The Daddy worked this weekend, so I was essentially a single parent. Single parents everywhere, I tip my hat to you. YOU ARE HARDCORE. When it was just Benjamin it wasn’t so bad, but Ellie’s flair for the dramatic and the natural histrionics that accompany age 2 made me want to move to another country – by myself, please. I got so angry once about the incessant arguing and defiance that I sent myself to time out, and then I sent everyone to their rooms so the dog and I could have a few moments to regroup. It didn’t really work though, because they just continued their argument upstairs, loudly enough so I could hear every word. Next: an unidentified crash, followed by crying, followed by Benjamin yelling, “I told you not to touch that!”
The dog sat close to me, leaning in as if to soothe both of us. I murmured apologies into her ear for bringing her in to such a chaotic family. Poor thing.
The whole weekend wasn’t like that, thankfully (right now, for example, they’re sleeping like angels). Earlier today, I took them to their very first stage play, a local production of Pipi Longstocking. It was a bit of a risk, taking Ellie there; I knew Benjamin would do fine, but 2-year-olds aren’t known for their attention spans, or their ability to understand why they can’t talk loudly wherever and whenever the mood strikes them. In the car on the way there, I explained what a theater was and how we should behave during the play. We practiced whispering. She assured me that she would be quiet. “I pwomise, Mama!”
Amazingly, we made it all the way to intermission with no problems whatsoever! I was so proud. They really seemed to enjoy it, too. When intermission started, though, Benjamin said,
“I really like this, Mama, but I’m ready to go home now.”
“Don’t you want to know how it ends?”
“No, I don’t. I just want to go home.”
Given how well things had gone, I decided that leaving on a high note wasn’t such a bad thing. I said sure, we could leave now.
Error #1: But INSTEAD of going home, instead of listening to the poor boy, I convinced him that it would be fun to go to a nearby furniture store to quickly pick up a pair of lamps I had ordered.
(When will I ever learn?)
We got to the store and it was packed with people. They were having some kind of big sale, seemingly attended by everyone in town. I had called ahead so that the lamps would be ready when we got there. Ellie wanted to ride in one of the courtesy strollers they offer at the door, so I let her. We chose one and started towards the customer service desk at the back of the store.
Error #2: Then I decided we should quickly check out the clearance center for bar stools.
At that moment, Ellie decided she no longer wanted to ride in the stroller; instead, she wanted her doll to ride in it. In the following moment, I decided I should look for bar stools another day, and we’d just get the lamps and head out of there.
Very rapidly, the situation deteriorated. I can’t even describe to you how it happened. All I know is that I told her we were leaving, and suddenly she was screaming – and I do mean screaming. It was screaming worthy of a horror movie, and it ricocheted off the walls of the jam-packed furniture megastore. She screamed and sobbed and screamed some more. It was like a dramatization of a child’s meltdown in a movie. I’ve never seen anything like it from either of my children. My best guess is that she had held so much inside during her stint at Pipi Longstocking that it all just had to come tumbling out. Of her mouth. Loudly.
At first, Benjamin and I just stood there and stared dumbly at her, unsure of what to do. Finally, I calmly said, “We’re leaving now.” I took Benjamin’s hand and started to walk away. She called my bluff and didn’t follow. Benjamin, a better parent than I am, started tugging at me. “We can’t leave her here, Mama! Go get her!”
So we walked back to her. I put her screaming little self back in the stroller and went to the desk to pick up the lamps. On the way, I started laughing. Benjamin started laughing too, because I was. By the time we got to the desk, we were laughing so hard that we could barely talk, while Ellie continued her screamfest.
A masochistic employee offered to carry the lamps for me, since I obviously had my hands full. As we began our bizarre trip back to the front of the store, people glared and stared at us disapprovingly, moving carefully out of our way. Ellie, in the lead, continued to scream inconsolably in her stroller; Benjamin and I followed, laughing maniacally; the store employee brought up the rear and attempted to set himself apart from our strange, cacophonous parade.
As soon as we got outside, she stopped instantly, like someone flipped a switch. I guess when your captive audience of around a hundred shoppers disappears, so does the motivation for your Oscar-worthy performance.
“We go home, now, Mama?”
“Yes, Meryl Streep. We go home now.”