I used to be very nervous taking both kids out by myself. When Maggie was first born, I would take another grown-up with me whenever possible, and the logistics of who sat where in the grocery cart, or what to do if someone had a big tantrum with the one having the tantrum without abandoning the one not having the tantrum, took me a while to master. And by a while, I mean 18 months and counting. (Hey! Maggie will be 18 months old tomorrow! I just realized! And now I'm sad. Let's move on.) While calling myself a master of the two-child shuffle might never be something I'm comfortable with, I have gotten past the debilitating terror, and I go somewhere with the kids, by myself, almost every day. The park, the grocery store, the doctor's office -- we see the world, people. And while there is the occasional meltdown, public barfing, or smoothie spill, mostly we have pleasant jaunts with no loss of life or limb.
But not today.
At the grocery store we usually frequent, there is a young teenage checker who really likes Maggie. She is very nice and very pleasant and I don't blame her for liking Maggie. I have had small amounts of discomfort around the fact that she generally makes a very big deal about how cute Maggie is, while Max tries to get equal attention in a number of ways, which leaves me feeling sorry for him, which leads me to exclaim over Max a great deal while the teenage checker is conversing with us, which leads me to feel like one of those overly enthusiastic women who chirp instead of speaking and end every sentence with a sugary exclamation point. ("Max, how old are you? That's right, you're three!! What a smartie!!" and etc.)But I forgive the checker for all of this -- she is a young girl, and she likes babies, and she is maybe not quite mature enough to be sensitive to Max, but he is tough and well-loved from a number of other quarters, so whatever.
What I cannot forgive the checker for is the fact that she gave both children balloons today while we shopped. Don't get me wrong -- they were both delighted and they spent the rest of the shopping trip bonking themselves and each other and me with the balloons while crowing with glee, and we got a lot of amused looks and our cart was one big rocking party. But when we left the store, things got complicated.
Let me be clear -- things are not uncomplicated even at the best of times. Whichever kid I put in the car first, the other one gets up to grocery-cart escaping hi jinks. With the added element of two balloons, however, it was a comedy of fricking errors. I put Max in first, which took about a million years because he wanted to hold his balloon while being buckled in and it kept getting tangled up and finally I tied it to the arm of the seat so it wouldn't float into my field of vision while I was driving and kill us all and he didn't like the way I tied it and then he "tied' it himself and then I had to secretly secure it without spurning his independence and etc. I put the groceries in the car, and then I got Maggie. She wept bitterly the entire time I was putting her in her car seat, because her balloon was still tied to the cart and she thought we were leaving it behind. (I'm not going to lie -- I absolutely considered leaving it behind, and I would have done so if Maggie was even slightly less on the ball.) I retrieved the balloon, but was slightly at a loss, because I didn't want Maggie to yell the whole ride home because she yells really loudly, but balloons are a choking hazard and I didn't want to leave her in the rear-facing car seat with a balloon because I'd be turning around to make sure she wasn't eating it the whole way home and I'd probably drive into a tree and finish off whichever of us hadn't already perished in balloon-related atrocities. I attempted a compromise -- tying it to the seat in front of her, where she could see it but couldn't reach it. Like most compromises, this failed to please anyone. Maggie did, indeed, yell the entire way home. "Ba -oon! Where are you? Ba-oon! No no no nononononononononono! Where are you? Ba-oon! Maaamaaa! Where are you?" and etc. (Have I mentioned that Maggie speaks in grammatically correct complete sentences now? She does. It's freaky. It looks like some kind of voice-throwing trick.)And I had put the balloon close enough to her that I was worried she would somehow get ahold of it, so I kept turning around to check anyway. Our drive home, normally a ten minute breeze, today took twenty years.
And, of course, when we got home, in the flurry of getting everyone and all the groceries out of the car, guess what happened? Come on, if you were writing this story, what is the only possible way it could end?
That's right. One of the balloons escaped and sailed off into the heavens. Maggie threw herself to the pavement in bereaved betrayal. And I accidentally taught the kids a new swear word.