I don’t hate children, but I realize in this child-worshipping society the following will sound as if I do.
For the last three days I’ve had a splitting, bone-crunching headache. The kind you can hear. Because I can find no physiological reason for the headache, I will not excuse myself from doing what has to be done around here.
So I had to go grocery shopping.
Over the entire country around 1 or 2 p.m., mothers and caregivers put their infants and toddlers down for their naps. This has been done forever merely because it is a routine that works. By early afternoon infants and toddlers are tired. And cranky. Loudly cranky. They’ve had their bottle or their PB&J and apple juice and then it’s time to put them in bed.
This is why around 1 or 2 p.m. you do not plan to do anything away from home. You dust. You vacuum. You balance your checkbook. You do not – I repeat, do not – take them to the supermarket for major grocery shopping. Not only because they will be tired and loudly cranky while you are shopping, but they will be tired and loudly cranky while I’m shopping.
We’re not talking a harried mother running in for a gallon of milk and her Prozac prescription. We’re talking several mothers browsing in the aisles and exploring every free sample while their little Baby Face Finsters are either screaming or, worse, that one-tone nasally whine lasting surprisingly long for one breath in someone so little.
“I know it’s time for your nap,” one mother cooed kindly to her three stair-step toddlers at the deli counter as she scarfed up free cheese.
I waited for the second part as in, “I know it’s time for your nap, but I have to shop now because I’m already scheduled to address the U.N. at 4 p.m., when children are usually rested and pleasant.” But no disclaimer came along to indicate that she knew is was nap time, but she just didn’t care.
In our grocery store they provide families with these big SUV-like carts with plastic cars in the front for toddlers to sit in and pretend they’re driving. Not only do the toddlers mistake this feature for a jungle gym, it also makes the unit as a whole next to impossible to steer. Add to that the fact that the store also narrowed the aisles to add an organic food section and, well, there is just no getting around the circus.
In better times, i.e. sans headache, I might have helped the mothers out instead of standing in judgment of their lack of planning and reluctance to discipline.
Only once when the Heirs were toddlers did I face a similar situation. It was precipitated by stuffed gorillas on sale at the store. When they reached the level of annoyance, out they went to the car (the kids, not the gorillas). My groceries? Left them at the front counter with an apology. Serves them right for displaying tempting stuffed gorillas.
It never happened again because the Heirs learned a lesson that day: Not only do you not get the thing you’re throwing a tantrum over, but all that great stuff Mom brings home from the grocery store runs out and you are forced to drink water instead of apple juice and eat grape jelly on your sandwich instead of strawberry.
I don’t claim to be the perfect mother, but one of the basic rules of parenting is you don’t set your kids up to fail. You don’t give them a job they’re too small to accomplish or set a goal too far off for them to imagine (I actually heard one mother say, “Behave and next week we’ll go see Aunt Stacey!” Next week? Toddlers are like dogs; there is no “next week,” only “NOOOWWWW!” as in, “I want it NOOOWWWW!”)