Over the weekend, the boys’ grandpa was coming to stay overnight with the boys and I had a few errands I wanted to run, so I thought it would be nice of me to offer to bring one of the boys along to cut Seth a break. He gave me a strange look before chuckling to himself and asking if I was sure. Seth is notorious for hating family trips to the store – any store. So, we left the decision up to the boys. Before I knew it, one of them was frantically running around looking for his shoes while screaming “SHOES! SHOES! SHOES!” and the other one was hobbling around with one rain boot on in search of the other.

I had two errands: run to the mall, make a quick stop at Target. We went to the mall first, where ambitious parenting dreams go to die.

I realized we didn’t have the stroller as soon as we parked and regretted this trip instantly. After wrangling the boys across the parking lot, we came up to the entrance. As soon as we walked in we came up to the escalators. Immediately, Matty started losing his shit (he hates escalators). I bent over to pick him up and simultaneously reached back grab Abbott’s hand only to realize he wasn’t there. In that moment, I noticed a much older man standing a few feet away stopped in his tracks, staring at something behind us. I knew immediately I was going to turn around and see Abbott doing something (I guessed eating something off of the floor) so I whipped my head around to look.

He was crouched low to the ground, his arms stuck out from his sides, staring at the floor with wide eyes. I looked back at the older gentleman, watching Bot with a look of bewilderment and then I looked back at Abbott. What was he doing? We watched him together while Matty rambled on about the escalator. Bot mustered the courage to move his feet, sliding each maybe half an inch at a time before he gave up and slowly started descending to the floor. The germ-freak, croup-exhausted mom in me called his name. He looked at me with fear in his eyes and continued his descent. I sprang towards him and offered my hand. He took my hand and cautiously stood back up. I realized there was something about the reflective floor that scared him – because of all the things in the world, of course that is the one thing he’s scared of.

The old man chuckled to himself, shook his head in disbelief and said, ‘You can never be too cautious.’ Bot and I walked hand in hand at a snail’s pace while Matty either begged for something or asked ‘Mom, where’r the cookies?

When we got to the specific store we had come for, Abbott came alive at the sight of the hardwood floors. Both of boys turned into crazies; they were running in and out of people, crawling underneath hangers and tables and inside of shelves. There were moms and grandparents smiling and laughing at them while I tried to discreetly chase them and basically threatened to take every possible thing I could think of. One woman in particular told me they were ‘just so cute’ but that she bet I was counting down the minutes to nap time.

“Every day.”

When I had gotten what I needed to get, I had to stand in line. I had to leave my spot in line and get back in line four different times. One time, Abbott took off and sprinted for the exit. The nice woman who had joked about nap time, stopped him right outside the door as I came barrelling up – Matty in one hand, both of their winter coats in the other, the clothes I was buying bundled in my arm. One other time, Abbott and Matty started a game of hide and seek and disappeared. Another time, Abbott stared into my eyes with an evil grin while I stood in line and said in my ‘low voice’, ‘don’t you do it.’ He darted towards the mall exit and again I barrelled after him – this time leaving Matty behind – and I caught a hold of his hand an inch before the door, setting off the alarm.

Everyone looked toward the door as I dropped everything in my hands – coats, clothes, random ass toys and these photobooth pictures Bot and I had taken shortly before entering the store –  and swung Abbot up into my arms while he yelled ‘no’ and smacked me in the face repeatedly. And then, because that wasn’t enough, simultaneously Matty came screaming up to the front of the store.

“MOM! I DON’T WANT TO WORK HERE! I AM NOT WORKING HERE!” I dragged both of them back to the back of the line and bribed Matty with a cookie if he would just stay in line. “But, Mom, I don’t want to work here.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about butt good news, you don’t have to work here.”

“Mom, I can’t work here.”
“Matheson. What the heck?”
“I don’t wanna work here.”

He clung to my leg while Abbott wiggled in my arms and smacked me in my face. The woman in front of me laughed at Matty and I’s conversation; I wanted so badly to ask if she wouldn’t mind just explaining to him how the world works for a five minutes so I could take break to calm my nerves, my sweat glands and my urge to bawl in the middle of the store. I didn’t of course, because you never know who’s going to misinterpret your life and call social services anymore, but I really wanted to.

When we got up to the register the woman greeted Matty immediately.

“Hey! You’re back!” She then looked at me. “He came running back here a while ago and I told him I’d have to put him to work if he came any further.”

Now it all made sense. So that’s what he was doing while I was chasing Abbott down like bull in a china shop. I apologized for my children, paid for my stuff and we went on our way.

When I got home, looking like I’d just tried to run a 3k sprint in street clothes and my tolerance shot, Seth tried not to laugh.

“What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m just really questioning my life choices right now.”

“I was questioning your choices before you even left here. I don’t like taking them anywhere!”

I used to think Seth was such a jerk for not wanting to take family trips to the store because I knew how much the boys loved going and I thought they needed these experiences so they could learn how to act in public. But now I see that it’s a proven, guaranteed fact that taking my kids almost anywhere alone inevitably ends with me fighting every every urge to set my hair on fire or lay down in a fetal position in the middle of [insert public location here] and quietly sob myself to sleep. They’re not ready to learn public courtesy, the public’s not ready and – quite frankly – I’m not ready.

I guess I can’t say holiday shopping never taught me anything.

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