I took my kids to the mall yesterday.
We were leaving church, which is halfway between our house and the mall.
I thought to myself, “I could actually get ahead of the game- no last minute labor day back-to-school shopping! I’ll be like those moms who smugly show up to the teacher meet and greet with their bags of baby wipes and tissues, and the superior knowledge that my children’s drawers and backpacks are fully stocked. No midnight runs to Walgreen’s the night before school starts! This is my year!”
“We’re going to the mall.” I declared.
Parker: “To Toys R Us?”
Me: “No, to buy clothes. For school.”
Zoe: “We should do that another day.”
Me: “No. This is the day. We’re doing it.”
I ignored the moderate protests and turned up the music in the car.
I parked by the Sears because it was the only part of the lot where there was availability. This should have been a major red flag, but I chose to ignore it.
Since we had to pass through Sears anyway, I decided to take a look at their refrigerators. We still haven’t decided whether we are going to repair the parts which caused the massive flooding of our kitchen (http://kbjackson.com/ten-reasons-why-a-kitchen-flood-aint-so-bad/ and http://kbjackson.com/dear-diary/) or replace the fridge completely.
The refrigerator salesman popped up behind me out of nowhere and bellowed, “Can I help you find something?”
I said, “No.”
He asked, “Not buying today?”
I began to tell him our refrigerator saga and my current dilemma when I caught some movement out of my right eye. I turned just in time to see that Parker had crawled up into a fridge and was attempting to close the doors. Zoe appeared to have boosted him up and was on the outside helping shut him in.
“Get out of the refrigerator!” I yelled, startling the salesman.
He handed me his card, said, “Seems like you’ve got your hands full. Give me a call if I can help,” and then scurried away. I was unsure if the help he was offering was regarding my appliance needs, or if he was offering to help me make my kids “disappear.”
I glared at Parker and Zoe and marched them towards the escalator. I could hear the commentary of the salespeople behind me, but I used my motherly ability to tune them out.
We got out of Sears and Parker told me that he wanted an electric lime green fleece pullover like Lucas, the boy who lives across the street. He refused to look at almost anything else. The exception? Shirts with toys attached. I’m sure some genius marketing exec is really proud of himself for this one.
“I want this shirt. I like pterodactyls.”
“I just do.”
He doesn’t like pterodactyls. He likes the idea of getting a “free” pterodactyl toy with the purchase of an ugly shirt.
I was getting hungry, but the food court was at the other end of the mall. We ran the gauntlet.
“Oh look! pretzels!”
“I want Cold Stone!”
“Let’s go into the Disney store/Lego store/Game Stop so I can show you what I want for my birthday.”
“Your birthday is in two months. We’re not going in there. I’m not looking at toys. We’re looking for school clothes. If we don’t find something soon you’re going to be wearing that pterodactyl shirt and jeans that are 4 inches too short to the first day of school.”
“Fine. But can I get an oatmeal raisin cookie?”
Zoe: “We have to go into Justice.”
Parker: “I hate this store. This is a stupid store.”
Me: “I don’t disagree with you. But you can’t leave.”
Zoe: “Claire got turtle stuff here. I want turtle stuff.”
Me: “I don’t see any turtle stuff. Ask the girl.”
Oh. They had turtle stuff. I may have accidentally forgotten to buy some of the turtle stuff she put into my hands.
Zoe: “I want this shirt. It says ‘Choose to be amazing.'”
Me: “It’s too small. And it’s the last one.”
Zoe: “So?” (Is there a more aggravating word uttered by preadolescents than this one tiny syllable?)
Deep breath. Me: “Sooo, you can’t buy a shirt that’s too small.”
Zoe: “I can make it work.”
Me: “No. You can’t.”
Parker: “This is a really stupid store.”
Me: “Shh. I know. It’s almost over.”
We got up to the counter.
Zoe: “I want that shirt with the paint splatters all over it but it’s too high.”
Me: “Oh well.” (no sympathy.)
Justice Girl: “It’s buy one, get one free. If you buy this jacket for $42, you’re only getting the turtle earrings for free, and that’s like $4.”
Zoe: “Oh good! Then I want that tank top that looks like it has paint splatters all over it.”
Justice girl: “Ok. But that’s only $17. You should also get the yoga pants that go with the jacket.”
Zoe; “Good idea!”
Justice Girl: “So you’re going to get lots of Justice bucks to spend after August 31st!”
Me: “That means I have to come back here.”
At this point Parker decided it would be really humorous to start foaming at the mouth and panting like a Zombie.
Me: “What’s wrong with you?”
Parker: “Unh Unnhh.” Drool. Drool.
Me: “Fine, I’ll take you to go get food. Maybe after that you’ll start acting like a human again.”
We got to the food court, which was a total madhouse. Parker marched straight to Sbarro.
Parker: “I want pepperoni pizza.”
Me: “Looks like they’re out of pepperoni. Can you have cheese? You usually order pepperoni and then pick them off anyway.”
Parker: “No. I want pepperoni.”
Zoe: “I want Chinese”
I looked at her.
Me: “What are you eating?”
Zoe: “Some sort of meat. That lady over there handed it to me as I walked by.”
Me: “That’s not Chinese. It’s Japanese. Go find out what you just ate.”
Zoe walked down while I ordered Parker’s pepperoni pizza, and walked back to where we were waiting for it to finish cooking.
Zoe: “It’s teriyaki chicken. Does panda Express have teriyaki chicken?”
Me: “Panda Express is Chinese. Teriyaki is Japanese.
Zoe: “Well I want teriyaki chicken.
Me: (for the 100th time that day) “Fine. You and Parker sit here with the shopping bags and I’ll go get your teriyaki chicken.
I walked down to the Japanese food. I noticed that every single person crowding around the Japanese place was Mexican. There were at least 15 people speaking Spanish around me. All of the kids working the Japanese food counter were not only Japanese, they had very thick Japanese accents and were speaking to each other in Japanese.
I marveled at the diversity I was witnessing at the food court in general. You have to understand, the county I live in was almost completely caucasian while I was growing up. I remember in high school reading demographic statistics that showed the minority population of my county and then trying to count white people until I ran into a minority because I didn’t believe there were even as many as the report stated. Now, I was looking over a food court that looked more like the United Nations. Indian, Chinese, Black, Japanese, Native and everything in between. It makes me happy that my kids get to be exposed to people of different cultures and ethnicities in a way I wasn’t as a kid. Plus, I had no idea that Mexican people were such fans of teriyaki. You learn something new every day.
Suddenly the guy working the grill started slapping Styrofoam containers up onto the counter.
“Chicken teriyaki. Chicken teriyaki. Chicken teriyaki. Chicken teriyaki,” he shouted as he scooped chicken into each box. Apparently the woman doling out samples was doing a great job of luring customers in for chicken teriyaki. Either that, or it was actually the only item on the menu.
I brought Zoe’s food back to the table.
Zoe: “Who’s the cutest guy in the food court?”
I looked around.
Me: “I don’t see any guys I consider cute.”
Zoe: (pouting) “I know.”
A minute later-
“Look! That looks like Jesus!”
She pointed to a man with long, scraggly hair, a long scraggly beard and dingy clothes standing in front of the teriyaki joint. He looked homeless.
Parker: “It’s not Jesus. It looks like Shaggy.”
Later, as we left, I looked over at Shaggy Jesus. He had rice in his beard.
We made our way back through the mall to the center area, where Parker was lured by the fountain.
I looked over at him, and he appeared to be clutching something in his hands, his eyes were closed and his lips were moving silently. I wasn’t sure if he was making a wish or praying.
I whispered to Zoe, “What is he doing?”
She said, “I think he’s making a wish.”
Suddenly a small blonde toddler with no shoes on came up to the fountain next to Zoe and tried reaching into the water. He was soon followed by two mall security guards who came over and asked us if he was with us. We told them he wasn’t. We looked around but saw no one to whom he seemed to belong.
They told us they’d been watching him run around the center of the mall for 10 minutes, and after 15 minutes they had to call the real cops if the parents didn’t show up.
One guard said, “My guess is he escaped from the play structure at the other end of the mall. He doesn’t have shoes on.”
He sent the other guard in the direction of the play area. A few minutes later the radio warbled something and the guard responded. He muttered, “Should have known it was the dad. It’s usually the dad.”
We followed the boy and the guard toward the play area and soon we could see the other guard walking with a man. The man quickly walked towards the boy shouting, “You! You!” He picked him up and turned back towards the play area.
I felt my empathy for the dad dissipate a bit. It happens. I’ve lost my kids at the mall before. And Target. And Wal-Mart. And… well you get the gist. Kids can be like Houdini. But a two year old who gets lost shouldn’t have the first words he hears from his daddy be an accusation. Hopefully later those words were soothed with lots of hugs.
We never found the lime green fleece pullover. We never got any actual school supplies- no pens, pencils, papers, notebooks. The good news is I didn’t lose my kids, and although my fantasy of this:
Ended up looking more like this:
I did manage to get a lot of clothes for them. I still have to shop for Nathan, who has grown 5 inches this summer (no exaggeration) and about 3 shoe sizes.
Aww crap. I forgot shoes. I still have to buy them shoes.
Remind me some time to tell the story about the labor day weekend I worked at a shoe store.