I took the kid with me on Saturday morning to run some errands. We sat through a Weight Watchers meeting, then had breakfast with my friend Nancy, then bought some annuals and grass seed at the garden shop, and finally hit Barnes & Noble. I was in need of a new book to read and figured I'd pick one up for A as well.
The children's section is in the back of the expansive store. It features one of those tabletop train sets, and the kid loves it. I tried to head her off by letting her know that she would be given ample opportunity to play with the train if she would just agree to wait patiently while I selected a book to read. I figured I'd choose some offbeat paperback and then sit in the children's section and read while she played. Her patience, however, ran out after .0003 seconds, and she began edging closer to the train. Finally, I gave up and escorted her back there. An older boy was already there playing with the wooden trains. I knelt down and whispered to my daughter. "Blah blah blah share share share blah blah other kid blah blah don't wander away blah blah." She nodded and grabbed a caboose.
I knew I couldn't go too far, so I headed to the biography section just outside the children's area. I could hear A playing with the other kid. Then I heard another boy show up on the scene and some wrangling over trains seemed to ensue. I walked back over and whispered my vague "sharing" pep talk again. I wandered a bit farther away, to the nature section, and then back to the biographies. I was looking for a good memoir but nothing was popping out at me. A lot of junk, though. I mean, Candy Spelling? Seriously?
Suddenly, I realized something wasn't quite right. No longer able to hear my kid negotiating with the others, I tucked a book (Diablo Cody's memoir) under my arm and walked back to the train. I found only rough-housing boys. No curly-headed girl in a sundress. A mom sitting in an upholstered chair looked up at me. "She got mad and headed that way," she said, pointing to the far end of the children's section. I walked in that direction but somehow knew I'd come up empty-handed. Which is exactly what happened.
I sighed and headed towards the front of the store, knowing that it would be nearly impossible to find my child amidst the countless aisles and books and people. I held my breath and waited for the loudspeaker announcement, which I somehow knew was coming.
"Attention. Would the mother of A______ please come to the front registers?" (Why did we teach that child her own name?) The voice then repeated the announcement, just in case the coffee sippers over in the cafe missed the news about the irresponsible parent.
That announcement was what the rest of the book shoppers heard, but what my brain heard was:
"Would the worst mother in the history of all time, even worse than that mom in Texas who drowned all of her kids in the bathtub, please retrieve your forlorn, neglected child from the front of the store, where she waits for you with a tear-stained face and a broken heart?"
This, my friends, is a low point in parenting to be sure. What kind of mother loses her child? I trudged to the front of the store and saw a middle-aged lady smiling and consoling my daughter. "Thank you," I told her. "I was right around the corner. I don't know how she didn't see me. Probably walked right past me! Ha ha!" She nodded and walked off, probably to look up the number for Child Protective Services.
I knelt down next to the kid and said, "You were supposed to stay by the train!" She frowned and began muttering about how it was actually my fault for abandoning her. I decided that I had reached Maximum Barnes & Noble and got in line to check out. But, it was Saturday, the busiest day of the week, so of course only one register was open. I'm sure they wouldn't have it any other way. I don't think I've ever actually seen two registers operating simultaneously at Barnes & Noble. And no, I don't want to join your %&*#ing savings club!
We stood in the line for what seemed an eternity - her pulling miniature books off shelves that were situated right at her eye level and me countering with pointless time-out threats. The day, it seemed, could not get any worse. But then . . .
"Mama! I gotta go potty!"