Once when Riley was a little over two years old we made the regrettable decision to make a family trip to IKEA, probably because we needed something for the endless remodel that was going on at the time. We tried to be strategic about it and parked near the exit instead of wandering all the way through the labyrinthian confines of the store to pick up our stuff from the warehouse section, but the instant we got inside I knew it had been a Terrible Idea. Looking back on it, I don’t know why on earth I didn’t cram Riley in a stroller and push him along instead of letting him run free, but run he did, as though the very IKEA air had suddenly made him crazed, filled with a sort of madness brought on by affordable Swedish furnishings. He bolted all the way from the checkout lines straight back to the stored furniture, with me—bulbously pregnant at the time—chasing awkwardly behind. I shouted his name but it only seemed to spur him on, and when I finally caught up to him I had to corner him like a wild horse between a display of EKTORPS and KARLSTADs. I tried to distract him, calm him, even offer him a ride on one those flat carts, but he was having none of it and I was forced to pick him up, at which point he went completely boneless and started shrieking.

While JB rushed to make our purchase, I carried my screaming, flopping, kicking child past endless aisles of GRUNDTALs and KROKENs with what seemed like a thousand pairs of eyes fixed on me, all the way past the jars of lingonberry and whimsically-shaped watering cans and out the exit and into the truck, and which point I dwarf-tossed him into the backseat, slammed the door shut, and leaned against the window to enjoy a brief, hearty bout of hysterical weeping.

Later, I may have eaten my own weight in frozen meatballs to help soothe the pain.

That’s probably not the worst public outing we’ve had with one of the kids, but it sure ranks up there in my mind. I tell you this in the hopes you’ll share one of your own stories, and I don’t normally toot my own horn but I think this is a GENIUS idea because I’m about to fly across the country with a 3-year-old and who knows what’s going to happen, it could be like Snakes on a Plane except with a preschooler (“Enough is enough! I have HAD IT with this motherfucking kid on this motherfucking plane! Everybody strap in!”), and if so I know reading some of your only-funny-in-retrospect tales will make me feel better.


85 Responses to “Outings gone bad”

  1. MommyMia on April 24th, 2009 2:59 pm

    ^^^ Make that – no one – in the last sentence. My 1 year old is sitting on my lap, please excuse the typos.

  2. Lindy on April 24th, 2009 3:05 pm

    bring LOTS OF NEW TOYS- thinks he hasn’t seen before. Get them at the $ store because he’ll lose have of them immediately. I fly all the time w/ my daughter, we are in the UK and my family is in the US. It’s not that bad taking off sucks because well they don’t just GO you have to sit there strapped in forEVER. So take games, cards, cars, crayons, BIG HEADPHONES for the tv/iphone. FOOD FOOD FOOD- snacks and nibbles will be your savior lord jeebus cripes!!

  3. Lindy on April 24th, 2009 3:06 pm

    ah hem I think I didn’t answer the question asked.

  4. Sheryl on April 24th, 2009 3:15 pm

    For some reason, my daughter used to scream “I want my mommy” everytime she got overtired, wound up, and trantrummy. Even when I (her mommy) was right there to witness the whole thing. There’s nothing like carrying a screaming, thrashing toddler out of a store with them screaming “I want my mommy! Give me my mommy!” I’m sure I totally looked like a kidnapper, and still wonder why no one called the police the couple times it happened.

    Then there was the time she was three and we were in a restaurant, not too busy, appeared to be fully staffed, but the waiter’s service was really slow/bad. She crawled under the table, stayed under for a minute or so, and climbed back into the booth. No big deal–she’d been coloring, and the crayons kept rolling off, so I figured she’d gone under to fetch a crayon again. About the time she resettles herself in the booth, I started to smell this fresh poo smell. I asked her if she had farted, or perhaps had an accident. She replied, “Nope. I went down there and pooped in that man’s floor because I’m hungry and he won’t bring me my food.” I slapped a $5 bill on the table to cover our drinks, scooped her up and ran out the door, yelling back at the hostess that my child had become ill and we had to leave NOW. Needless to say, we never went back to that restuarant.

  5. Denise on April 24th, 2009 3:30 pm

    A travel-themed tale, in honor of your trip:

    My 6-month old and I were making our way through the airport security checkpoint. I was juggling the squirming baby and the stroller and getting the evil eye from the passengers piling up behind me while I waited for my shoes, which were delayed on their trip through the scanner. I decided to stick the baby in the umbrella stroller and move out of the way. You know how umbrella strollers have that metal latchy-doo that you must push down to lock? Well, I got my bare foot caught in that, and the area in question started turning purple and swelling up.

    I managed to stem the tide of obscenities, but not the tears that started leaking out of the corners of my eyes. A security guy noticed my predicament and insisted that I sit and wait for a medical team (i.e. “I’m not going to be held legally responsible for this crap.”) After waiting for an eternity (while still trying to wrangle the baby with a bum foot) a full paramedic team comes tearing up. They had the works- a stretcher, oxygen, paddles.

    As a crowd of bystanders started gathering, I sheepishly explained that I had an ice pack-type injury, not a resuscitation-type injury. The EMTs seemed pretty disappointed, but were still eager to take me to the hospital- “Are you sure you don’t want to go? We’d be happy to take you! Are you sure?” After I’d scored my ice pack and shooed them off, I limped down the insanely long 150-gate terminal and boarded a 4-hour long flight.

    And as a special bonus, the baby came down with chicken pox the next day. (I hope that everyone sitting near us on the plane was vaccinated!)

  6. spacegeek on April 24th, 2009 4:47 pm

    God Bless Everyone Of You!! I Am Not Alone!!! I’m sitting in a Starbucks, away from my oh-so-delightful (most of the time) two and 1/2 year old twin girls, smiling and loving the stories, because I have so been there, and I’m so happy that you all have been there too. It is really good to know that it happens to the best of us. I won’t even share my stories, but believe me, I’ve got ’em!

  7. iidly on April 24th, 2009 4:53 pm

    I’d drug him with benadryl:)

  8. Mary on April 24th, 2009 5:07 pm

    First, my best story involves not one of my kids (I have age related amnesia, and I’m sure they were all perfect!) but my niece. She was doing something bad, and my brother went after her to pick her up and get her to stop, and she yelled, “Don’t taze me, Bro!” I just about wet myself, I laughed so hard.

    Now, travel tips. We used to fly our kids from Seattle to Indiana to visit the in-laws, and also took a 2 year old to Japan and back. Have a talk with him before you go, and explain what’s going to happen and what behavior you expect from him. Emphasize what a big deal this is, and what a big boy he is to get to take a trip like this. He’s plenty old enough to get that.

    Then buy a bunch of little dollar store toys and wrap them up like presents. Give him a new one to open every hour or two. Load up lots of short shows or music he likes on your iPhone. He’ll be great. Kids that age love the adventure.

    Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  9. Pam on April 24th, 2009 5:40 pm

    Yeah, mine is not funny yet. It was this morning. Grocery store. One three year old. One 18 month old. Lots of pity looks. Not many groceries purchased. Ugh.

  10. Jill on April 24th, 2009 6:03 pm
  11. Ellen on April 24th, 2009 6:32 pm

    Great post, great comments! I cracked up. I believe I have effectively blocked out/repressed the really bad outings, I’m talented that way, though just today I was recalling to another mom about the time my husband took our son to Whole Foods. Dave can never resist a sample, and so when he saw the veggie pate, he had to have some. He thought it would be a good idea to give some to our little boy, too. Only Max is allergic to nuts. And the veggie pate had some, as it turned out, because the next thing you know Max was puking everywhere.

    Dave still likes samples.

  12. Andrea on April 24th, 2009 8:02 pm

    re: Sunny’s story – any idiot stupid enough to stack metal garbage cans like that is asking for just such a scenario. C’mon, how irresistible is that, to “kids” of any age?

    I won’t ever live down the time when I was 2-3 years old, at Sunday Mass, I loudly questioned, “WHO FARTED?”

  13. anna on April 25th, 2009 1:57 am

    I’ll make it brief:

    1 and 1/2 yr old toddler whose favorite past time is running


    non-stop NZ to Norway 26hr flight with a total of 4hrs sleep (toddler and mother inclusive)


    a full-on craphole of an experience.

  14. Niki P on April 25th, 2009 4:42 am

    Drug him.

  15. agb on April 25th, 2009 7:51 am

    not hellish (although there were plenty of those moments as well), merely mortifying.

    in line at target (do i sense a pattern here) with my 3 year old son. crowded store, long lines.

    child loudly asks “mom why don’t you have a penis like dad and me. i know you like dad’s penis. why don’t you have one.”

    muffled laughter amongst shoppers, my face various shades of red and purple.

    i will be telling that story to his first girlfriend as payback, believe you me.

  16. Alyson on April 25th, 2009 9:47 am

    I don’t recall any public meltdowns from my kids. I know they did it – they had to have – but I don’t recall any.

    What I do recall is the private meltdowns…..#2 son was just a couple of months old and I was a stay-at-home mom. #1 son was 4.5 and was working my last nerve. He was still in that adjusting to not being the only one phase. For the previous two weeks I had heard that boy threaten to run away to grandma’s house every time something displeased him. Finally, I had hit my breaking point. Darling G yelled at me that he was running away to grandma’s for the umpteenth time that day and I had had enough. I grabbed him, dragged him to his room, grabbed a bag, yanked open the dresser drawer and proceeded to stuff his clothes in the bag, declaring “If you want to run away, FINE! I’ll help you pack!” He stood there stunned and watched me pack his stuff. He then told me to call grandma to come pick him up. I said something along the lines of “Eff you! You want to go to grandmas……you’ll find a way to get there yourself!”

    He suddenly decided that running away wasn’t the best idea.

    When his younger brother tried the same thing with me when son #3 was born, G was quick to tell his brother……”Do NOT, say that to Mom! She’ll help you pack!”

  17. Jessie on April 25th, 2009 9:56 am

    We also had a meltdown on the edge of the Grand Canyon, which is not a really awesome place to deal with a screaming 2 1/2 year old while several dozen Japanese tourists watch in horror and take photos. Shear cliffs, tantrums, it was basically one giant panic attack from the get-go.

    Still the best was when our daughter really loudly told a crowded restroom at a bookstore that “grandma has REALLY BIG underpants, and someday I WILL TOO!” My poor mom.

  18. acorndreaming on April 25th, 2009 11:27 am

    When my Riley was 4, we were at our local grocery store. I don’t remember what prompted it – maybe because I told him we weren’t buying pudding – he told me to “SHUT UP” in front of about 20 other shoppers. I was mortified and hissed something inadvisable to him at which point he leaned over from his perch in the grocery basket seat and bit the everliving crap out of my arm like he was a zombie child. I bolted for the check out because he was screaming and I thought I might kill him or die of embarrassment or both. We made it somehow through the checkout and out to the parking lot. I had somehow calmed him down slightly when some old woman I had never seen before walked up to me. “I would NEVER let a child speak to me that way and tell me to shut up. What kind of mother, are you?” Clearly, she had been in the dairy aisle earlier. All my pent up rage exploded and I grabbed my groceries with one hand, my kid with the other and snapped at her “My son is 4, so he has some trouble controlling his mouth. What’s your excuse?!” and stomped off to my car. Worst. Grocery Store Trip. Ever.

  19. Kari on April 25th, 2009 12:47 pm

    You know, this is one of those “changed by blog” moments.

    I don’t have kids. I have given the stink eye at mothers with unruly children so many times, wondering how it is that they cannot control their kids. Why they would take them out in public if the kids cannot behave.

    I may still have to suppress my rolling stink eyes, but from here on out, I am going to try really hard to convert my gaze to one of sympathy and understanding.

  20. Helen on April 25th, 2009 2:19 pm

    The day my divorce came through, in an effort not to sit at home and weep all day, I packed all 3 kids ( 5, 3 and 1) and we caught the bus to a lovely sea side touristy place, Easter saturday and I had just enough cash for the veggies for the dinner next day. Hard times.
    We had a lovely day out and on the way back to the bus stop I saw a lovely antiques market, filled to the brim with beautiful things….I needed some happy, so I told the boys that we were going to walk around and they must keep their hands in the pockets and then I would buy them a treat.
    Of course, Jordan, then 3 couldn’t do that and he grabbed at the ugliest vase I have ever seen and it crashed onto the cobbled flooring of quaint market.
    I haad to pay for it and it took every last penny I had.
    I paid and as we left, with me pushing the stroller and 2 tiny boys running beside me, I berated him because I was just about on my last nerve, I told him how NOW we wouldn’t have vegetables and NOW I had no money and WHY DID HE TOUCH THAT DAMN THING?
    5 minutes up the road I felt a tug on my sleeve and a sweet older lady handed me some money and said ” PLEASE, please let me give you this, he is just a baby, you are breaking my heart…PLEASE take it” and she ran away.
    That was 19 years ago and I can still feel the shame and the heartbreak to this day.
    Being a mum is SO TOUGH! But it is so great too, isnt it?
    Jordan, by the way is the most glorious man, he is completely unscathed by his mean and bad tempered mother. Phew.

  21. Christy on April 25th, 2009 5:39 pm

    I took my 19 month old daughter to a payless shoe store today because she had outgrown all her shoes. She spent our time there pulling shoes off of the shelves, then screaming and throwing herself to the ground when I put them back.
    I was not going to leave without shoes so I did my best to distract her from screaming while trying shoes on her. A young worker came up during the worst of the screaming and asked if I needed help. I politely told her no, but I wanted to tell her to mind her own, childless business.
    It was the shortest amount of time I’ve ever spent in a shoe store, but I managed to get some cheap shoes. Goal accomplished!
    I hate the looks and comments from people when my daughter gets screamy in public. Don’t they realize that if I could make her instantly stop I would, and that their reactions are just making it worse for me?

  22. nonsoccermom on April 25th, 2009 9:12 pm

    We weren’t really in “public” but the worst outing with my oldest kid took place at Meet the Teacher night at his preschool. He was nearing four and not yet potty trained, and though it was not required for this school, his new teacher-to-be expressed a fair amount of horror that he still wore pull-ups. So I was already on edge and trying to talk to her about that when my son chose that exact moment to start being a little butthead (normally he was pretty laid-back). My husband tried to quietly calm him down and for some reason Alex – a child who has never required more than a time-out in his life – starts screaming in a room full of other parents NO, DADDY! NO! PLEASE, DADDY, DON’T BEAT ME!!

    I have never wanted to die so badly in my life.

  23. Erin on April 26th, 2009 2:59 am
  24. Lisa on April 26th, 2009 10:42 am

    One of worst outings with my then 2.5 year old twin boys was to the grocery store. They only had one seater carts which meant one of the boys had to sit/stand in the back with the groceries. They had been pretty awful the whole time but I was determined to just get through it and get the heck out of there. So we make it up to the check out and the child in the back proceeds to loose his shit. I can picture the next sequence in slow motion. In a foot stomping rage he hikes up one of his little legs as far as he can and brings it down as hard as he can right on a side laying yogurt. KABLAM! Yogurt EXPLODES out of the container and splatters all over this other woman’s butt while she is unloading her groceries at an adjacent check-out stand. The two isles just come to a completely silent stand still. In the middle of my mouth agape horror, my child screams out “Moly SHIT!” and he then laughed like a deranged lunatic. The yogurt butt lady at least had a sense of humor about it and I was very apologetic but as soon as we got in the car I died laughing recounting the story to my sister. I think they have only been grocery shopping twice since then and they are four.

  25. Lindsey on April 26th, 2009 7:30 pm

    Helen, your story had me in tears. What an absolutely horrible day!

  26. Sarah on April 27th, 2009 5:09 am

    Funny timing – yesterday was a fun one! I took my just-turned-2 year old son to run some errands, mostly returning things (something I hate doing, so I’m sure he does too!). We made it all the way till the last store….we’re in TJ Maxx returning some cushions, and he won’t stand still in line, and then when we finally get to our turn, I’m told it has to be store credit because it’s past 30 days (it was 34 days) – so, wanting to prolong the misery, I ask to speak to a manager because I really didn’t want a store credit. This is where my son takes all the packets of jelly beans out of the display next to the register and starts tossing them across the aisle (!). I hurredly put them all back, pick him up, at which point he turns into a red-faced, screamy child, with me, red and sweaty trying to just get through it. I think it worked in my favor – I got the credit! Anything to get us out of the store. It’s a shame because the beginning of the trip, he had been soooo good. I hate being ‘that mother’!

  27. melissa on April 27th, 2009 5:43 am

    Sophia was almost 2 and we were grocery shopping. She really really wanted a bag of apples, but we already had a bag of apples at home, we didn’t need another. She was walking, which clearly was a mistake, and she started yelling ‘HELP! HELP!’ until my husband took her to the aisle to get a bag of apples. She got her wish that day.

  28. Joy on April 27th, 2009 5:43 am

    I think my worst outing would have to be the time my rage-filled preschooler pulled down my elastic-waist maternity pants by the check out lines at the grocery store. Couldn’t go back there for a while!

  29. Kelly on April 27th, 2009 6:23 am

    I can completely relate to in-store meltdowns … including several times he’s laid on the floor next to me screaming and crying while I pretend I don’t know him.

    But the worst travel-wise was not his fault. On our way back home from Christmas in my hometown, he started barfing about 5 minutes after we took off. And continued throwing up off and on throughout the three hour flight. We were both covered in puke, the entire tiny little plane smelled like puke, and all I could do was cry. Poor thing was so miserable and I felt like such an asshole mom for having him on that plane even though I couldn’t have known ahead of time.

  30. Violet on April 27th, 2009 7:19 am

    I love these stories! My 3-year old had a meltdown yesterday, and my husband said “she is becoming such a brat – I don’t think it’s just a phase, I think it’s a real problem”. Um… it’s a phase kids go through. I wish I could get him to read this!

    We were shopping for sandals, and at our second store, when she found some she wanted – the gaudiest, ugliest Dora sandals I’d ever seen. I could go against what I want and buy Dora (ugh!), but not ones with a GIANT Dora face surrounded by glitter. When I told her no, she went crazy – screaming, crying, just nuts. I wanted to leave, but there was just NO way I was going through that another day! Then she smacked my arm, and (shades of Alyson’s problem) she looked at me with hate and said “I’m telling my Grandma!”. I said fine, your Grandma is my Mommy and she’ll tell you you’re a very bad girl and you will be in BIG trouble!

  31. Half Assed Kitchen on April 27th, 2009 11:34 am

    Too many to count. But how come you didn’t just toss him in the ball room?

  32. Liz on April 27th, 2009 1:04 pm

    :::wiping tears::: I have to say, I feel sooo much better after reading all the comments. I have vague recollections of episodes like these – such as the time that people came RUNNING into the grocery store aisle I was in with my screaming, flailing toddler, to find out what Horrible Incident had occurred to make him scream that way (he couldn’t have a giant bag of candy). Or the time he went all flailing, boneless, screamy and toothy and tried to bite me because he wanted to run amongst the cars instead of holding hands in the zoo parking lot. And there was the Grand Canyon, edge-of-the-precipice meltdown, too. I’ve suppressed most of the memories, though. He’s 10 now, a complete charmer, and lucky that we both survived those years!

  33. Anais on April 27th, 2009 1:57 pm

    I don’t have children of my own yet, but I do have quite a few horror stories about my best friend’s nephews and her own daughter, which is my goddaughter.

    A few years ago, my best friend’s boyfriend at the time (now her husband), had planned for her sister, brother-in-law, their kids (her nephews) and my husband and myself to go to a restaurant for dinner, because he planned to propose to her. It was a Mexican-themed restaurant, where they have live Mariachi, and a specialty dessert called “Fried Icecream,” which is my friend’s favorite. The plan was to give the waiters the ring to put in the center of the ice cream, with “Will You Marry Me?” written in fudge around the edge of the plate. My cue to hit the record button the video camera was when the Mariachi came over and began to sing. Well, the second the waiter placed the ice cream down in front of my friend, her two obnoxious little nephews, around 7 and 5, began shouting, “I WANT ICE CREAM!” in unison, at the top of their lungs. I kept turning my head to give them the evil eye. Meanwhile, my friend’s sister was fuckin’ oblivious to her two monsters howling for ice cream and totally ruining the moment. My husband took the camera from me to keep recording, while I tried to calm my friend’s nephews. They wouldn’t stop screaming, as my friend burst into tears and accepted the proposal. If you watch the video, you can see me grabbing the plate of ice cream and lunging it at her oldest nephew, while shouting, “Here’s your fucking ice cream, you brat!” I almost cracked his forehead open with the plate. I was so pissed. I even told her sister to either get them under control or leave. Ah, memories. I also have an IKEA horror story involving those two, but I’ll spare you.

    Meanwhile, my Goddaughter, who is now two years old, should not be allowed in public until she is at least 6 or 7, because she is extremely spoiled and throws tantrums over the slightest things. Yet, my friend still insists on taking her everywhere, knowing full well that we always end up dealing with a mortifying meltdown that includes, screaming, flailing, kicking, punches, and other horrors. We were at a craft store, shopping for some supplies. My friend always puts her daughter in the back part of the shopping carts, so that she can stand up, sit and move around as she pleases. I always say that it’s dangerous, but she doesn’t listen. Anyway, the entire walk around the store, my god daughter kept reaching out and pulling things off shelves, ripping merchandise open, tossing things to the floor, filling the cart with random items. When we walked past a dollar section that had these coloring pads with markers, my friend grabbed one and placed it in the cart. My god daughter reached for it, but my friend told her, “No, we have to pay for it first. Wait until we get to the car. Then you can have it.” Yeah right. My god daughter snatched it up, ripped open the plastic packaging and proceeded to scribble all over the pad, herself, her pastel pink dress… with a NAVY BLUE marker! My friend had a fit and yanked the doodle pad out of her hands. My god daughter began hitting her and drawing all over HER clothes, whle screaming, “NO MOMMY! MINE!!! MIIIIIIIINE!!!!” and sobbing hysterically. About a million pairs of eyes turned to stare. I wanted to die.

  34. Jaidnoire on April 28th, 2009 5:47 am

    *sigh* My son is 19mths and we haven’t had a moment like any of these….yet. But I know it’s coming and I’m terrified.

  35. becky on April 29th, 2009 12:10 am

    My son is 17 months old and just starting to throw little tantrums. I foresee some of these stories in our future.

    When I was little, I hid from my mom at the department store, inside one of those round clothes racks. Just as she was about to panic, she heard me giggle. Thankfully, that was the only stunt I tried, as she put fear into me by telling me how scared she’d been.

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