So, if you see me walking down the street
And I start to cry each time we leave
Walk on by, walk on by
My youngest son is maturing. He's much less like a toddler now and more like a little boy. He's starting to make a little conversation, he's responding to reason (sometimes). I feel we've been walking through the very dark Valley of Madness and Irrationality that people refer to as The Terrible Twos and are at the edge of a new land, an unnamed land where boys and their mothers cuddle over casual conversation, where little boys don't hit their moms during blind raging tantrums and where they also serve an occasional latte (not laced with vodka).
That light at the end of the tunnel is looking really nice right about now.
And all this would be the answer to the question my husband asked me on the phone as I was leaving the Wal-Mart parking lot, which was, "Why in God's name would you take him in there WITHOUT A BASKET?!"
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
This was the night my husband had to be at a fire meeting at 5:30. I picked up The Toddler at 4:30 from the daycare and it was necessary for me to stop at the store on the way home to grab a can of spray whipped topping for a dessert Julius had requested that night because of his excellent report card.
The mission was simple: Get in, grab the can of topping, get out. Simple. (In theory.) The two major problems are 1) that the dairy section is at the very back of the large building and 2) my son is a runner.
We left the car and started off pretty well. He kept close in the parking lot and held my hand (which he never, ever likes to do). He stopped to look for cars when I asked. See? Maturing.
The minute we hit the door, this is what happened:
- He grabbed limes.
- He grabbed a tomato.
- He grabbed a plantain.
- He darted wildly between baskets.
- He tried to climb into the open freezer bins.
- He grabbed a carton of eggs.
- He opened all the doors to the milk coolers.
But at last we were at the dairy section. And still, not too terribly bad.
The bigger problem came when I was faced with a decision between eight different cans of topping. I stopped to read them to figure out which one I wanted. That's when Tristan ran away.
I read the title on two cans (Extra creamy! and Fat Free!) and when I turned to see why Tristan was quiet that's what I realized he was gone. Just completely gone. Every mother's nightmare.
"Tristan? TRIIIISTAAAAN!" No answer.
In the face of a missing child I have no problem whatsoever embarrassing myself so I yelled very loudly, "I'VE LOST MY KID!!" There were three people around me and they all started looking around with me. Finally a man said, "Is it a little boy you're looking for?" He'd found him over in the paper towels.
Tristan, however, didn't realize how panicked and subsequently annoyed I had become and thought, instead, that what I really wanted to do was play a game he and his brother play called, "Ha ha, get me."
The guy said, "He's running down toward the back..."
I said, "No problem. Thanks. I'll cut him off down here." I ran down the dishsoap aisle, turned right at the end where I thought he would be. Nothing. Turns out he had turned sharply left and run up the laundry soap aisle. I got there in time to see him running right toward the pet section. He laughed maniacally.
At the pet section (where I still hadn't caught up to him) he jogged right again, grabbing a container of fish food yelling, "Mommy, fish!" to which I yelled, "Show me, show me!" He spun around and stopped and waited for me to catch up. Hallelujah. I might not be able to catch him but can still outsmart him. (For another week if I'm lucky.)
I grabbed the can of topping we needed (no reading, just grabbed one randomly) and we headed to the checkout. Halfway there he darted sideways and ran into the clothing section. Lost him again. This time I was determined to find him without making a fool of myself. Finally I spotted him looking for me slyly as he was hiding behind a display. I struck like a cobra and grabbed him by the wrist. We shot out into a main aisle right in front of a lady with a grown daughter and a basket. Tristan fell to the ground screaming, "NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOO!"
The lady had an alarmed look on her face. I mumbled an apology and picked Tristan up in a "football carry" and took off toward the front waiting for the inevitable siren's call of a toddler beginning for mercy. "NOOOOOO! DOWN DOWN. NOOOOOOOOOO!"
Part way there I found an unattended basket and wrestled him into it and when I turned to wheel the basket around suddenly that woman appeared again in front of me, partially blocking my way. She had a strange look on her face. I braced myself for unsolicited parental advice. I smiled graciously.
"How old is he," she demanded.
"He's two. You know two year olds." I chuckled, she didn't.
She asked Tristan, "What's your name, honey." He mumbled something unintelligible.
"His name is Tristan." She was starting to give me the willies.
"I have a grandson that's two. His name is Henry and he's from Oregon. This child is the SPITTING IMAGE OF HENRY." She eyeballed me suspiciously.
"Oh," I said. I got the feeling she was about to imply that I had somehow kidnapped Henry from Oregon and that his trantrum was due to him recognizing his long lost grandmother during the unlikely moment that he and his kidnapper happened to run into each other in this small town halfway across the country.
What I wanted to say was, "Lady, do you think if I was going to kidnap a kid, it would be THIS CHILD? No, as lovely and adorable as he is with his winning smile and dark, hypnotic eyes... would I pick a child who feels like he's made of lead and can beat me at arm wrestling? No, crazy lady, I'd choose a malleable, quiet child who could be lured with promises of candy or Barbies or lost puppy dogs or really good tuna salad sandwiches."
Instead I just said, "Well, okay, buh-bye." I waved and turned to go.
She looked at Tristan with mopey eyes and said, "Take care, little boy, I hope it's all okay for you..."
Now in the basket, the world was right and we made it through the checkout with no further incidents. I saw the lady in a checkout nearby, her eyes boring through me. I pushed the basket toward the exit and glanced up at the missing child poster to see if there was anyone up there who might look like Henry from Oregon.
The magic doors slid open for us and we were on our way 45 minutes after we first went in for one little can of spray whipped topping.