I love books. When I enter a library or bookstore, I feel completely at ease. My blood pressure drops, my worries retreat, and a sense of possibility overcomes me. (I could read about teenage vampires! I could knit that funky hat! I could learn to roast a chicken!) Curling up with a good book is my idea of a good time, which is why it was particularly painful when my children and I got kicked out of Barnes and Noble bookstore yesterday.
It was a horrendously hot day and some indoor activity seemed appropriate. So we headed over to the mall to run around. I know--malls are disgusting to me too, but I was desperate. On our way back to the car, I thought: why don't we just pop in to the B&N (it's attached to the mall) to browse for a bit? So what if it was almost lunch time and the kiddos were probably hungry? There was a small cafe inside the bookstore that served bagels and chocolate milk that we could stop by if needed.
There's a book that my three year-old son has been asking for for the past year. It's one of those Klutz books--a spiral bound book that comes with a plastic pouch of teeny-tiny cars. Inside the book, there are activities and mazes that you can do with the cars. That is, activities you can do before you a.) lose the cars or b.) your infant or your cat accidentally swallows them. I refuse to buy this for him, and each time he throws a bit of a tantrum.
On this particular day, he ran to the Thomas the Train table in the children's book section and started playing. The baby grabbed some stuffed animal with the intent on slobbering all over it. So far so good, I thought. But then the boy remembered the forbidden book, located it, and presented it to me with the expectation that I would buy it for him. All toddler fury broke out when I, as usual, refused to buy the book. He started screaming so loud that everyone in earshot stopped what they were doing and looked at me. I hate to have attention drawn to me, and I felt like my evacuate-now button had just been pushed. It was when he started kicking and biting me that I thought: I have got to get out of here now. I was wearing the baby in one of those backback things, and had a stroller with me for the boy. I attempted to put him in the stroller but he fought so hard that I couldn't squeeze him in there. As he was screaming and biting, I worked hard to maintain an outward appearance of calmness. To outward appearances, I was a mother who was unfazed; I calmly explained that I would not buy the book because it clearly said it was for an eight year-old, and that when he turned eight, he could ask for that book. Maybe I even said something about Santa Claus. On the inside I was a furious, seething wreck; I was angry that my son was making such a scene, and wondered if this was the "mother's curse" that was finally haunting me for the all the pain that I supposedly inflicted on my own parents as a child.
It became apparent that the stroller was a no go. I was wearing the baby, so at least I had my hands free. I picked up the screaming, kicking, and biting toddler and somehow pushed the stroller towards the door as fast as I could. It was at that moment that a snooty, pinched faced lady approached me and asked if I could leave the bookstore since my child was disturbing the peace. As if she couldn't tell that I was trying to exit the building as fast as I could, and that carrying two children (a total weight of almost 60 pounds!) while pushing a stroller and trying to maneuver it all through the door was a bit challenging. The baby, who up until now had been calm and quiet, figured out that if her brother was screaming, she needed to also. Pinched face just stood there looking down at me and did not try to help me open the door so that I could push the stroller and the now two screaming children out of the bookstore and into the vestibule. I wanted to say something mean to her but was too busy sweating and getting bitten to think of anything.
Once in the vestibule, my son wriggled out of my arms and started hitting me and flinging himself around frantically. I remember thinking: so that's where they came up with the idea for the Tazmanian Devil on Looney Toons. I really don't know what happened next, but I lost my balance and fell down, which made the baby cry even more. Somehow the stroller fell over too, and with it my purse, which (of course) tipped over, spilling everything out onto the floor. I just laid there on the floor for a minute thinking: it can't get any more ridiculous than this!
Just then an angel of a woman came out of the bookstore and said something like: "you look like you could use some help!" I resisted the urge to say something ironic, and meekly accepted her offer of help. She uprighted my stroller while I took care of the purse, and insisted on pushing my stroller to my car, which was parked around the corner from the bookstore. All the while, I carried the two children, who were both still crying and carrying on. As I walked back to the car, I swore to myself that I would never, ever, have any more kids, and contemplated entering a nunnery that very evening. In the very least, some serious birth control. Maybe I would broach the topic of a vasectomy with my husband.
It was an impossible feat getting the boy strapped into the car seat, because he was still screaming at me. He tried to bite and squeeze my hands as I as fastened the straps of his car seat. But finally the deed was done and I retreated to holiest of mommy sanctuaries--the driver's seat.
What amazed me was the speed at which he turned off the crying-biting-and-squeezing switch and started on something completely different. My mobile rang at that moment, and he wanted to talk with his daddy, who was on the line. With a tear-stained face, he smiled as he listened to his daddy telling him all about the fire trucks and UPS delivery vans that he had seen that day at work. For him, it was all over in a few minutes. He had forgotten and forgiven whatever had happened. However, it took me the rest of the day to recover my lost bearings. The next day I would wake up and discover bruises on my arms and legs.
Needless to say, I don't think that I'll be going back to that bookstore for a long while....maybe until my son is eight! After speaking with my mother, she said, "Oh, stuff like that happens all the time with little ones!" It does? How come I've never witnessed scenes like this before, with other people's children? Have I just turned a blind eye like pinched face, my nemesis? In the meantime, this mommy is going to be getting a thicker skin and is pledging to help all the other mommies in distress out there.
Have you ever been kicked out or asked to leave a place on account of your children?