September 11, 2006

Today was one of my days at home with Riley, and although I should have taken him to a park or something to enjoy this gorgeous weather before it all turns to crap and I’m stuck inside for months and months on end with a lively toddler, man is that ever going to blow, I packed him up and drove to the Retail Mothership, the Bellevue Square Mall.

I took Riley there a couple times back when he was a dozing, helpless little blob – no more troublesome than a purse, albeit a purse that emits the occasional loud, grunting bowel movement –  but lately I’ve been kind of intimidated by the thought of bringing him into any environment that doesn’t have an emergency exit within several yards at all times. The further you venture into a mall, the longer it’s going to take to get out. Unlike space, in the mall everyone can hear your baby scream.

I had to quit being a wuss and head in that direction, though, because I have been out of Body Shop Coconut Body Butter for, like, months, and my skin is no longer supple and smelling of stripper. Also, I wanted some Stinky Candles from the Stinky Candle Store. And so to the mall we went, me sniffing the air every two seconds and inquiring worriedly towards the back seat: “Did you poop? You didn’t poop, did you? Oh please don’t poop.” (I know there are actual changing stations in the restrooms, but I feel like most of his diaper changes could be filmed and broadcast on the Discovery Channel alongside footage of lions engaged in fierce wrestling matches with gazelles and snakes wriggling violently away from mongooses, on a show called “Escaping Predators: Wily Mammal Strategies!”. I’m just saying, I’d rather not have an audience if I can help it.)

I have a stroller that is specifically touted for its ability to fold up nicely, and pop back open like a clever piece of origami, but for whatever reason I’m unable to deal with it with any sense of grace if I’m in public. At home I can whip that thing around like I’m Jackie Chan, kicking it into position and snapping on the seat in one fluid movement, but get me in a mall parking lot and I’ve got seventeen thumbs and a total lack of spatial relations. I spent probably five minutes struggling to unlock the goddamned frame on the stroller, wrinkling my shirt and breaking out in the sort of sweat you would never, ever describe as “dewy”. As I was practically gnawing it apart with my teeth, the boy sat peering at me from the carseat and occasionally chortling. Until of course a couple of people walked nearby, and then he started crying pathetically and turning all red and tear-stained, so that it appeared I had left him to rot inside the car for the last several hours while I leisurely tried on shoes at Nine West.

So he was kind of sniffly and pitiful when I brought him in the mall, but he did pretty well. He did his newly-learned scrunch-nose smile at the Stinky Candle Lady who asked if he was in the “loves strangers, or hates strangers” stage. I eyeballed him and said he was usually pretty happy about meeting people, then I offered up a silent prayer to the Stinky Candle Gods he wouldn’t start gasping and shrieking when she trilled her fingers in his direction. He didn’t, though; he just scrunched his nose at her. Or maybe he was just reacting to the overwhelming stench of a thousand clashing scented candles. Either way.

The only thing that was marginally embarrassing was when he started chewing one of his socks, while it was still attached to his foot. While I admired his flexibility, I thought he might start gagging on it (his favorite party trick lately is to thrust something–a finger, a measuring cup handle, whatever–deep within his throat and then gag mightily on it, which, DUH, right? But then he does it about fifteen more times in a row), so I gently removed it, resulting in a Howl of Righteous Indignation that trembled the nearby glass walls of a Tully’s. Luckily, it was a brief skirmish, as he was soon distracted by my wallet, which was the first acceptable thing I managed to unearth in my purse (runners-up items: Afrin inhaler, “Gentle Glide” tampon, leaky ballpoint pen).

After that mostly successful outing, I was feeling brave and so I bundled him into his backpack (no small feat by myself without a couch to balance it on, mind you) and motored into a Bed Bath & Beyond, which I regretted almost instantly.

I have not actually experienced what it’s like to ferry a live squid through a household goods store, its limbs thrashing wildly and seeking purchase on any object within a fifteen-foot radius, but I’m pretty sure I have a good idea now. While the stroller allows me to monitor Riley’s grabby little paws, the backpack gives him total access to anything at head level. He can lean way out and snag something I had no idea was even nearby, such as a wicker trash basket, which he can then smack me over the head with and entangle in my hair. Plus, while the backpack works great for hiking or walking in our neighborhood, it’s extremely awkward when maneuvering through small aisles. It’s like you’re some massive, goony turtle, whose shell keeps whapping things onto the floor. Oh and also you have a squid strapped to you. You’re a turtle with a squid who has to do a wide-legged, preparing-to-poop-type squat to pick something up off the floor. There is no dignity. None.

Anyway, that was my day. I also dragged Riley through the grocery store, god help me, so by the time JB got home I was limp with exhaustion. “What did you do all day,” he asked.

“Oh, not much,” I replied.

:::

A BRIEF GLIMPSE INTO AMERICA’S CLASSIEST HOUSEHOLD:

Scene: Riley’s bedroom, earlier this evening. JB is reading to him from the “Baby Animals” picture book.

JB: “And that’s a dog. The dog says, ‘aroooo’. That’s a duck. The duck says, ‘quack quack’. And that’s a goose! The goose says…”

Mysterious sound erupting from JB’s rear, slightly muffled by the chair cushion: “Prooooooooooooot.”

JB: “Ah, yes. That was the goose.”

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Melissa
Melissa
16 years ago

I work in a Borders bookstore and just yesterday I saw a woman change her baby in the Business section. Nothing could compare to that awkward moment.

Tina
Tina
16 years ago

My son successfully stole a pair of socks and stuffed them down the back of his stroller when he was about 18 months old. Sadly he never progressed to anything more useful or exciting (and yes, we took the socks back).
All signed up for the new notify but it occurred to me that you will need to avoid writing anything in the first paragraph that smells like junk mail or spam to an email system. These days that includes about half most people’s usable vocabulary plus added traps like the word ‘specialist’ including the name of you-know-what embedded in it.

Liz
Liz
16 years ago

Bellevue Square Mall has a family restroom down that hall by Janie & Jack (across from Godiva!). There you may change your thrashing child in blessed privacy. You can even go to the bathroom yourself!

Anyway, you shouldn’t be afraid of taking your kid to that particular mall. Haven’t you noticed that there always seems to be more babies than adults there? Of course, they all seem to be of the well-behaved, well-bred Bellevue variety. My child likes to yell “DEE DEE DEE DEE!” and then growl at her hands.

mom on a wire
16 years ago

You.

You slay me.

honeybecke
honeybecke
16 years ago

Just the other day we were in Fred Meyers and E. wanted my box of OB’s to gnaw on.
I tried to give him the package of his organic overpriced turkey breast, but he was all for them ‘pons.
Okay! Whatever! Eat the ‘pons kid, eat the ‘pons!

So, yeah. I know how it is.
They are so funny.

Jo
Jo
16 years ago

Oh my goodness, laughing so hard from that entry, brilliant writing as always.

Two highlights have to be “You’re a turtle with a squid who has to do a wide-legged, preparing-to-poop-type squat to pick something up off the floor. There is no dignity. None.” and “Ah, yes. That was the goose”

Thank you! :)

Jenny
Jenny
16 years ago

You have that goose in your house too, then?

Kaire
Kaire
16 years ago

We have that goose too! I heard him this morning!

Jessie
16 years ago

That is classy! And hillarious all at the same time.

Mona
16 years ago

The last time I went to the Bellevue Square Mall, I played chicken with a skanky hoe and her skankette kid in an equally skanky stroller. And while I changed my son in the restroom, I said, “Good job!” since he didn’t act like he needed holy water and an exorcism and a cleaning lady poked her head out of one of the stalls. How do you take that back, really?

Cindy
16 years ago

A goose? Never heard of that one before. We call them “barking spiders.”
Thanks for the laugh today.

Amanda
16 years ago

I too suffer from strolleritis when in public. There I’ll be, trying to be all suave and supermommish, but I always make a fool of myself. :)

Melissa
Melissa
16 years ago

I had the same stroller incident about two weeks ago…wtf? Like we don’t have enough stress to deal with. And I’m just tired of ordering crap online – sometimes you just need to go to the mall. I love that Coconut body butter. Great post.

Pete
Pete
16 years ago

I love reading your stuff. Takes me back to when my kids were at that age. Damn I glad they are older now (9, 12). ;-)

victoria
victoria
16 years ago

Wow, you know, I’ve been reading your blog for like, three years, and I never realized before how intensely you feel about this kind of thing. You’ve written before about feeling shy and being slow to make friends with people in your gym class, and about how embarrassed you were when Riley farted in the vet’s office, but until reading this entry I didn’t realize how important it is for you to be either inconspicuous or, if not inconspicuous, self-possessed & graceful.

My husband, I think, feels very much the same way you do about public spaces. I’m ALWAYS embarrassing him by saying something (mildly) controversial or opinionated in a voice that’s loud enough for a passerby to hear. He has literally abandoned me at sporting events and shopping malls — he has actually dashed off and departed in our car and left me with no way to get home — because I (1) read a magazine while a spectator at a baseball game and (2) said something sarcastic (in a normal speaking voice) about tacky mall decor when we were furniture-shopping together.

What I didn’t realize was that for him, any action that makes him a specatcle — even a mild, ordinary, run of the mill spectacle — is intolerably painful. I’ve known him for 15 years and I still have trouble with this.

Anyway, Linda, it probably doesn’t help for me to share this assvice but — you know, people at the Bellevue Mall have seen tens of thousands of babies. They know babies are squirmy and shrieky for no reason. They don’t see Riley behaving like a normal baby and think, “Oooh, that woman’s a bad mom.” They don’t think anything about you at all. They’re thinking about how hungry they are, or how their feet hurt, or something their spouse said that pissed them off, or how they’re going to pay for their car repairs. Strangers who’re walking by you & Riley — or even folks who’re sharing a waiting room with you — are much too self-absorbed to develop any sort of judgment about you or your baby.

erin
16 years ago

My son climbed out of the backpack in the home depot. Clearly I had done something wrong with the fastening mechanism, and luckily some man behind me caught him before he splatted his head open on the cement floor. But we opted against the backpack for shopping excursions after that. In fact, once he hit 18 months, we’ve opted against shopping excursions of all kinds.

sunShine
16 years ago

“It’s like you’re some massive, goony turtle, whose shell keeps whapping things onto the floor. Oh and also you have a squid strapped to you. You’re a turtle with a squid who has to do a wide-legged, preparing-to-poop-type squat to pick something up off the floor. There is no dignity. None.”

I am laughing so hard right now. You crack me up!

Debbie from South Georgia
Debbie from South Georgia
16 years ago

Oh how I am laughing and remembering when right now!

My son, now 15, was just the same way, of course back then I didn’t have the luxury of a back pack, mine was an old fashioned umbrella stroller. We are in the mall, which is 90 miles from our home, and I am looking around at all the moms with their well behaved kids sitting straight up like little soldiers, and my son is acting like the devil’s child!

Running, screaming, driving me absolutely crazy. I bribed (asked) my mom to sit with him while I tried to go into a store and pick up the one thing I had gone to the mall for and then we would leave.

As I exit the store, I hear this brain piercing yell of MAAAAMMMMAAA! and look out into the mall at my then 2 year old with the stroller propped up on his back, walking towards me still strapped to the stroller.

Embarrased is not the correct term for all of that drama. I politely headed to the car strapped him in, and headed home. I still to this day don’t like taking him to the mall. And of course I will NEVER let him forget it!!

warcrygirl
16 years ago

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh man, those were the days. Now all my kids do is throw stuff into the shopping cart when I’m not looking, then fish it out of the grocery bags on the way home. Clever little monkeys, they are.

erica
erica
16 years ago

note to self: never take child to mall.

victoria
victoria
16 years ago

Linda, I’m sorry I left assvice in your comments section. I guess I’m a little, uh, over-involved with your blog.

MRW
MRW
16 years ago

My son is 3.5 years old and I still have never been to a mall with him. Thank god I’m a working mom/introvert so if I can’t find the damned thing on the internet, I can get it during my lunch hour. On the bright side, it’s really cut down on my clothing expenses… ;-)

lee
lee
16 years ago

i used to take my son to the mall and he usually behaved pretty well, except for the time he somehow got poop from midback to midthigh. i think he just wanted me to have to buy him a new outfit and didn’t know how to articulate it.

wait until he is potty trained! we didn’t have family bathrooms back in the early ’80’s (only hair gel and bananarama albums!) but it was no big deal to take him in the handicap stall. Until the day he channeled the spirit of howard cossell and started a running commentary about the toilet habits of the woman in the stall next to us (“mama, that lady made a big FAAAAAAART! i bet her bootie hurts. she probably ate a lot of beans. i FAAAAAAAART like that when grandma feeds me a lot of beans. listen, mama, she’s still FAAAAAAARTING so bad! she needs to get some of the pink juice stuff that helps you when you poop too much!”). that was his last trip in the ladies’ room. poor woman, she didn’t come out of the stall the entire time we were in the bathroom washing the hands or out in the hallway filling up his sippy cup (i checked out the shoes). she may still be in there for all i know, either crying or laughing.

now that he is 23 years old, i can usually go with him to the mall with minimal disturbance.

lisa
16 years ago

I really need a good hard laugh today and right now the tears are streaming down my face!!! Thank you!!

Sabine
16 years ago

After my best friend had a baby and I have spent quite a bit of time in my role as godmother (ok, more like my friend needs me to take the baby around while she gets her hair and nails done), I have so much more of an appreciation for mothers shopping with their children. I never noticed how horribly narrow the aisles were in stores until I tried to navigate them with a stroller, and people are so rude about getting out of the way on top of it.

Cris
16 years ago

Gosh, I have nothing but respect and awe for the Mom’s out there. The other day at said Mall, I saw this one lady packing a baby in the front, and pushing another in a stroller.. not to mention hauling huge Nordie bags, etc.

Sonia (DDM)
16 years ago

We have a barking spider. Only my husband can see it.

katie d
16 years ago

I laughed hard at least three times. Then I thought to myself, “if someone doesn’t give this woman a book deal, they’re all idiots.” I am utterly jealous at your writing ability.

Brooke
16 years ago

My daughter tucked a bottle of pesticide into her Graco at Wal-Mart once. Of all the things to lift, huh?

mominprogress
16 years ago

hello, here via Michele’s today.

Mary Yoakam
15 years ago

Google is the best search engine

trackback
14 years ago

Smooch dating.

Smooch dating.