Friday, February 17, 2012

Meltdown on Aisle 3

Dear parent at Fred Meyer:

If you want to keep up the façade of being the perfect parent, DO NOT take your young child to Fred Meyer.

Trust me … I know that of which I speak. I’ve been the mom with the little girl arching her back, making it nearly impossible for me to pick her up off the floor where she’s throwing a first-class hissy fit. I’ve been the mom with the sobbing toddler in the check-out line who is lunging for the candy within his little grubby grasp.

Forget the fact that it’s impossible to go to Fred Meyer without seeing someone you know … I once had pneumonia, looked like the Bride of Frankenstein’s evil step-sister, and could only find clean pajama bottoms to wear out in public (sorry mom). But really, all I had to do was pick up one little, tiny prescription. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. Instead I saw three people, three people who didn’t observe my total lack of “holding-it-togetherness” and let me slip by. No, they wanted to chat and ask me how I was. I nearly screeched mid-sneeze, “Is that a rhetorical question?”

But even that personal shame can’t hold a candle to the parenting shame brought on by a terrible two year old who decides to go all primal in the cereal aisle.

About five years ago, my 4-year-old daughter Lily was already in trouble for lying earlier that morning, so she was not going to be getting her free cookie at Fred Meyer. Let’s just say she was less than happy about that fact.

I tried to explain my decision by offering an example from my own youth: “When I was little and I lied, it wouldn’t have made sense for Grandma to give me a treat, would it Lily?”

“No,” she admitted.

“Okay,” I said, “So get your shoes on and let’s get into the car.”

“Why?” she wanted to know. Mind you, this is about the 346th “why” of the morning and it was only 9:30.

Tempted to holler, “Because I said so!” I instead took a deep breath and said, “Put your shoes on and meet me in the car. If, when you get in the car with your shoes on, you’re still curious as to ‘why’ getting your shoes on was necessary, you can ask me then.”

Brilliant parenting, I thought smugly. I took a deep breath, put my seat belt on and headed to the store.

When we got to Fred Meyer she wanted to walk instead of sit in the cart. I’d personally rather have her corralled at all times, but I gave in begrudgingly. I headed to pick up some computer paper, but by the time I turned around she had paints, markers and Barbie stickers in her hands.

“What are you doing?” I asked patiently.

“I need these,” she whined.

“No, you have all of those things at home,” I said, prying her fingers from the Barbie stickers and putting them back. Crisis No. 1 averted.

Then we headed to pick up juice, but along the way she pilfered some Strawberry Shortcake fruit roll-ups.

“No,” I hissed, “Lily, you can’t take things as you go. Do you need to get in the cart?”

She just shook her head no.

Then we headed to the deli for turkey and ham. As I was ordering, she disappeared, only to be found on the rack under the cart giggling and singing, “You can’t see me.”

At this point, my blood pressure was rising, my deep breathing was turning into little quick breaths and my patience level was entirely depleted. So I steered toward the checkout.

Before I could unload my three items, Lily had gum and a candy bar in her little, dimpled hands. I grabbed them from her and bent down to return them. While I was bent down I took a deep breath and whispered, “No, Lily.”

She then bent down too, met my eye, and whispered, “Why are we whispering? Are we playing a game?”

I said, “Because if Mommy doesn’t whisper right now she’s going to start screaming.”

She held my gaze for a few seconds and seemed to understand. Then I looked up and saw everyone behind me in line listening to our conversation and smiling.

Today, dear friend, I’m the mom behind you smiling. Just so we’re clear, I’m not laughing at you. Oh, no. I just recognize myself in you. I “get” you. And I hope you have a nice long nap planned when you get home, because, honey, you deserve it.

Eileen Burmeister lives, writes and works in Roseburg. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter @EBurmeister.

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