May 072012

“You’re letting her bring a balloon in the car?”

“I think it will be fine. We’re just going down the street.”

“Are you sure?”

“Madeline, I said it would be fine. I’m afraid if I take it away she’ll cry, and it’s her birthday celebration, I don’t want her to cry.”

“But you never let us bring balloons in the car. You always said . . .”

“I know. Get in the car. I must be a nicer aunt than mom.”


That must be it. I must have gotten nicer as the years have gone by. Nicer and more flexible. Yeah. I mean, I don’t think I would have allowed my own four-year-old to order a chocolate sundae and a cookie milkshake. It was always either a milkshake or a sundae.

I turned out of the parking lot and then left into rush hour traffic. I heard the ping of a text message being received; I’ll have to check that later. Good grief, will someone let me change lanes! Sheesh, I’m signaling and my exit is up ahead . . .


Gah! As I recovered from a small heart attack, I remembered why we never bring balloons in the car. It’s been a really long time since one of my guys wanted to bring a balloon in the car.

“Madeline – put that other balloon in the way back.”

Cue the crying . . .

“Mom! She’s crying.”

“I can hear her. But my heart (and my bladder) don’t like thinking we’ve been shot.”

“I told you . . .”

“Madeline, it’s not nice to say, ‘I told you so.’ Just distract her.”

Maybe I’m not nicer, just more forgetful.

The colorful stage, decorations, and lights helped her forget all about the balloon. We’d arrived at Seussical! The three of us went back to having a delightful girls’ night out. We’d done dinner and now we were at a show. What a show! We loved every minute of it. 

What a great night! I just needed to quickly stop at Safeway on the way home.

I grabbed a cart.

OBVIOUSLY the wrong cart.

Kian, sweetie, we don’t like those carts.”

Kian has skill in the art of loudly persuading.

“Fine, hop in, let’s go.”

I never let my own children get those huge carts with the Little Tikes car attached to the front. But I really couldn’t remember exactly why, so . . .

It was mildly amusing watching Madeline try to fit in the cab of the little orange car. After a heroic effort, she convinced Kian that she couldn’t fit, and we headed to get some bananas. I paused momentarily to choose a not-too-ripe not-too-green bunch of bananas. 

“Madeline! Grab her! She’s by the chocolate covered raisins!”

That’s riiiight! She’s out of reach! There’s no way to keep a kid in this thing. 

“You walk next to her so we can make sure she stays put.”

Great! Now we’re not only double long, but we’re also double wide. 

Oh. The ping of a text message. I pulled my phone out of my purse and quickly typed in, “at Safeway. Will be home in 35 min.”


I jerked the cart to a halt and looked up from my phone to see Madeline hugging the stand-alone display of Keebler products propped in the aisle. 

“Oh my gosh! Sorry honey. Let go, I’ll steady the display.”

This darn cart is so huge. Why do they put these stupid displays in the middle of the aisle! Isn’t that what the shelves are for?

I picked up the few things we needed plus a whole bunch of stuff I hadn’t realized we’d needed, and headed for the registers.

Why on earth is this taking so long? I had my stuff loaded on the conveyor belt and was at a standstill. I looked down and noticed that Kian was furiously signing something.

“Madeline? What does that sign mean?”

“I don’t know, I think it means ChapStick. That, or mini Purell hand sanitizer.” 

I haven’t had to learn ChapStick yet, but I do know “no.” I sign back “no” and explain, “No sweetie, we aren’t going to buy ChapStick.” 

While I was wrestling the little tube from her grip I noticed writing on the roof of the little orange car. DO NOT REMOVE CART FROM STORE. What?

Kian has refused to hold my hand all night. Which has been fine, we’re two to one, so we’ve been safe. Plus, I’ve been telling her that she’s such a big girl all night long. She’s a fiercely independent little person – which I LOVE about her – this will serve her well someday, but THIS day, it just makes her dangerous. How the heck am I going to get her safely across the parking lot, in the dark, while simultaneously carrying 20 bags of groceries WITHOUT A CART?

It was all coming back to me. There were good reasons we didn’t use these carts. 

When Kenny was a toddler I just told him the carts were immature and childish and that he was too grown up to want to sit in such a baby thing. It worked. Then with Caroline I told her it was goofy and unfashionable. Robby was easy: “You don’t want to sit in that — it’s FULL of germs. I bet some kid’s boogers are on the steering wheel.” (He’s not as bad as Monk, but close.) By the time Tommy, Sammy, and Madeline came along it was just accepted that we didn’t use those carts. And I was home free. 

I started to write a mental letter to the manager:

Dear Mr. Manager,

It is obvious that you have never shopped with small children . . . bla bla bla . . . I’ve spent $37 bajillion at this establishment this year alone . . . bla bla bla . . . Why would your establishment hold parents hostage to this germ-laden child magnet to have it ripped out from under them before leaving the store . . . bla bla bla . . .

I was paying for my items and panicking about ruining our whole night. Kian wasn’t going to voluntarily want to switch carts at the exit. She was going to be upset. This is what she was going to remember: I made her get out of the cart. Bad auntie.

That’s when the bag boy pulled up to the register with a regular cart and proceeded to load it. I asked why the store had the policy of not taking the car-cart out of the store; it didn’t seem to make any sense. He admitted that he had no idea. But the great thing was that HE took the cart away. Not me. I still got to be the hero-auntie. I crumpled up the letter to the manager and started writing a mental thank you note to the bag boy:

Dear bag boy,

Thank you for being observant and for doing your job so well. You’ll never know how grateful I am to you. You were the bad guy so I didn’t have to be . . . bla bla bla . . . 

I got to thinking that yes, I did forget some stuff. The stuff that may have made me seem petty and picky — like no balloons in the car, or no difficult to drive germ-laden car-carts — but I was reminded that parents of young children must be creative, resourceful, and have the endurance of a marathon runner just to survive. It’s really nice if every now and then someone holds out a cold glass of water, or cheers you on! Boy what difference that can make in that long seemingly uphill stretch of the race.

I’m sure I’ll forget other petty and picky things I did to survive. But I’ll never forget being the mom with a baby in an over-the-shoulder-baby-holder pushing a full cart while herding a gaggle of toddlers across a busy parking lot. I’ll never forget that woman who lingered at the crossing to make sure the cars would stop and make sure we all got across safely. She noticed us. Tonight, the bag boy noticed us. Those things don’t get forgotten.

  One Response to “balloons and other forbidden things”

  1. Funny pages from the Diary – laughed during the entire reading.

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