I took the kids to Target with me this morning and before I released them from the car I cranked myself around in my seat and delivered a Stern Maternal Lecture on how I wanted them to behave in the store.

“No running,” I intoned. “No screaming. No touching. Got it?”

“Got it,” said Riley.

“We don’t run and we don’t open the door and that coyote runned off in the woods and that’s enough milk, WIGHT?” said Dylan.

(We call him the Non Sequitur these days.)

The minute I dragged them through the automatic doors (after both of them bonked repeatedly into the closed EXIT doors, like they do every single time), though, it all went to hell. You know the expression “like herding cats,” right? It’s like that, only worse. Take two cats who are basically high on retail fumes and overstimulated by the many colorful displays and siphon out at least 50% of their brain cells so they are utterly oblivious to things like approaching carts, and NOW head ’em up, Rawhide.

They frustrate me to no end in places like Target, but they aren’t exactly misbehaving. They’re overcome with the fun of it, pointing at things and squealing at top volume about the DOGGIE (on the dog food packaging, for god’s sake) and generally being children having a good (loud) time together, but I look around and I never (NEVER!) see other kids acting like this. Other kids are either standing by their mothers or tucked into the top of the cart, not galloping hand in hand through the aisles like deranged caribou.

I shush, I nag, I threaten, I rush through my shopping with a grimly frozen face, and I don’t really know what to do about it. I like that they’re having fun, but I worry that they’re being annoying, and I hate having to constantly push them out of people’s way or hiss “Guys. COME ON!” for the trillionth time when they get distracted by some mesmerizing object like a display of paper towels (Dylan: “HEYYY! WE have DOSE!”).

I’ve always been pretty hyper-aware of not allowing my kids to bug other folks if I can help it, because I never, ever assume that the things I find amusing are also going to be well-received by people who did not birth these hellions. But there I was in line at Target, fairly exhausted from iron-gripping these kids through the store, and the boys suddenly start doing this weird marching thing back and forth while Riley chirps “I-AM-A-CHRIST-MAS-ROB-OT!” (basically exactly like this) and Dylan laughs and laughs because HA HA HA RILEY IS A ROBOT and oh my god, you guys. What is a person even supposed to do in this situation? Who has to say “STOP BEING A CHRISTMAS ROBOT RIGHT NOW” in public?

(I didn’t say a damn thing. I pretended I didn’t know them.)

Do any of you have kids who act like . . . giddy drunken sailors when you’re out and about? What do you do, other than avoid all shopping until they’re surly resentful teenagers?

Comments

178 Responses to “Bulls in a china shop”

  1. charlabob on December 1st, 2010 11:05 pm

    I’m from the demographic (old, childless, female … blah blah blah) who should loathe kids having fun in public(tm) AND I love them. Your kids sound great … in public and in private. They have minds — imagination — exhuberance. I think many parents are irked because I laugh with and at their kids instead of clicking my tongue, disapprovingly. Never did get the hang of tongue clicking. I only hope I run into you-all in Target West Seattle sometime. Christ the Robot works for me. A good friend of Hanukkah Harry.

  2. birdgal (another amy) on December 2nd, 2010 6:51 am

    Yes, Yes, YES! No matter what I do, my daughter acts just like this when we go grocery shopping, you are definitely not alone (as evidenced by the multitude of comments above mine). And one of my favorite expressions is ‘herding cats’–that’s exactly what it’s like when I have to wrangle both my kids from place to place (at least one is still young enough to be in the cart during shopping).

  3. Tee on December 2nd, 2010 10:20 am

    I have two boys, 3 and 6 and they are usually pretty good and Target, but bribes are necessary. Hell, I need bribes too.

    And sometimes, I go get my 3 year old one of those ‘music-in-a-card’ cards and make everyone we pass listen to ‘They Safety Dance’ 4,200 times. You know, because it’s the holidays and I like to spread the joy.

  4. Sarah on December 2nd, 2010 10:26 am

    HAHAHAHAHA!! I would hve laughed at the Christmas robot and totally sympathized with your torment.

    How do I avoid it?

    I NEVER go shopping with them. Certainly never with more than one. If at all possible, I save all my shopping for when the husband is home and I can foist my torment onto him so that I may retail in peace instead of in pieces.

  5. Beth on December 2nd, 2010 12:34 pm

    Wandered over from Miss Zoot…I HATE having to get cat litter at the store. Cat? Cat? Mama CAT! CAT! That cat? This CAT! Barty [our cat]! Barty? CAT? CATCATcatcatcatdogdogcatdogdog augggggh.

    But yeah, my little is 4 months, and my big is 2, so shopping is…risky. Usually the big does pretty well, she gets a chance to walk and one infraction lands her in the basket (I usually wear the baby), and a tantrum=going home right that second. She loves going to the store, so having to leave is a true consequence.

  6. Georgia on December 2nd, 2010 1:45 pm

    As a woman who has exactly ZERO children and about the same amount of patience when it comes to other people’s children when shopping, I can tell you with complete honesty that about the only time I’m NOT annoyed by said children is when they’re having a good time…and honestly, when their parent[s] are having a good time with them. Nothing bums me out more, or makes me want children less [no pressure] is when the parents look absolutely irritated and fed up with their kids who are obviously just enjoying life.

    Us non-parents sometimes find loud, happy kids charming. And nothing makes us want kids more than when the parent is happy and loud along with them. I say stop worrying so much about what other people think, and start thinking about what your kids are going to remember about you when they’re older. Were you the happy mom, or the irritated mom?

  7. lisa on December 2nd, 2010 2:09 pm

    this made me laugh so much, i loved it! Definitely enjoy it, silly kids always make me happy

  8. annie on December 2nd, 2010 2:44 pm

    Anyone who can’t smile at the delight your two boys exhibit is a grinch and needs to be avoided. Let your boys have fun! As long as they’re not destroying anything- why not let them linger and enjoy the store?

    My kids are older (18, 14 and 11), and I miss (so much!) the uninhibited joy little kids have at every little thing.

    I know it’s hard to hear at your stage in life, but savor these moments. Precious times that go by way too quickly…

  9. Karin on December 2nd, 2010 4:46 pm

    Hell yes, I have kids like that. Two girls, so really what I get is various levels of screaming and shrieking in tones that could make bats go deaf. And yes, everytime I got to Target I swear to myself never again. I have heard of parents who take their kids shopping to the outlet malls, and there kids are “pretty good”. OUTLET MALLS? I cannot even imagine attemtping anything like that. Yes, last week after a short but particularily hellacious trip to the grocery store, the bagging guy asked me if I wanted help out. I snapped and said “No, I want a nanny!” Quickly apologized and stormed out. I am that mom and I have those kids. I shop online and save most of my trips for after they are in bed. I am sure I’m being paidback for all hell I caused my mother, as it definitely feels that way.

    No advice. Good Luck.

  10. lee on December 2nd, 2010 5:06 pm

    my son used to harass the people answering the phone during pbs pledge drive week. like once they were auctioning of a week-end at a b&b in n.c., and he asked the phone answerer if that was a photo or a trip. when she said it’s a trip, he told them he would prefer a picture instead of the trip, did she know anybody who would paint him a picture if he bought the trip for them. he was on the cordless in the living room by the this time and flipped it to the pbs channel. i know who he was talking to immediately- the poor woman with her head flipping from side to side, frantically waving for help. i won’t even go into going clothes shopping with him when he asks is they can make a shirt with his name on it, like they did for tommy hilfiger.

  11. lisa-marie on December 2nd, 2010 5:08 pm

    My mom always told me if I had ever misbehaved like that in public I would never had been allowed to go shopping with her ever again. In fact, my mother would have just left the cart whether it was full of food/items or not, and taken me straight home where I would’ve been seriously punished. That kind of behaviour is perfectly fine at home or on the playground, she told me, but out in the “grown-up world” I was expected to behave like a little lady. I must have behaved properly a lot of the time because I have some wonderful memories of shopping with my mom. She used it to teach me letters, numbers and colours to start with and eventually math, budgeting and nutrition. Since you’re homeschooling now, maybe that’s something you could include in your curriculum?

  12. Amy on December 2nd, 2010 5:54 pm

    baa haa! Christmas robot! Yeah, we’ve obviously never been in Target at the same time(duh because I’m in Sacramento) but my boys are the same way!! And they’re already 8 and 6….I am the ghost of Christmas future and it doesn’t get much better. I’ve learned to mostly grin and bear it….and apologize under my breath to those we annoy!

  13. Cara on December 2nd, 2010 6:53 pm

    My first kid is 5 months, so I’m still coming from the non-parent perspective. Try not to take them at peak hours (i.e. immediately after work) when everyone is already feeling harassed, and then don’t worry about the rest of us. We’re fine. They’re kids, having fun, and we get that. And those that don’t – they need to lighten up. Don’t worry about them.

  14. kristiina on December 3rd, 2010 5:36 am

    It’s the age..plus having TWO. When I only have my 3 year old, I can manage Target or the grocery store, but when I have the 3 AND 4 year old…it’s all I can do to get in and out without losing my S&*!..same routine–they repeat how they should be behaving while we’re in the car, but the second we step through the doors, all hell breaks loose!

    I will say that I think sometimes I’m a little overly anxious about it and they probably feed off of that vibe–I’ve actually had people say, ‘heeey, it’s okay’…as in ‘settle down’ after I’ve pushed my kids out of the way of an oncoming cart. I think most people understand how hard it is and the people who don’t, probably don’t give it a second thought.

    My solution is to try to sneak out after bedtime or do it on the weekend when hubby is home……although, that does mean a higher bill at check out ;)

  15. Tricia on December 3rd, 2010 6:52 am

    I dont have kids so I have no advice to offer. I just wanted to say this made me laugh for far longer than it should’ve :)

  16. Molly on December 3rd, 2010 9:57 am

    I love quotes from Dylan – he just sounds too cute!

  17. nerissa on December 3rd, 2010 10:19 am

    I too have the same reaction to my kids misbehaving in shops and I even have the same reaction to them just be kids in shops. I worry what others are thinking, are they being too loud, just too much for everyone around us. If they are misbehaving or being uber loud I try as best I can to calm things down. But if they are just being kids and, yeah, possibly bugging those around them anyways I try and remind myself that those around me who are parents, most likely, get that this just happens and those around me who are not parents really don’t have a clue. Its just a small thing but it helps me to have more realistic expectations of my kids.

  18. Briana on December 3rd, 2010 11:40 am

    Live and laugh it up! I am totally at fault for teaching my 3 year old how to make up silly songs. (We’re Driving in the Snow-to the tune of Farmer in the Dell). Be silly with them-they will grow up too soon, and won’t even WANT to go to Target with you anymore. It is much better for your stress level,and they will respond when you NEED them to, (like holding your hand in the parking lot) much better when you haven’t been demanding of the non-necessary stuff the whole time.
    My current problem is keeping the 3 month old and the 3 year old from simultaneous poop-fests while in public. We end up shortening shopping trips b/c of poop more often than behavioral stuff.

  19. thejunebug on December 3rd, 2010 1:39 pm

    No kids here yet, but honestly? Kids are kids. They never, ever bother me in the store or otherwise. Okay, maybe in the theater when I’m trying to watch an R-rated or PG-13 flick and there’s a 5 year old in the seat behind me, but that’s different. Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing, relax a little more, and enjoy it. :)

    (I want to see a video of Riley and Dylan banging into the closed exit doors!)

  20. Genny on December 3rd, 2010 10:05 pm

    Over the summer my two year old daugther and I went to Target…as soon as we got inside she ran as fast as she could to the back of the store. When I eventually caught up, I found her on the floor, in front of a display of rain boots. She was rapidly pulling off her shoes and socks so she could try on a pair of rain boots. She remembered that there was this display from the last time we had been in Target and knew she had to get them. Needless to say, we are the proud owners of a pair of yellow monkey print rain boots in our house that she insists on wearing when we shop so she can tear through stores and stomp in her boots. I for sure have a drunkin sailor toddler who is also fearless! I feel your pain sister!

  21. JAB on December 4th, 2010 9:32 am

    my boys do EXACTLY the same thing and it drives me insane! We were in Costco two nights ago and I had my two year old sweet-as-can-be (so far, I don’t look forward to the teenage years) in the cart and the boys were walking along side me (ages 8 and almost 6). All they did was run along the side of the cart tagging each other and squealing…not being bad per say but extremely annoying and kept tripping me up and bumping into the cart. I am sure I looked like the meanest mom ever by constantly telling them to CUT IT OUT! NO DSi FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND! NO TV EVER! STOP IT! It got to the point where I was just trying to keep my sanity and not scream. I knew they weren’t doing anything other little boys didn’t do but, just like you noted, I sure didn’t see anyone else dealing with kids like this at the moment. My 8 year old had just attended his first cub scout meeting and still had on his uniform so I pulled the line “You are in a cub scout uniform and you are representing cub scouts everywhere. Your behavior is unacceptable and they might not let you be a scout anymore if you don’t cut it out!” That worked….for a whole 2 minutes. BOYS! You’ve gotta love ’em :)

  22. RB on December 7th, 2010 5:14 pm

    I’m childfree-by-choice and I’m only annoyed with kids when they are throwing 5 alarm shit-fits or are completely out of control…and even then, 99.99% of the annoyance lies with how it’s being handled by the parent(s).

    What you’ve described here is simply something that would give me a good laugh at their kid-ness while I was out & about at the same time as you & yours.

  23. Marcie on December 9th, 2010 10:28 am

    My kids acted the same when they were little. They were better when they were in the big, child-friendly cart. Stores with no carts were horrible. Hiding in clothes racks, pushing each other. My son is now 15 and my daughter is 13. Had them both with me recently at the grocery store. They acted just like they did then! I couldn’t believe it. The store must have triggered it. haha I pretended I didn’t know them.

  24. Josefina on December 11th, 2010 2:03 pm

    My kids act like that. I demand they keep close to me, but they require constant attention or they are just flowing or rolling or something all over the place, and I don’t really know how two small people can occupy so much space, but they do. My husband swears it is because they are two boys. He was an only child, but he says when he got together with his boy cousins, it was exactly the same way as it is EVERY DAY with our sons. You know, I do my best to keep them from standing in others’ way, to let others pass in front of us, to be quiet when people are talking, or thinking, or on the phone, to say “excuse me” and “thank you” at appropriate times, to help someone who needs it. They are considerate, compassionate, and personable–AND they are little boys and sometimes kind of crazy, but I’m trying to take the rambunctiousness in stride. I figure they’ll be sullen and surly soon enough.

  25. mandy on December 21st, 2010 9:57 pm

    Man your babies have grown all up! My two do exactly the same thing and it is the same exact response from me. I try to control my breathing so no one can tell how frazzled I really am, but it is so hard not to just love the fun they are having. Your description though? It could have been my own kids.

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