Kids… when turning to rubber is the ultimate control

I feel sorry for some kids, jammed into collapsible strollers and whipped around mall stores where all they can see is other people’s knees.

And back-to-school time is likely the worst, after Christmas, for toddlers.  A toddler isn’t interested in going shopping unless it’s to run around clothing racks playing hide and seek… not a welcoming activity to retail staff.

I think that’s why, for a toddler, the ultimate control is a tantrum.

As a mom of young ones (a generation ago, now) I tried really hard to take my kids shopping only when it involved them.  That mindless entertainment of musing through shelves, and kiosks, and maneuvering around clothing racks and then topping it off with an adult stop for a latte has to be absolutely the worst thing for a wee one who’s geared to running and hiding and exploring and laughing.

A group of us, out on a picnic this summer, and mused about parenting toddlers three decades ago. We were given to laughter as we recounted our kids’ reactions to it all.

One of us, now a grandma of five, said her daughter regularly had a full-out temper tantrum … always in the parking lot and always at the rear bumper of somebody else’s car.  She was absolutely frantic to pick up her kid, keep her other one from running free in a parking lot, and get the tantrum kid elevated to full visibility while still carrying bags, a purse, and her own set of car keys.

I well remember my own Kid Two, now a treasured, pleasant, interesting and loving adult, who challenged me while grocery shopping.  It’s almost impossible NOT to take your kid to the grocery store and with Kid One I thought I had captured the science of shopping.  I always had crayons, a notepad, and items in my bag that could entertain while we whipped around the aisle.  This did not work for Kid Two.  Kid One would stand in a corner anywhere I said was a corner, too.  Not Kid Two.

That’s the first lesson, isn’t it?  Kid One and Kid Two (and Kid Three etc) are different from each other.

Anyway, there used to be a Loblaws on Bayfield St running right through to Maple AVE.  It was next to Woolworths and up a bit from Dunlop St.  It’s now a bingo parlour but in the 70’s and 80’s it was a Loblaws grocery store.  Pleasant staff, great store, with a horsey ride for a dime up near the cash.  [actually, there were horsey rides at almost every grocery store… where have they gone?]  I had slipped in to do the week’s groceries, but it was an ill fated trip.  Kid Two wanted nothing to do with sitting in the cart and clenched her legs into full length boards so they wouldn’t bend so she could fit in the seat.

I propped her on my hip and away we went, trying to push a wobbly grocery cart with one hand and and hold onto an unhappy kid with the other.  I think I got four items into the cart in 20 minutes, in between her determined outbursts and kicks and screams to get down.  Getting down wasn’t an option… she quickly emptied whatever shelf she was near, with one angry sweep of her arm.  I tried the corner for her to calm down.  It didn’t work.  I got down on my knees and looked into her beautiful face and tried to explore what was wrong.  Didn’t work.  I tried to let her choose which colour of jello she wanted.  Didn’t work.

Audrey MacMillan, now one of our wise ones, was in the store at the same time and she came over, no doubt to give me moral support.  She had to have been the age I am now.  “I’ve been watching you, Donna, and you’re doing everything the way you’re supposed to.  In my day we likely would have just given them a spanking.  I think you should give up.  Take her home.”

Well, I had(ve) a lot of respect for Audrey and defeat did seem to be my horizon that day so I headed for the cash.  I put the four items on the checkout ramp and moved the cart through and made the mistake of setting down the kid on the floor.  She was off!  As I scrambled to get her before she emptied the counter of gum and mints, I could feel the eyes of other shoppers.  You KNOW what I’m talking about.  The eyes and attitudes of superiority.

Anyway, I caught her, gave an apologetic glance to the cashier and headed out of the store.

We had other happy grocery shopping times, but that one that continues to stand out in my mind.  Don’t take kids shopping when there’s nothing in it for them!

Maybe we could baby sit each other’s kids during back-to-school trips!  Good luck!  Think I’ll just stay at the cottage during these shopping weeks.  Likely the best place for me!