Packing up to make a quick run to return a coffee maker at Bed Bath and Beyond and I hear a yell from the kitchen, “Can I bring this, mom?”
Is it a knife?
Then sure you can.
“Awesome! Can I wear my race car helmet too?”
Of course. Let’s go.
I had no idea what he grabbed until I look back to make sure he’s all buckled in and there he is. Racing helmet on. Visor down. Game face on. Cheese Grater in hand. “No Mom, it’s the shifter-mover.” Oh, of course! It’s a gear shift. The Olive Garden-esque cheese grater that Rob and I were so excited to register for because we clearly had big plans for freshly grated artisan cheeses, the grater that hasn’t had actual grating capabilities since Michael was 2 and used it as a drumstick, the grater that is so loved that I can throw it and say, “fetch!” to get the kids away from the oven, is now a gear shift too. And it isn’t like a gear shift. It IS a gear shift.
As I pull away, I hear his little voice purr like an engine. As I turn, he leans. As I change lanes, he huffs with effort. As I come to a red light, he groans in defeat. And when we pull into the parking spot, he exhales with relief and cheers his come-from-behind victory! Two year-old Jimmy yells, “Win!”
How awesome is it that a child can be strapped in a car seat and, with every. single. fiber of his being, believe that he alone is controlling a machine capable of going 200mph? I mean, you have to admire the commitment to character. Mom melts away. His little brother becomes an adoring fan. The guy with the bad comb-over next to us becomes his fiercest rival. Michael is awesome at this. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t wear some sort of costume. I will die a little on the inside when he outgrows this. I can’t say I hope it lasts forever because grown men in costumes at Bed Bath and Beyond are creeeeeepy. But I do hope it lasts long enough. Enough to fill his soul with faith in his own imagination.
“Can I wear my helmet in the store?”
“But I can’t bring the shifter-mover, right? I don’t want them to think I stole it. Because they sell these there, you know.”
Oh, I see. I think you’ll be ok, but it’s up to you.
“I better not.”
We go inside and I’m hiding my smile because I don’t want to distract from the awesomeness that he’s feeling after the big race. A very cheerful employee tries to suggest we look around for something else before we make our return. I decline. She is sure we need something else as long as we’re here. Dear, sweet girl who must be new. In the two seconds we’ve been in the store, the boys have found squirt bottles and are crouching around the display stalking each other. That glint in their eyes? That means they’ve spotted the floor to ceiling water glass display and they. must. shoot. it. Yes, I am sure I don’t need to shop around. Because your piles of towels and towers of dishware look like the set of Wipe Out to my kids.
For me, there are two basic rules for behaving in a store at ages 5 and 2. Number one, they can’t mess with an employee’s hard work. And number two, it’s their job to control their limbs to avoid collisions (with displays, fellow shoppers, each other). As the universe likes to do when you bring your kids out for a “quick run” on the verge of bedtime, there was nothing quick about it. I can see that our simple rules were getting harder to follow and my credit card is being held hostage while they figure out the computer glitch. I resort to bribery. Here’s where parenthood is hilarious. You imagine using lollipops or a shiny new toy to bribe your kids. Well, of course before you actually have kids you imagine all the amazing and creative things you’ll do instead of bribing your kids. Anyway, what works with my kids? Letting them sit in the lawn furniture displays. No joke.
“Michael, look in my eyes.”
He raises the helmet visor.
“Do you know what they have here?” I nod to outdoor section. His eyes widen. He gasps. Jimmy gasps too even though he can’t see over the squirt bottle display.
“You know what you need to do to get there.”
Perfect angels. Return gets done.
Paradise, here we come!! Two little boys, (one in a helmet) with their feet up, heads resting in their hands. Fake hot dogs in the fire pit. Jimmy insists they’re too hot. Sipping out of the plastic margarita glasses. Michael can’t stop giggling because Jimmy is disappointed there aren’t real hot dogs and lemonade. We try out every chair and all agree we should invite our family here for a party. The wheelie ice bucket will be a big hit.
That errand was an easy thing to avoid. And I think sometimes I avoid the store+2 kids out of habit, an old habit. Since birth, my little guy has had a visceral disdain for stores. I wouldn’t even call them meltdowns. It’s more like he vaporizes. But the truth is, he is turning that corner. He’s in the game now, and even if it’s not consistent, it’s awesome. He’s joining our family in a whole new way. As terrible as age two can be, it’s also every bit as exciting.
When I was registering 9 years ago, I thought that Bed Bath and Beyond would give me all the things I needed to throw a fantastic party. I didn’t realize that so many memorable ones would take place while we were still in the store. I couldn’t have planned a better post-race celebration.
I’m so bringing real lemonade next time. It will BLOW THEIR MINDS!
Anyone else enjoy a good store display party?