Children add enjoyment (and spice) to our lives. If you're kinda bland, you tend to get a spicy child. If you're already pretty firey yourself, apparently it gets extra-concentrated before being passed on to your offspring. At least that's my theory.
The hilarity of my life is not lost on me. I might be ready to pull my hair out around mid-day while the chaos ensues around me but before dinner is over, I'm struggling to tell Brian all the details over my involuntary laughter! Today is a perfect example. In 72 hours I'll have who-knows-how-many family members here for Christmas and I decided to brave the grocery store this morning. With Aiden. I should know better by now but I'm working on a tight holiday schedule and the stress is causing lapses in my judgement. I had a shopping list as long as my arm and when I had to park in the only open spot on the end of one of the furthest rows during what would have normally been a slow time of the day, I knew this wasn't going to be fun.
After thirty minutes of being polite to slow-moving strangers who are shopping without an irritable toddler, I only have the first ten items checked off my list and I'm getting nowhere fast. Every aisle is a maze of carts and the crawling pace has me grumbling and Aiden shouting. I was about ready to plow down every single middle-aged man ambling slowly through the mayhem, clutching a grocery list written in their wife's hand, staring blankly at the shelves and looking lost while managing to block both directions of aisle traffic as they squint at the rows of products in front of them. I felt even more hostile when, for the first time, some decrepit, sloth-paced strangers actually began making rude little sighs and sounds in the back of their throats at Aiden's misbehavior as we closed in on hour two of shopping and he hit the stage beyond meltdown that I like to call 'throwdown'.
It always starts off slow, with Aiden's mild boredom turning into misbehavior which turns into blatant naughtiness, hoping it will mean immediate removal from whatever horrid store I have drug him into. Today I was combing the first-aid section for band-aids for about thirty seconds when I turned back towards the cart to find Aiden sitting perfectly still, hands polietly in his lap and his eyes gazing innocently into mine, with thirteen bottles of calamine lotion strewn across his seat, lined neatly in the handlebar basket and shoved into both of the cart's drink holders. The sudden appearance of so many bottles startled me and I let out a laughing "What?!!" because I hadn't heard a sound as he'd pulled them from the shelf!
Not five minutes later we're on the cereal aisle, where I'm trying to quickly pick a hot cocoa flavor while traffic backs up, and I hear the sound of plastic stressing and fracturing beside me. I wheel around to find Aiden removing a long, thin hanging display from the shelf ledge, saying "Oh, no! I break it" while a half-dozen unimpressed shoppers watch over my shoulder. (Where in the HECK are all the grumpy old people coming from today?) I give Aiden a reminder not to touch hanging displays - with a poorly concealed humorous grin - as I wheel us away. I'm trying to keep his discomfort to a minimum so when I see that the baking aisle is moving about as fast as a post office line, I detour over to the toy section to hunt for some stocking stuffers. I'm looking at cars when a man walks by, spies Aiden's spikey hair and playfully says "Hey cool dude!" Without missing a BEAT Aiden repeats "coo dude!" in a delighted voice and then instantly drops to a more serious tone to add "Daddy at work", as if to ensure the stranger knows who this cool dude and his mommy love. I freeze, keeping my back turned, and hold my breath to keep it from rushing out in laughter at my toddler's hilariously random responses! I never saw the guy or his reaction but I hope he wasn't too offended that a toddler pointed out his dad was working when he wasn't! LOL!
I end up finding some tiny Tonka cars & trucks on clearance for 50¢ and a Lightning McQueen book. Stocked with new distrations, I get in the baking aisle line. I select my items and am ambling along, waiting to exit the end of the row when we pass the bags of baking morsels and Aiden begins very loudly and clearly repeating "WANT CANDY", enunciating every word with increased volume. How do you explain that something on this aisle that looks like tiny Hershey's kisses actually doesn't taste like regular Hershey's kisses to a 21 month-old? The place is so full of fifty-somethings I don't even glance around to acknowledge the judgemental stares.
The next episode is in the meat & cheese section where Aiden feels it is his personal duty to ensure that our shred cheese is also mashed before it gets home. When I select a steak, one of Aiden's favorite dinners, he drops the cheese and shouts "STEAK!" I hear a few chuckles from the younger dads around me as I back the cart away, running over the dropped bag of mashed cheese I didn't see, and head for the deli.
Aiden is 'cart surfing' (standing up in his seat making animal noises) by the time we're there and the length of the deli line brings me to a screeching hault. My son's loud and accurate monkey noises - complete with butt-in-the-air bouncing motions - have all sixteen pairs of eyes on me in an instant. A sweet grandmother helping at the deli counter smiles and slightly nods in the direction of a cafeteria cart of popular pre-sliced, bagged & priced deli cuts intended to spare those bedraggled by the holidays. Bless her heart, she even comes over to entertain (the now neighing) Aiden so I can sort through the pile to find turkey & swiss cheese. Of course the second someone else pays him attention, Aiden plops his little bum on the seat and gazes at her in angelic silence, with the same melting smile that makes you pay ridiculous amounts for a grocery store Lightning McQueen book.
Second to last stop is the produce section and my least favorite place to have Aiden. Every fruit & vegetable I place in the cart is followed by pleading and a temper tantrum, only to be interrupted by the next fresh food and corresponding temper tantrum. (These have started over completely raw steaks as I put them in the basket, too. Ridiculous!) I almost felt relieved when I bagged up three jumbo heads of broccoli, knowing Aiden wouldn't be going for a sixth round of 'Mom, WANT!' and fake crying. Stupid me.
I'm trying to sneak strawberries in the cart without him seeing when a broccoli floret hits me in the cheek. I glance up and Aiden cautiously says "I fro....?" and then looks at me as if to say 'could you please name that vegetable for me?' I try to keep a serious face as I ask "Did you throw broccoli at me?" but seriously, I'm only slightly better behaved in public than he is. He thinks about it for a second and repeats "brocoyucky". I can't contain my laughter! I'm trademarking the name because I'm certain millions of children will agree it is, indeed, brocoyucky and any book with such a humorous title would be wildly popular among the refuse-to-eat-it crowd!
The last item I need is vanilla ice cream so off to the frozen foods we go. I notice Aiden is oddly still, like he's watching something. I had just pried the broccoli from his little grip for the fifth time and in a much more menacing mommy tone told him he was to not touch the brocoyucky again. I pull the ice cream off the shelf and as the fogged-up glass door swings shut, it reveals Aiden, head tilted all the way back with his hands wrapped tightly around the thick base of the largest broccoli stem, trying to shove the entire head into his mouth. He looks like a giant trying to swallow an uprooted oak tree whole. Stunned and exasperated, I shout "SON!" He jumps and then, in one rapid move, quickly pitches the broccoli over his head into the basket and shouts back "NAUGHTY BROCOYUCKY!"
I'm barreling the cart towards the checkout lanes, promising myself I really will run over anyone that gets in the way of my plan to get this child down for a nap as soon as possible. I'm in luck and find a cashier just finishing up a transaction with no one else in line. Unloading the cart brings back all the same tantrums I endured while loading the cart. When the broccoli goes on the conveyor belt, Aiden's hissy fit hits a new level and a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, most likely thrown with the intent to hit me, lands nicely on the moving conveyor belt and rides up for it's turn to be scanned. Now we have a new problem. His sippy cup, my coupon organizer, the already-paid-for cough perscription and a shoe hit the conveyor belt next. My verbal requests to not throw anything else on top of the produce go ignored so I have to stop unloading the cart and leap to catch him as he leans too far over to dump his fruit snacks on the moving black belt next. I save the fruit snacks, get him re-seated, unload the last few things and push he and the cart ahead of me for the bagger to load. I'm doing controlled inhales and exhales at the card swipe machine while Aiden is the bag boy's problem for a moment. And then I see it. Coming defiantly and triumphantly down the conveyor belt at the very end of the line is the empty, crumpled foil fruit snack wrapper. I've been outdone. Against all odds, more spice has been added to my already crazy, spiced-up life and he's the best one yet. He constantly reminds me that I simply will not be allowed to take anything too seriously or ever be too stubborn because it's useless. He's teaching me that when those empty wrappers come down the line in life and they're nothing more than a fleeting moment's inconvenience, JUST LAUGH!