Oh, the Places You’ll Never Go . . . If You Have Half a Brain

I swore I’d never take my children into a shopping mall again.

Watching an entire display of accessories crash to the ground in a popular clothing store at the local mall was about as fun as standing there for fifteen minutes afterwards waiting for my son to apologize for deliberately pushing it over. He saw no good reason to say he was sorry. I mean, he “didn’t think it would actually tip over. It looked stronger than that!” And in his defense the cardboard display that housed those accessories belonged in a dumpster, not a store, but still he was going to apologize.

Tanner had absolutely no intention of saying he was sorry to anyone so he was given a choice: He could apologize or he could spend the remainder of the evening in bed. After ten minutes of him standing there silent, I realized that my son possessed the willpower to stand in that store all day. Luckily that sort of willpower is genetic and he just happened to get it from me. And I wasn’t losing this opportunity to teach my son that we apologize for our mistakes, whether intentional or not. The rest of humankind needs to know that we don’t walk around deliberately causing them grief. So the time limit was imposed. He had five minutes to apologize or we’d be leaving and he’d own the consequence. Fifteen seconds left and he was suddenly all over it. Victory.

As I walked away I heard the store clerks whispering. In the eyes of those eighteen year old girls I was a villain. How could any decent, respectable mother torture her four year old like that!? I mean, we live in a society that currently places zero value on personal responsibility. How on Earth could I expect my son to develop any!? It was almost emotionally too much to deal with. Teaching children to be decent, respectable, and responsible is a hard job on a good day. It’s even harder in a shopping mall. Never again. I was resolute.

But then my three year old daughter needed a plaid shirt to complete her cowgirl ensemble for Halloween . . . and I couldn’t find one anywhere. I mean, where’s Wal*mart when you need them anyway? Ten months had passed. I was feeling brave. After all, the boys were in school and it was just me and the girls. Plus, I had Avery’s stroller, so I only had to control my three year old. How hard could that be?

The fits Haylee is capable of throwing crossed my mind, but hey, malls don’t have shopping carts for her to throw herself down in front of, so certainly she wouldn’t dare. Well, maybe they don’t, but I was pushing a stroller. Carts and strollers both have four wheels. And moms push both. If you’re mad enough you can throw yourself down in front of anything. Luckily malls have so many things to sidetrack little kids that every fit she started to throw ended quickly. How could she throw a fit and spin the rack in The Children’s Place at the same time after all? (By the way, whoever invented those and put them in a children’s store had never actually gone shopping with children. They may as well have put up a sign that said, “Hey kids, spin this as fast as you can until the clothes start flying off! It’s really funny! Plus, your mom will hate us which was obviously our goal.”)

If you compared this outing to the one I had imagined, it turned out really well. The previous episode with my son must have been a fluke. So, the next month when my husband finally decided he needed to buy a new suit (which I’d been saying for 3+ years) at a moment when we had all four of our children with us, I only felt a moment’s panic. “Everything will be fine,” I thought, “People are going to be amazed by my children’s manners.”

I probably should’ve just slapped a sign on my back that said, “Please excuse my redneck children. These are the type of kids that are used to peeing outside.”

It was instantly a nightmare. My boys plopped down on the floor and started shooting marbles between racks of suits like they were on the playground while the little princess started twirling like she was Vera-Ellen in White Christmas. We didn’t have our stroller either, so Avery kicked and screamed in her car seat like she was being abused. Thanks guys. I always feel it’s best when the employees hope and pray you’ll leave in the first two minutes after your entering a store. I mean, why give them a false sense of hope? That would only breed disappointment.

My threats and attempts at reason were about as effective as my death stares.

“Do you guys want them to kick us out of here before Dad even gets his suit!?”

“Yes. This place is boring!”

“Quit picking up those shirt pins! You’re going to stab yourself!”

(In between sobs that could easily rival Chunk’s confessional in The Goonies.) “Mom, I’m bleeding everywhere! You didn’t tell me how bad it would hurt! I need a band-aid for my finger!

“Don’t touch those ties! Somebody spent a long time making those look nice!”

“Would you look at all these colors! I wish they had a camo one. Mom, Tanner’s whipping Haylee with a tie!!”

This continued for two hours . . . and I wish I were exaggerating. My husband takes longer to shop than a woman picking out her wedding dress. I wish I knew the cause of this, but alas I have no idea. I also have no idea why Kyle was so unruffled by the scene we were causing. His only concern was that his manhood remain intact through the whole suit buying experience.

“Kids, I’m still a man even if there is pink in my tie.”

Hunter actually giggled, “Yeah, right.”

By the time we made it to the car, I was done for the night. I was spewing out lectures about what we don’t do in public and about how exhausting and embarrassing the whole episode was. My kids were mildly apologetic. And probably only felt a little bit sorry because they were afraid I’d snapped. And I probably had.

I could’ve gone on for hours about taking young children into a shopping mall. I mean, on what planet is it okay to place perfume/cosmetic counters in the entry of every department store!? My kids have to walk past that mountain of “please, do not touch” crap right along with me to get to where we need to go. You might as well drape fluffy clouds of cotton candy over everything because your odds of them not touching stuff would be just as good.

And since I’m complaining about it, whose idea was it to put little kiosks all throughout the mall. “Hey! Look at these cheap watches that I’ll sell to you for twenty bucks! Aren’t they shiny!? And I have them all strategically placed on a shelf as low as your kid’s kneecaps so that he can grab and break one that you’ll have to buy. Would you like to pick out the one he’s going to break?” Idiots.

“Oh! You needed the children’s clothing section? No problem. Just walk through the entire store and then take a ride up the escalator with your stroller and four children. I’m sure it will work out nicely for you. We do have an elevator, but it’s all the way across the store where you just came from. And since your children only pulled things off like eighteen racks up to this point, it should only take you an hour to make it back there.”

Shopping malls aren’t meant for people with children. Or at least not for mothers.

My husband’s reaction to all of this: “Sorry that took so long. Where do you want to go next?”

I hope my hollow eyes and catatonic drooling answered his question.

3 thoughts on “Oh, the Places You’ll Never Go . . . If You Have Half a Brain

  1. Linda Meziere

    I remember when one of my kids knocked over an eight-foot tall metal cage filled with those big bouncy balls. It seemed to fall in slow motion yet I was powerless to stop it. Technicolor plastic orbs going in every direction. I tried to stop them and my purse swung off my shoulder, launching several like rockets! Everyone in the store watches in horror at my predicament. Wishing that I could become invisible, I turn to my sister for help. She is staring, mouth agape. When we make eye contact she starts laughing like a maniac, setting off the crowd that had gathered. No plastic bouncy ball was as red as my face.
    I'll make you a deal, I'll shop with your kids. You can shop with my sister.

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