The other day, I found myself at the entrance of Target with the task of buying a birthday present for the party that started in half and hour, along with picking up a few basic necessities, such as coffee, laundry detergent and toilet paper.
“Can we go to the toy aisle?”
“Yeah! Can we look around?”
“Mmm hmm,” I mumbled, as I ticked off the fastest route through the store. “Go ahead.”
I looked up a half-second later to see my tweens still standing there.
“You can go by yourself,” I smiled through gritted teeth.
“Can you come with us?” my 9-year-old pouted.
“No!” I answered, shooing them away. “Go! Just go by yourself!”
Feeling a tap on my shoulder, I turned around to find a large man in a white polo shirt. Busted by store security.
Image: Commander, US 7th Fleet
From strip mall to mini-mart, I see them: mothers trying to run errands with their kids. They are like mama ducks, but instead of being followed by fluffy yellow ducklings, they are trailed by moping pre-teens.
“I like that!” the man laughed, giving me a hearty thumbs up. “I feel like saying that to my kids all the time. Just go by yourself!” He walked away, chuckling. The man wasn’t a security guard, just another parent tired of dragging sulking children through a big box store. At the time, I was mortified. This is how people end up on reality shows or ‘gotcha’ YouTube videos of moms behaving badly. But as I’ve been running around town doing errands this week, I realize I’m not alone.
From strip mall to mini-mart, I see them: mothers trying to run errands with their kids. They are like mama ducks, but instead of being followed by fluffy yellow ducklings, they are trailed by moping pre-teens. These “kids” are as tall as their mothers, but weigh half as much; their shoulders are slumped with the resignation of suburban youth who are forced to march through air conditioned aisles of cereal and toothpaste. Anything would be better than this, their eyes tell me, even pre-algebra class.
Years ago, my boys were pros at shopping. They’d push their mini-carts to the bakery counter, tilt their long lashes, and ask, “Cookie?” Now they are too big for the toy shopping carts, and I stock our pantry while they are in class or at one of their many practices. But when our schedule slows down during the summer, I try to take them to the market. Some people are worried their children don’t know food comes from a farm. I’m not sure mine even know food comes from a store. But incidents like the one at Target remind me that sometimes, if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.
A few days later, I left my kids at home and went to the supermarket. It was a busy afternoon, and there were exactly three shopping carts left in the bay. I felt an elbow in my side, as a gangly middle schooler pushed past me to grab the one cart that sitting by itself. As I struggled to pull apart two locked carts, I looked at the boy. “Do you think you can give me a hand?”
“You know, grab the end of that shopping cart, and I’ll pull this one?”
He half-heartedly put his hand on the metal edge, then shrugged and walked away.
Forget it. I’ll do it myself.
A moment later, the same boy was by my side again, head still hung down.
“You go and ask that lady, ‘Can I give you a hand?’” his mother ordered. “Offer to help her! I’m so sorry about him.”
It was my turn to laugh.
“Don’t worry, I have a son his age, too.”
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