A few weeks ago I had lunch with a friend and her two young sons. She most graciously noticed how nicely Mary and Kate sit in a restaurant, and I thanked her, they do. There's no secret, we've been very consistent, they know what is expected, and they actually enjoy their food. Rarely do we resort to coercion or bribing, they try new things, they order for themselves, and they stay in their seats until we are all finished. Napkin in lap, dab your mouth, lovely.
But we can't spend our lives in restaurants and once a week or so we have to go to Target or Trader Joe's, not just to buy milk and Ivory soap, but to remind me that these children are four year old maniacs bent on destruction. Initially we appear normal, a mom and her two children running the errands of reasonable household, but then it begins. The magic Target doors open and they are off, in opposite directions, which is actually better as they can't attack each other from different areas of the store. From lingerie Mary finds a bra, the biggest one she can get her hands on, squeezes and yells, "MOM, LOOK, BOOBIES!!". From 14 aisles away Kate, who quite often can't hear her name called from three feet away, responds, "BOOBIES!! MOMMY HAS BOOBIES!". She races across the store, lacrosse stick in hand, lopping off 14 racks of boobies as she rounds the corner. They struggle for control of the weapon and they are off, now armed.
Target has artillery, Trader Joe's has tanks in the form of mini shopping carts, perfect vehicles for the kind of terror best suited to the grocery aisle. Senator Durbin and President Obama always make the trip, holding on with small tightly clenched plastic fingers, riding wildly into display after display of reasonably priced soy nuts and Three Buck Chuck. No longer do I wear sandals, this trip calls for Wellies with six layers of socks, my ankles having been destroyed on previous missions. We weave in and out, kind people smile, intelligent people run, and childless parents laugh, at me. And while at Target they scatter, at Trader Joe's they stay right together because two carts coming at you is just more dangerous than one. And bumper carts! You can't have that kind of fun at Target.
And there I am, the mom I never wanted to be, the kind that smiles through clenched teeth at her children, who raises her voice to a shrill and piercing sound in public, the kind that just yesterday picked up a bottle of Windex, aimed and seriously considered shooting, right between the eyes. Desperately I want to stop people, just grab them by the arm and say, quite calmly, "really though, I have complete control usually, you should have seen us at lunch today." And as they shrug and back hurriedly away the shrill voice comes again, "We go to tea for God's sake, at the Peninsula!".
If only the Italian restaurant at the end of the block sold toilet paper.