I used to be a real Judgy Judgerson.
I would stand there in that Wal-Mart checking line and shake my head at the screaming preschoolers begging for toys or candy and screaming at their mama for saying no. I used to roll my eyes at the bartering mamas trying to bribe their way into a calmer shopping experience, or, worse yet, the ones who finally gave in and bought the toys and candy. I used to think that if those mamas had done a better job teaching their kids manners and that “no means no” or maybe even (Heaven forbid!) doling out a spanking every once in a while, then none of us would have to stand here listening to their bratty kids throw temper tantrums in public.
Oh, it was nice and green on the childless side, where all my hypothetical future children were angels who obeyed my every sweet, soft-spoken command.
Let me tell you—my real-life children are not perfect angels (no matter what Grannie tells you!), and my sweet, soft-spoken commands are ignored more often than not. And even though my ‘no’ really does mean ‘no’, and I try my best to both model and implicitly teach good manners, and I dole out spankings and time outs daily, and I do my ABSOLUTE BEST to be a good parent, my kids still pitch fits. Loud, long, ridiculous, scream-fest fits, complete with tears and flailing.
Yes. It’s true. MY kids are the new Wal-Mart brats you hear screaming for toys and candy.
And don’t think for a minute that I am not aware of the looks and eye-rolling of the people around me that get to witness the full onslaught of original sin that manifests itself as soon as we walk in the door of any given retailer. I am aware that we are ruining your shopping experience. I know you think I should just throw in the towel and try again when the kids are better rested, or better fed, or strapped head to toe in electronics, snacks, and teddy bears. I know that you think you could do a better job, did a better job way back when, or will do a better job when you have kids of your own. But let me warn you—all that judgment may come back to bite you.
You see, I am convinced that the vast majority of mess that my kids pull is in direct response to my judging another parent when their child exhibited that exact same behavior at some point in the past. (All other mess is a direct result of payback for everything I put my own parents through.) It’s funny, in a I-want-to-slit-my-own-wrists-kind-of-way, how life is circular like that, and “what goes around comes around” is an absolutely true statement, not just a random threat people like to throw out.
So, just be warned, you might want to hold your tongue and stop your self-righteous thoughts in their tracks when you start aiming judgment at me for the following:
1. Refusing to let Andy walk.
Yeah, I know he looks like he’s 5. But you know what there, Judgy Judy? He’s 3 ½. Would you like to know what 3 ½ year-olds do when they’re allowed to walk instead of ride in the buggy? I do because I was foolish enough to try it once. They pull things off the shelves and put them in your basket without you realizing it so that when you make it to the register, there’s an additional $100 worth of CRAP to sort through and put back. They also run down the aisles ahead of you so that they can hide in the clothes rack and make you search the entire department looking for them. When they do actually walk with you, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be hell-bent on being FIRST, which means that they will manage to always, always, ALWAYS be in the exact spot that allows them to get clipped in the heel with the buggy wheel. And when you’re stopped, they will have to stand on the bottom rungs whilst performing buggy gymnastics. If you’re super lucky, they’ll manage to tip the whole basket over, pinning them underneath and suspending the other kid who’s strapped inside in mid-air. Oh, yeah—it’s happened to us.
2. Allowing Andy to walk.
Yeppers, it’s a long, hard, 2-way street of torture. If he walks, it’s hideous. But if he rides, it’s equally hideous. So while yes, I see you eyeballing me while my kid runs helter-skelter down the aisles screaming, “Find me, Mama!”, let me enlighten you on what to expect if a 3 ½ year-old rides in the basket: They hang over the edge of the buggy at precarious angles, occasionally managing to get their head clonked while turning onto a new aisle. Sometimes, they hold their arms out whilst leaning over the edge, much like good ol’ Leo in Titanic, sweeping items off the shelves onto the floor for Mama to get to pick up. When they do sit correctly, it’s only to rifle through the products in the basket with them, doing cool stuff like building towers with your can goods so that every single can looks like it went through a tornado by the time it arrives home, therefore losing the ability to stack neatly in the pantry. Or better yet, they’ll wave those tampons around and ask at full volume, “What are these for, Mama?” And don’t you dare put it past them to actually OPEN any given product if curiosity or hunger gets the best of them.
3. Not having my heart melted when Finnick says “Mama, I need you!” and bursts into tears.
I know, I know. He’s adorable with those big eyes and dimples, and he looks just pitiful crying those giant, crocodile tears. And all he wants in the whole, wide world is his Mama. I know you just cannot believe that I won’t pick that poor baby up and cuddle him til the cows come home. Here’s why: He has “needed Mama” every second of every day for about a month now. And he has cried giant, crocodile tears about 700 times already just since breakfast. But right now, at this exact moment, we need groceries. Or batteries. Or what-the-heck-ever I came to this store for. I assure you, I did not bring the kids out to Wal-Mart for kicks. And since there are 6 people in our house other than this adorable little sob story, I’m going to have to finish up this errand before I rock and cuddle and sing lullabies. So when you see me hunched over like Quasimodo pushing that basket while hugging that baby, understand that truly, this is all I can give at the moment. Be grateful, Judy, that I can’t give more. Because I want to give you a piece of my mind right about now.
4. Not dropping everything to take Andy to the restroom when he yells it’s an emergency.
Judy, Judy, Judy. Poor, naïve Judy. It’s not an emergency. In fact, he does not need to go at all. Do you know how I know this? Because he’s my child. I live with him. Do you know what, “I need to poo poo!” means? It means, “Mama, this is the most BORING thing in the entire world, and I am ready to be done.” So when I calmly continue looking at women’s clothes, it’s not because I am a terrible parent. There are other things that make me a terrible parent, but this isn’t it. It’s because I have visited every public bathroom in the city with this child, and I now know exactly what signs I need to look for when he legitimately needs to pee, poop, vomit, or blow his nose. And since I have zero clothes left in my entire closet that are not covered in one of the excrements listed above, I am finally going to finish the process of purchasing new garments for myself so that I can go into public without being JUDGED for being a disgusting slob fest.
5. Bringing my kids shopping empty-handed.
I am aware that today’s culture says kids need to have a toy, or a snack, or some sort of electronic device at all times, especially if I want them to be behaved during something boring like shopping. But you want to know what I’ve discovered? Once you’ve started something, you’ve got to keep it going every time, without fail. So yeah, we used to do the snack/toy/Angry Bird thing. Until the fateful day that our trip was only going to last 5 minutes so I said no one needed a snack/toy/phone for such a short jaunt. Good gravy, Judy, you should have heard the fussing! The screaming! The crying! The why-why-why-why-why’s! It had become a necessity because shopping had been equated with goldfish/toys/AngryBird in their precious little minds, and now I OWED THEM those things! Heck to the no. I am going to be living with these little darlings for a very long time, and I have no intention of establishing a precedent that they will only behave if bribed. So sorry, customers, my kids are going to sing, and beg, and fuss, and cry, and giggle, and point out every round food that resembles a ball because they’re not buried in my phone or a box of animal crackers. I am going to deal with it. I guess you’ll have to also. And if you offer up a sucker in the midst of one of their epic tantrums just to “keep them quiet”, I am not afraid to go all Dikembe Mutombo on you.
6. Loading my kids up with snacks while we shop.
Another double-edge sword. No, I’m not going to break out the Cheerios every, single time we go to the store. But sometimes, we’re going to be here awhile because we’re out of everything but Oxygen. And you know what—these days, I feel that a snack is about the only thing that’s going to allow us to survive this. I am aware that we are leaving a little cereal trail behind us as we go, and we’ve wiped blue sucker all over the basket, and we’ve probably dropped a sippy cup with a mangled lid that resulted in a small ocean on two separate aisles. I’m really sorry, store employees. I will gladly clean up the messes we’ve made and let you take care of the shopping list, if you’d rather trade. I’ll bet big money that you’ll be happy to trade back within the first 10 minutes.