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.
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
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.