In the midst of a dreaded Walmart run, I had a moment.
Don’t worry. This isn’t a teary-eyed post. It will be a celebration of sorts. A celebration that it was MY kid having a meltdown and not yours.
Come on. Admit it. When you see a child sobbing for a new toy or screaming from exhaustion, you feel a tremendous sense of relief that it’s someone else’s kid and not yours. You feel a little more “normal” knowing that other children behave like minions jacked up on Red Bull upon entering a public area, too. It’s not just your kid.
I can’t be the only one who internally giggles when someone else’s kid pitches a public fit.
The danger with that devious pleasure though is, eventually, you will be the parent with the wailing kid wrapped around your leg, perched on your foot and pleading for just one. The mortification comes back around, and this week, it was my turn. Between the contact solution and Band-aid aisles, Izzi provided sheer embarrassment for me and total validation to all those watching.
It was supposed to be a quick stop to stock up on critical groceries for the weekend. We’d completed our sweep through the aisles, the girls convincing me to throw several items in the cart that weren’t necessities. Gummies. Bug juice. Donuts. Junk food that will rest on my kitchen counters tempting me. I was tired and relented too easily, but we’d made it to the pharmacy within twenty minutes, so I counted it as win.
That’s motherhood, right? One compromise after another. We pick and choose, and when the kids wear us down, just getting out of Walmart alive feels like an accomplishment.
Two customers were ahead of us as we stood in the line, waiting to pick up my barrage of refills. I fiddled with my phone, checking to make sure I’d gotten everything on the list. Bananas, yogurt, toilet paper… That’s when it happened.
“Mommy, will you buy me fireworks?”
This was the upteenth thing the kids had asked for during the shopping trip, so no red flags went up. I don’t wonder what triggered this odd request in the pharmacy section. Without looking away from my phone, I respond. “You’ve gotten enough today. Maybe next time.”
Then the begging begins.
“But you never buy us fireworks! I want these fireworks. Pleeeaasssee, Momma??”
I look down at my petite blonde-haired four-year-old, bracing myself for the impending meltdown, and realize in her hand is a box.
A large brightly colored box with, sure enough, a dazzling display of multi-colored fireworks covering half of the product, promising the “exciting mix of sensation and stimulation.”
A “pleasure pack” box of 24 condoms.
I become intensely aware of the number of customers in line behind me. I’m positive each is staring at me– the terrible, distracted mom, perusing Facebook while her baby pulled a box of condoms from the shelf.
There is still one more customer ahead of me. Running is not an option; I need my medicine. I’m stuck in this aisle, with an abundance of condoms, pregnancy tests, and lubrication choices at eye level to my preschooler. Whose idea was it to move these products to this aisle??
You don’t realize how much of this merchandise showcases fireworks on the packaging until your child decides she’s going to have her first public fit over …umm, fireworks.
I bend down and quietly tell her that we’ll buy fireworks at the big booth on the fourth of July. To which she responds, loudly, “You never let us buy fireworks. Dad always buys us fireworks.”
Please God, take me now.
I hear a few snickers. My little moment is making other parents feel normal. They’re thankful that this is not their kid screaming that Dad brings the fireworks and Mom doesn’t.
The pharmacy technician, oblivious to my torture, finishes ringing up the lady ahead of us and motions for us to move forward. This is a pivotal moment. All eyes are on us. Okay, probably only five sets, but it feels like hundreds. Izzi rarely asks for much beyond chocolate milk or quesadillas, but I know her determination, her stubbornness, her ability to fixate on little things. So I do what any fatigued mom who just wants to get home would have done.
I tell her to throw the “fireworks” in the buggy.
Yep, I cave.
Joy spreads over her face, a huge Mommy-loves-me smile, and she tosses her prize into the cart.
Careful to avoid eye contact, I sign for my medicine and strategically place it in the cart, hoping to cover our most recent impulse buy. Izzi, having won this battle and distracted by a new aisle, doesn’t mention fireworks again. I push my cart of essential items, like sugary snacks, prescriptions, and condoms, toward the register, praying none of my teenage students notice us.
As luck would have it, the cashier is, of course, a student.
Izzi helps me unload the cart, placing the items at the register. She nonchalantly pitches her box of “fireworks” onto the conveyor and proudly announces to the cashier and anyone within twenty feet, “We’re going to have fireworks tonight!”
I don’t look up. I gaze into my cart as if it were suddenly filled with the most fascinating objects in the world.
God bless that cashier. He doesn’t say a word. I’m sure he will later, but at that moment, he allows me to pretend like this isn’t happening. My kid didn’t just bully me into buying a box condoms. It is just a normal, miserable Walmart run, and it’s other people’s children pitching fits and embarrassing their parents.
I grab a box of sparklers from the check-out aisle and shove it between the milk and bread. Izzi is too busy admiring the candy section to notice. She will get her fireworks tonight, and I’ll make sure the other box of fireworks disappears.
So there you have it, my friends. Celebrate tonight that it was my kid and not yours. Smile because you made it through another week. After all, this whole parenting thing is difficult, draining, important work.
I’m thankful that what was traumatic today will make for a great story to share with her in twenty years.
It occurs to me that, as Christians, we really aren’t that different than toddlers. Sometimes we kick and scream, wanting something desperately. We think we know what we need and are devastated when our Father doesn’t “answer” our pleas. But often our fireworks aren’t what we think they are. The packaging is misleading, and like my Izzi, we aren’t able to comprehend until years down the road that our Parent was protecting us with an answer greater than yes.
If you’ve had a particularly challenging week, whether it be Lyme woes or exhausting Walmart runs, keep in mind that sometimes what we think we need, what we’re willing to beg and bargain for, isn’t the spectacular firework we think we’re requesting.
And if you’re still down, just remember this.
I bet you didn’t buy a box of “fireworks” for your insistent, naive four-year-old today.
Keep coloring, my friends.