Sometimes Mommy needs – wants? – a time out too

The last word about dads on Father's Day

Well. I think we can all breathe a little easier now that school
is finally starting.
Well. I think we can all breathe a little easier now that school is finally starting.

Yes, it was a long summer, and recently I noted that my older daughter, herself the mother of two little ones, was stressed. Dealing with the antics of Gracie, 4, and Emily, 2, one particularly trying day, she was issuing time outs like a crazed ice hockey referee. Even the toy brontosaurus stood with its nose in the corner.

If you’re a parent of active little girls (or boys), while school is in hiatus you know that uninterrupted time alone is practically non-existent until your child turns approximately 37. Or gets a boyfriend. And your favorite dream is the one where you run away from home.

Remembering how I struggled during my own hectic mommy days, I volunteered to take Gracie shopping one afternoon, giving her mommy a break. My offer was accepted before I’d even finished the question.

In the spirit of family fun, I invited both of my daughters and their three young offspring to lunch before our shopping adventure. With the commotion our crowd creates wherever we go, if I got cold feet I could slip unnoticed out the back door. Hahaha. No, I just made that up. The restaurant doesn’t have a back door.

As our young waiter took our order, I noticed Gracie staring at him intently. He wore in his pierced ear a gold hoop earring, and it had Gracie’s full attention.

Completing our order the waiter turned away prompting Gracie, in a glass shattering voice, to instantly pipe up. “Mommy! He’s wearing an EARRING! WHY is he wearing an EARRING?”

While Mommy attempted to quietly address Gracie’s question I witnessed our amused waiter trying not to laugh. “Well,” Gracie announced to the restaurant at large, “I don’t know WHY he’s wearing an EARRING, he’s just a BOY!”

After lunch we waved goodbye to Gracie’s mommy and little sister, and were off to our first stop: the bookstore. Having my other daughter and Charlie with us was fun. An extra mommy on hand certainly couldn’t hurt.

Gracie was delighted to see so many children’s books and toys and demonstrated her enthusiasm by merrily spinning around the lid of a trash can located in the children’s section, enrapturing 18-month-old Charlie. Instantly the yucky trash can lid became the most fascinating item in the store.

Leaving Charlie to his whirling lid, Gracie gathered up a selection of books, and we settled at the table to look them over. Suddenly I realized I’d made a grave tactical error – something I learned years ago when my own daughters were small: ALWAYS set up the terms of the shopping trip BEFORE entering the store. If you plan to purchase one item and one item only, it is mandatory this rule be crystal clear before even getting into the car. Deviate one iota from this strategy, and it’s like negotiating with a terrorist.

Apprehensively I broached the subject that we really couldn’t buy a book about EVERY Disney princess. And their plush toy counterpart. Meanwhile, I wondered what had become of Charlie and his mommy. I’d lost track of them during the negotiation process.

Happily, they weren’t hard to find – I glimpsed my daughter streaking down an aisle in hot pursuit of Charlie, still trying to deter him from the germy, spinning trash can lid that had become the BEST. PLAYTHING. EVER.

Soon Charlie and his exhausted mommy bid us adieu, and Gracie and I pushed on to the discount store where I needed a few routine items. Gracie selected as the only mode of transportation suitable to her needs an industrial-sized shopping cart built to accommodate a kindergarten class. Maneuvering this monster was like driving a semi through a tearoom.

“What are we doing HERE, Mimi?” Gracie questioned peevishly, confounded by the aisle of detergents and dryer sheets where I’d manhandled the shopping cart. “I told you, Gracie, I need to buy …” Clamping my mouth shut, I realized Gracie was asking what were we doing HERE looking at bleach when TOYS were mere aisles away?

Now this situation was a ticking time bomb about to blow. I had to think fast. Meltdown was imminent. Shoving the behemoth cart frantically to the aisle’s end cap, I grabbed something large and flat and bright green and resembling a frog. I didn’t have a clue what it was, but it looked like something that would belong to a kid. It occupied Gracie’s attention and it was cheap. Perfect!

Arriving back home Gracie bounded inside, displaying for her mom the bounty from our shopping spree. Holding up the green frog, my daughter regarded me questioningly.

“I think it’s a bathtub mat,” I confessed exhaustedly. “Don’t ask.” Her knowing smile spoke volumes. Yep; she’d walked in those shoes, too.

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