It's Friday and the kids have been home all week. They are running out of productive ways to amuse themselves. Why can't they see that perhaps jumping on the trampoline with rocks is not such a good idea? And that carrying sheets of plywood across the lawn when there are 50mph gusts of wind is also not a good alternative?
So today it's errand day. The idea being to finish up some long delayed errands and to keep the kids out of trouble. Delayed because when the kids are home, I tend to put off errands, and after a week-and-a-half without school, there are lots of errands to do.
It starts out badly at the library. At our small local branch the kids are running around, chasing each other, giggling incessantly. A little talk to them about how to amuse themselves without disturbing other patrons goes unheeded. I want to leave immediately, but I came here to get something for me, and I want to get it. I tell them we will abandon the trip to the Lego store (part of a Christmas present and how I got them to clean the house and leave the house in the first place) if they can't control themselves. They can't control themselves.
As I am getting gas I tell them how disappointed I am in their behavior at the library. Okay, so we talk about it and come up with this deal: we will do another errand, their chance to redeem themselves. If they can listen to me and follow directions on the next errand, we will go to the Lego store. If not, no go.
It's about a 20-minute drive, so I get in the car after the gas and ask if everyone is buckled in. They assure me this is true. I have put a couple of new Bill Harley CDs in the car. I ask which one they want to listen to first. Kadin says, "mine!" Rees says, "mine!" Okay, another tack. One is stories, one is songs, I ask them if they want to listen to stories or songs. "Songs" says Kadin, "stories" says Rees. I figure that gives me license to choose since Kadin's is stories and Rees's is songs. I say "I am putting on Kadin's, it's stories." Nobody can protest that. Phew!
On the highway, Kadin says, "Look Rees, look!" and as he points to something he stands up and turns around in his seat. "Hey! Kadin! You're not buckled in!" Usually he is very good about this. Problem is, he can't do it himself. As I am looking for a place to pull over I say, "Kadin, hand me the buckle, here, Rees, please buckle it." Kadin screams, "No! I want Mama to do it!" "I can't, I'm driving," I reply. He has become the boss of the world in the worst way lately. His view of what is important can only be categorized as ridiculous. I find a place to pull over and he finally lets Rees buckle him in. Sheesh!
Then it is a trip to a certain DIY store to buy a dryer vent. No, not fun, but they have the Lego store to look forward to. I am ready to cancel the whole endeavor, but this is their chance.
Only problem is, I can't find the DIY store. It is right there, bigger than life, on the right side of the road, with a huge sign in front of it, but danged if I can figure out how to get there. It's at an intersection of three major highways and I blow it a couple of times, taking at least a extra 30-minute detour of circling round and round with no exit in sight and one wrong move after another. I feel I am being sorely tested. Luckily the kids are riveted by the new Bill Harley CD with tales of swamp monsters and the pirate Dirty Joe. The songs and stories have this really funny way of seeing the world from both the child's and the adult's perspective, so it's giving me some respite as well. Finally, after driving about 50 endless, pointless miles, we get to the parking lot.
Will the kids let me pick a dryer vent? Sure, but they have to fiddle with and fondle just about everything in sight so concentration is at a minimum and who knew there would be so many perplexing options? I just want a dryer vent. I sure hope I get the right thing. I measured and everything, but... oh well, guess I can always return it if I get the wrong one, but the thought of coming back fills me with dread…
Then I need the bathroom and one graciously appears near us at the back of the store. Rees goes into the men's, Kadin refuses all options. I need to go, so I look at Kadin and say, "I am going in here, you are welcome to join me." "Never!" he replies, his stock reply these days. No sooner am I in a stall than I hear an ear-piercing shriek of "Mama! Where are you?" I hear the woman who was washing her hands at the sink as I came in go out to investigate. "It's okay, your mom's in there," she says. Kadin refuses all help continuing to pitifully and convincingly wail, "I want my mom!" "I pinched my finger!" "I want my mommy!" Another woman in the stall next to me goes out to help. He keeps up the "I want my mom!" line. I know he is a little bit hurt and a lot angry and even more stubborn. He will not come to me, I cannot go to him, he will not calm down for these other women. I quickly finish and tend to his minor wound. Scornful eyes look at me from everywhere. Heads wag. Sigh.
We pick up some teak oil for the deck furniture and head to the checkout. This is when the one good thing of the day happens. The woman asks me how much the dryer vent is. I say I don't remember (I don't but it was somewhere around $15) and she says not to worry about it and only charges me for the teak oil. Wow! That saves me an errand to return it at least!
Things are looking up, it is time for the Lego store. We find the mall and park at the door closest to the store. We find the store and this kids happily fill the boxes they got for Christmas. Then the snag. Kadin takes a long time, debating this, debating that, wishing he had this, wishing he had that. Finally his box is full and then overfull. I tell him he has to put some back. He refuses. I take some out of his overfull box and put some of them in Rees' underfull box. He is incensed and starts wailing. I try to explain to him that I am trying to help him (knowing it will all end up in the same place, but how to convince a 4 year old?). He continues to make a scene. I tell him we can walk away right there if he wants to. I take four big pieces out of his box, now it works. I tell him his choice is to have the box as it is or leave without it. He is livid. Finally, I manage to get the box put in a bag, return the four big pieces, and distract him to play with the Legos at the play table.
Now it is lunchtime. We can go to the food court. I am hungry. Rees is hungry. Kadin wants to stay at the play table. "When will you be ready to leave?" I ask. "When I am finished with this," is the reply. That sounds reasonable. "Finish up and we'll go," I say, hoping for once for a graceful transition. It takes a while, but finally he is ready and we go to eat. We are in line at the Burger King and Kadin says, "I want McDonalds." I tell him there is no McDonalds. He starts crying again. This boy is lucky to be at Burger King, I tell you!
Lunch is reasonably uneventful, but the food court has taken us to the opposite end of the mall from the car. Kadin is moving like molasses. He is in his own world, playing a game, walking in a certain pattern on the colored bricks on the floor. Rees and I try to walk slowly, but Kadin is making no attempt to stay with us. It is agony. Slowly, slowly we make progress. I have my eye on the door near the car. We are finally almost there, just a few yards to go. "I have to go to the bathroom," Kadin announces. If only he'd used the one at the DIY store!
Okay, find a bathroom. Luckily there is one not too far from the door, but it is down one of those long corridors. I tell Kadin to follow me. He is again lost in his own world. I gently take his hand and guide him reluctantly to the bathroom. He goes, I go, Rees goes, and we all move off down the corridor again to the desired doors. This time we make it. Just outside the door, Rees says, "Where's the Lego bag?" The Lego bag! The bathroom! I left it in the bathroom! I turn around and sprint back to the bathroom. Rees is hot on my heels. Kadin is moving so slowly I figure I will be there and back before he has moved an inch. .
In moments I am at the bathroom and just coming out is a nice older woman with a Lego bag. Panting, I eye it, she says, "Did you leave this in the stall?" Yes, thanks! I take it and run back with Rees to where we last saw Kadin. Predictably, he has now disappeared. I can't believe it, or maybe I can. How far could he have gotten?
Rees and I re-enter the mall and I call Kadin's name in a loud, clear voice. A woman nearby asks if he was wearing blue pants and a striped shirt. Yes! He ran down that way, she points. We pursue, find him, and then make the agonizing trek back to the car. The car! Hooray!
I know that I should follow my instincts, drive directly home and take a nap while the boys play with their new Legos, but no, I am a glutton for punishment and determined to finish up the one last errand of the day, a simple exchange at another store at a different mall. It can't get any worse.
It doesn't. But at the last mall there is the final incident of who pushed which button to open which door and how one or the other of the boys won't come in or go out or has to do it again. It's all a horrible blur. We soldier on and are back at the car and on the way home at last.
More of Bill Harley on the CD player. This time it is a great story about the skunk family and the middle child who refuses to set the table. Her older brother demands it of her. She argues back in a singsong voice, "You're not the boss of me. You're not the boss of me. You might be the boss of you, but you're not the boss of me." This angers her brother who calls in the mother who is similarly incensed, then her father, then the chief of police, and the judge (each with charming extra details thrown in), but her argument remains the same throughout and she refuses to set the table singing her self-righteous little song. Finally she is taken before the stinky skunk King who says, "Oh, she won’t set the table? Well…” Then he turns to the child and says, “Will you please set the table?" And she says, "Yes, since you asked so nicely, I'd be happy to." And all is well in the skunk world. Amazing how a change of perspective can do that.