Back when I took my kids places, I think my kids were pretty well behaved. At least as well behaved as toddlers can be. Did I have to walk back into a restaurant to retrieve a shoe? Yes. Did I ever have to drag a screaming kid out of a store? No. Did childless people take pity on us and buy our breakfast for us because, surely, we could use all the help we could get? You Bet. Kids will be kids, and anytime you can take them out in public with out them having a complete meltdown or being a complete embarrassment, that’s a win. But my kids haven’t been to a restaurant in over seven months, and I just recently took them into a store. There was some rust to shake off. For all of us.
Lucy Gets a Donut
I took Lucy, my 4 year-old, to Target to pick out a new outfit for going back to pre-school, and she did fine. She wore a mask no problem, was well behaved, and took my gentle guidance on what outfit she really wanted to get. Pointing out that “ooh this one is so pretty,” really goes a long way in helping a little girl make up her mind. As part of this outing we also stopped at a bakery. Because she was so good in the store, I told her she could pick out whatever she wanted, knowing of course that she’ll pick out a basic donut with sprinkles.
Fact: Sprinkles and bubbles are absolutely irresistible to small children.
We walk up to the case and I start looking for the ones with sprinkles so I can say “ooh this one looks good!” Before I can spot the donut she’ll want, I hear “I want this one!” She has found a donut that is roughly the size of my head. With sprinkles. I guess that’s what I get for saying she can pick out anything. Perhaps I should have known better, but it had been a while since I’ve taken my kids out for food, and even then its not like they could read the menu. As far as they know, every restaurant in the world serves only pancakes and mac and cheese. Comically oversized baked goods was a new development. I got her the humongous donut, and she ate half of it over the course of two days. I also made a mental note not to let her pick whatever she wanted anymore.
Evie Gets a Dress
A few weeks after that I took Evie, my 2 year-old, to pick out a new dress too. While she was also well-behaved, she had clearly forgotten what it was like to go to the store.
For a kid, one of the great joys of going to the store is the shopping cart. It’s fun to ride in, it’s fun to help push, and apparently it’s easy to forget. I carried my daughter from my truck into the store, and as we walked in she asked me, “Daddy, where are you going to put my dress?” She was worried that if I was holding her, how could I also hold a dress.
“We’ll use one of these carts,” I said as I walked up to the row of empty, waiting carts. I folded down the seat and when to put her in, and she clearly had no idea what I was doing. She was like a thawed cave person looking at basic technology for the first time. What is the brightly-colored box? I go inside of it? It has wheels?! It rolls!? What sorcery! Her first instinct was to stand, so I tried lifting her back up and setting her back down at an angle to put her legs through the leg holes. This confused her more.
“You’ve got to sit down,” I told her still re-lifting her up and back down, hoping to jog some muscle memory from shopping trips of days gone by. No such luck, though she did start to sit. Sideways. Lounged across the kiddie seat with her head to the left and her legs stretched out as far as the cart would allow to the right.
“No sweetie, sit facing me.” This time she got the hang of it and sat it in like a normal person, and was very pleased with herself for this accomplishment.
Now that she solved the riddle of sitting down, it was into the store we went. Her goal was to get a new dress with long sleeves that she could pick out all by herself. My goal was to influence that decision so she picked the one I wanted her to. Can’t have her walking around looking like she came out on the wrong end of a fight with a bedazzler.
Side note: what is with girls clothes? At some point they switch from having Minnie Mouse and bunnies on them to being covered with glitter, or sequins, or sparkles, or emojis, or glittery sequined sparkly emojis. Or unicorns. Girls are supposed to love unicorns apparently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for embracing a sense of whimsy in your wardrobe, but why must the unicorn be so dominant? Always in your face, always shimmering, always crapping rainbows. You’ve never seen a shirt with a unicorn on it, but you have a seen a unicorn shirt.
When we get to the kid clothes section of the store, she is overwhelmed. Something with Elsa! Something with Belle! Something that exists outside the four walls of my house! I talk her out of wanting the 12-month sized t-shit with a giant Elsa face on it, and find the dresses her size. I offer several options, each hyped up with an “ooooohhh this one is so pretty!” Each one is chopped down with a cold “No, I want something else.” Still have to remind her not to put a passie in her mouth after it falls on the bathroom floor, but when it comes to fashion apparently she has become quite discerning. After five or six of my suggestions are unceremoniously dismissed, she sees it. It is shiny. It is poofy. It is a unicorn dress. This is what I get for telling her she could pick out whatever one she wanted. I should have seen that coming. Should I really have expected her to pick out a very understated dress with in a nice stripe pattern in first trip to the store in over half a year? Thats like sending a kid into a bakery and expecting them not to come out with a donut that could double as a spare tire.