Image credit: Kathy L. Detzer
I was living in the hot and densely populated concrete city of Phoenix, Arizona in the early 1990s, and felt holed up with a six-month-old infant and a chatty three-and-a-half-year-old boy. In the summer in Arizona with two little ones, there is not much to do. The three of us went from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air- conditioned store. Sometimes, I would meet other moms at the local McDonald’s ball pit and sip on Diet Cokes while the kids played in air-conditioned comfort.
One day, I decided to embark on a trip to the air-conditioned drug store, because, who doesn’t love a trip to the drug store? Ridiculously, I had visions of perusing the make-up aisle and dawdling among the unneeded items on which I could spend money. My six-month-old son could just barely sit in the shopping cart seat with the aid of the straps. I gingerly attempted to keep the baby from tipping over, and was beginning to realize that perhaps him sitting in the cold metal-wired cart was not such a good idea. My older son, Noah, was hopping around, very excited by the temptations of the toys and candy and items on the shelves and not staying close by, as I had instructed. I was getting edgy, impatient and beginning to lose my temper.
There were a few things already in my shopping cart, but with my bulky diaper bag on my shoulder, I unstrapped the baby with one hand and hoisted him on my hip, while grabbing Noah’s tiny fist with my other hand, yanking him in a cartoon-like gesture that practically hoisted him air borne. I stomped outside the store, leaving the cart behind.
Once outside and on the sidewalk of the strip mall, I squatted to Noah’s eye level and really let him have it. This was in full view of anyone inside the store through the big windows. Then, after gaining some composure, I said we would “try it again” and I marched back into the store and resumed my position at the helm of the shopping cart, with the now-whimpering Noah.
An elderly clerk behind the make-up counter was watching the entire drama unfold as if she had never witnessed anything like it. Her mouth was literally agape, then she actually said, “Tsk. Tsk” with a click of her tongue and reminded me, “He is only a little boy.”
I was embarrassed of my behavior and humiliated by her judgement, which definitely took my self-imposed SuperMom status down a few notches. I do not remember exactly what happened after that. I think I probably gathered my kids and my things, left the half-full shopping cart in mid-aisle and left the store. I do remember sitting in my mini-van, crying and Noah patting my shoulder consolingly and promised me everything would be all right.
I never went back to that store.
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