Alternatively titled: World's Longest Post
Second alternative title: Why Other Mothers Know Not to Attempt This
As a young mother, I am always in need of helpful suggestions in parenting, planning, housekeeping, etc. Last Monday, I went on a memorable trip to the shopping mall with three little girls, three and under. Here is my advice for anyone planning a little outing.
1)Wait for the perfect moment to leave the house. It must be when no one is scheduled to nap, have a bottle, eat lunch, or have quiet time. Also, it must be after 9:30am so that the stores will be open. Therefore, you will have a window of 45 minutes from 11:15-12:00.
2)Using forward thinking, realize that you might run into lunch time with this outing. Force your three year old to eat a small bowl of cheerios and milk, just in case she gets hungry. Forget to feed your one year old because you still aren't used to giving her three square meals a day...in your mind, you're still exclusively breastfeeding.
3)Begin preparations to leave the house. Pick the smallest diaper bag you have and try to fit as few things in it as possible. You never end up needing them anyway, right?
4)Review your plan: go to a nearby shopping destination in order to buy that one dress you and the eldest child have been admiring during the lean month of October. That sounds easy!
5)Upon realization of the ease of this mission, decide to add one more store. You will attempt to return a gift and perhaps there will be an equivalently beautiful dress at this store, allowing you to make an even exchange and eliminate #4.
6)Silently praise God that the weather is so wonderful you will not have to wrestle with bulky coats, blankets, and accessories. Forget that it is actually too hot outside for the fleece pullover you are wearing.
7)Begin loading the children into the vehicle by directing the eldest to load herself, being mindful of traffic.
8)Load the middle child, mobile and unpredictable, into her car seat in vehicle. Require the youngest and least flexible child to wait in the house alone, crying her eyes out.
9)Return to house, load youngest (still crying) child into car seat, make last minute decision to bring expired coupon for aforementioned dress, lock doors, leave the house.
10) Discover that youngest child's car seat is quite bulky and difficult to lift, tug, pull over the top of other children already in car seats. After straining one's back and silently uttering something other than praises, situate car seat in the very back of the vehicle.
11)Realize that eldest child has chosen not to load themselves and is instead scavenging chewing gum from the driver's seat region. Award the child's disobedience with the promise of specific consequences upon arriving home.
12)Endure crying over consequences while loading and buckling eldest child into car seat.
13)Open driver's side door. Get in. Start vehicle. Look at clock and realize that you have used 30 of your 45 minutes to simply get out the door. Shrug your shoulders (what else can you do???)
14)Drive to other store. Get out of vehicle. Set up double stroller (aka: the semi).
15)Repeat steps 7-11 in backwards order, securely situating younger children in the semi (ahem, stroller).
16)Enter store, making the mental choice to not check time on one's cell phone for the sake of a clear conscious.
17)Find elevator. Allow eldest to operate elevator buttons.
18)Upon exiting elevator make a bee-line for girls clothing dept. Realize that eldest is not making a bee-line, but has chosen to marvel at displays of useless children's toys. At second glance, realize that eldest has acquired a shopping cart/stroller and is loading useless children's toys into the vast expanse of a shopping cart. Decide to ignore this inconvenience and attempt to complete mission.
19)Choose four dresses that might compare to above mentioned dress. Cajole eldest into trying on all four dresses.
20)Watch with intrigue and pleasure as eldest looks in mirror after trying each dress and assumes fifth position (think ballet), followed by a lovely twirl. One dress twirls above the rest and becomes the intended target.
21)Waste time examining winter accessories since eldest recently lost winter hat.
22)Head to check-out area, walking slowly so as to remain in the sight of eldest pushing overloaded shopping cart.
23)Quickly exchange item for dress, receiving $4 gift card to boot.
24)Wait as eldest uses bathroom.
25)Repeat step 17. Breath a sigh of relief that commandeered cart will not fit in elevator with semi and two people.
26)Sit on small bench in very hot entryway to feed youngest a bottle. Blankly stare at all the passersby who give knowing smiles.
27)Repeat steps 14-15 backwards. Drive to original destination.
28)Repeat steps 14-15. Appreciate the well behaved nature of three small children.
29)Walk straight to desired store, using will-power to avoid any money/time traps along the way. Rejoice over will-power! Walk straight to desired dress, celebrate your willpower!
30)Oh, eldest will not walk straight to said dress and instead must touch every beautiful thing along the aisle.
31)Snag the beautiful dress in two sizes and drag star-struck 3 year old to dressing room. Cram semi containing two babies into small dressing room.
32)Encourage eldest to quickly disrobe. Wait forever while child finishes this task.
33)Adorn child in beautiful, red dress. Watch as she admires herself in the mirror, twirling the whole time. Decide that the size 4T is best, cute with room to grow. Breathe a sigh of relief, as that was fast and easy!
34)Sigh with disbelief as eldest child opens dressing room door, giggles, and sprints away.
35)Holler, jump up, run after 3 year old, leaving babies alone in dressing room to entertain themselves with fussing.
36)Discover that 3 year old has entered another (locked) dressing room. Listen as the wily child giggles at her foolishness.
37)Demand that child come out. When child ignores request, determine to get the child out yourself.
38)Begin to crawl under dressing room door. Acknowledge that grown women are not designed for army-crawling in dressing rooms. Thank the Lord that no one is watching, as you are now stuck under the dressing room door. Smile at three year old who is laughing. Wave to your imaginary audience with your feet (what else can you do?).
39)Pry yourself out from the door. Watch child run out of dressing room, only to make a mad dash into original dressing room, locking the door behind her.
40)Listen to babies cry with fear at being trapped in dressing room with spiteful preschooler.
41)Learning from previous experience, reach with arm under dressing room door, grasping for unruly child. Grab onto three year old's calf. Pull screaming three year old across dressing room. Demand (again) that child open the door.
42)Re-enter dressing room, announce through clenched teeth that eldest child should expect another consequence upon arriving home. Instruct eldest to remove red dress and put on original clothes.
43)Detect a pungent odor rising from the semi. Locate youngest child responsible for odor. Lift child out of stroller, determined to change stanky diaper in dressing room. Discern "blow-out" status of diaper, noticing the stench spreading to your own hands (ew!) and shirt (gasp!). Return child to stroller, unchanged, deciding to deal with this adversity in the comfort of home.
44)Ignore three crying children. Quickly clothe three year old. Emerge from dressing room area with three still crying children. Efficiently pay for dress and matching headband. Thank cashier for allowing you to use expired coupon. Smile sweetly at all the smart mothers in the store without their children.
45)Repeat step 27.
46)Arrive at home at 2:05. Feed children sandwiches and send them directly to bed for naps, not forgetting to administer two "consequences". You should take a nap too.
47) Return to kid's clothing store one week later for price adjustment on dress. And to allow three year old to return hot pink slippers that were thieved in previous shopping trip. Vow to stay out of stores forever.