is *that* your son?” she said, pointing at baby G, who looked like he might have been contemplating a poop.
“Yes,” I said. And thank you for playing Guess Whose Son Does Some Random Lady Have in Her Shopping Cart. You’ve won the rare opportunity to wipe his butt in the bathroom with no changing table. (Be careful, he might ask you to blow on his butthole.)
The parking lot lady seemed unsure where to begin. After twitching and shaking for a minute, she directed her consternation at R. (Of course. Poor kid.) “He just walked through the parking lot!”
Isn’t that how most people get from a car to a store? Maybe she’s learned how to float. I wish she would teach me.
“OK,” I said.
She put her hands on her hips and pecked her head at me like a chicken. “He was walking in the parking lot!”
“Yes, I know that,” I said.
She shook her head, clearly flustered. I obviously wasn’t getting her subtle attempt to disguise her superiority as concern for my son’s safety. Suddenly, she had an idea for how to really dissuade me from ever allowing my son to walk in a parking lot again. “And did you know,” she said, “that he left your van door open?”
“Yes, I know,” I said. “That’s why I’m standing here. I’m trying to close it with the key fab but I can’t really see it.”
“No, no,” she said. “I closed your door.” She pointed at her own chest. The chest of a brave, parking-lot-floating, van-door-closing patriot.
“OK. Thanks for closing my door,” I said.
She shook her head and flung her hand at me. I was beyond help. She couldn’t get through to me with her subtlety and innuendos. She’d have to try straightforward criticism. “You need to be careful. There are cars in the parking lot.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’m aware of the parking lot situation. Have a nice day.”
Jeezy peezy! She wasn’t quite fire ant lady, but I do have a bit of advice for her.
Fortunately, a few minutes later, I met another lady who restored my faith in grocery store ladies.
Following our encounter with the parking lot police, R still wasn’t ready to admit that he was shopping with me. I told him to come inside. He told me no. I said “fine” and walked in anyway. It’s a little dance we do.
As we walked through the automatic doors, baby G asked me repeatedly if his brother was coming. “Don’t worry, he’s coming. He just doesn’t want us to know he’s coming,” I said.
Sure enough, as soon as I walked through the first set of doors, there was R, standing right outside them. Then I walked through the next set of doors, beyond the little vestibule, so I was actually inside the store now. I pretended to consider buying whatever food it was that Aldi had on display just inside the door. R walked into the vestibule and pretended to consider his shoes.
As I stood there, reading the back of whatever product I had no intention of buying, another lady walked into Aldi. This one looked at R, then looked at me, and burst out laughing. “Who’s going to win?” she said.
I chuckled. “I don’t know. We’re both pretty stubborn.”
She sighed. “Ah, I’m a kindergarten teacher. This is making me miss my kids.”
Really? I could loan you a 5-year-old for the day.
The moral of this story is, if you see another mom struggling to get her child under control, who just wants to get her grocery shopping done without a tantrum, and she’s maybe trying a method you wouldn’t use yourself, don’t be like my first, judgmental and obnoxious parking lot floater. Don’t pile on more stress to a mom who’s already having a rough day. Come on, people. Just don’t be a jerk. And if possible, say something kind to the mom. You might help ease her frustration a little, like the second lady did for me.
Besides, nobody has seen more 5-year-olds than a kindergarten teacher, so she must be right. Right?
— Nicole Roder
Nicole Roder lives in Maryland with her husband, four children and one spastic fur baby. She spends her mornings wiping noses, bottoms and breadcrumbs, slapping together pb&j sandwiches, projecting murderous thoughts toward piles of laundry and shouting, “Where are your shoes?! Where are your shoes?! We’re already 10 minutes late! Find your shoes and get in the car!” She has a Ph.D. in snark and a master’s degree in social work. Fortunately, she’s only paying off loans on one of those degrees. Her work has been featured on Red Tricycle and Thought Catalog, and she blogs regularly at https://nicoleroder.com.