I had to get them out of the house. Or maybe I just had to get myself out of the house. At any rate, I decided a trip to Target to get the one thing we needed (diapers) would be an excuse to get them up and moving.
I knew in the back of my mind this was a bad idea. Taking two grumpy, possibly-on-the-verge-of-getting-sick, possibly-on-the-verge-of-killing-each-other girls to a bright, shiny store with full of toys and candy and makeup?
What could possibly go wrong?
Everything. Everything could go wrong.
It started in the parking lot. Charlie refused to come out of the car without her million-pound owl backpack, which contained a toy car, a maraca from Mexico, two bobby pins, a deck of cards, a sweatshirt, a bunny, a water bottle, five goldfish crackers, and a crumpled up picture of an ogre she calls Marcus. The backpack was too heavy, and she used up all of her happy energy carrying it from the car to the store. Then all that was left was the evil energy. The Mom-I-want-to-kill-you energy.
So there she was, 28 pounds of malevolence in a cherubic, Charlie-shaped body, ready to tear through Target with a vengeance. But, optimist that I am, decided to take my chances.
We started on the toy aisle, so Lucy could pick out a birthday present for her little sister. Lucy played quietly with a ball and a baby. Evil Charlie grabbed a toy shopping cart full of toy food. Then a pretend car seat for a pretend baby. She had no energy left to carry these things, but in her mind she was not leaving the store without them. Then, she decided, the toy shopping cart would be great as an assault tank on the animal cracker display. One bash and the whole thing came tumbling down all over her. A nice employee came over to help us clean up.
The shopping cart had to go. But as soon as I tried to take it from her evil death grip, she let out the first Scream. (Side note: our Target is two stories. It’s huge. You could likely hear her Scream, with a capital S, all the way upstairs in the break room.)
It was at this point that I kicked into survival mode. As in: survive this moment, then get the hell out of Target before someone recognizes me. I let her keep the shopping cart and push it to our next destination: the diaper aisle, maybe ten yards away. 28-pound Charlie was pushing her pretend shopping cart, clutching her pretend car seat, and lugging her 50-pound backpack, and she refused help.
It took us 10 minutes to get to the diaper aisle, because she had to stop at each display along the way and knock everything off at eye level. She set her car seat down to do this. She rested her shopping cart next to her, then grabbed everything she could reach and dumped it on the floor. Then when she was satisfied she’d done enough damage, she picked up her car seat and rolled her shopping cart to her next target (no pun intended). I trailed behind her; picking everything up and put it back as fast as I could. I didn’t try to stop her at this point—I was just trying to get to the diapers and go. I saw the evil churning behind her eyes. She was taunting me: just try to stop me mom, and I’ll the out The Scream again. You’ll see.
We made it to the diapers. We grabbed a pack and kept moving. We were almost to the cash registers. I could see them: the Holy Grail. But then, to our left, a distraction: girl’s hair accessories. They’re on a giant rack, each one of them shiny and pink and crack-cocaine for little girls. Lucy examined them gently. Charlie rammed her shopping cart into the display and started throwing hair clips and headbands on top of the pretend food.
One item she didn’t throw in the cart: a pack of four rhinestone bobby pins in neon colors. This one she clutched possessively with her sharp talons. This one is mine, Mommy. For the moment, she’d forgotten about the shopping cart (which we’re not going to buy) and the car seat (which we’re not going to buy). She was fixated on the bobby pins, and they’re $3, so I’m just going to go with it and get the hell out. I started cleaning up her hair accessory tornado. I swept the shopping cart and car seat discreetly under a t-shirt rack for some nice Target employee to discover later.
“Nooooooo Mom! My shopping cart!”
This was good. She was only fixated on the shopping cart and the bobby pins now. She’d forgotten about the car seat. Two items—two items I could work with. I could negotiate my way out. And I could tell by the crack-cocaine glint in her eye that she was going to choose the bobby pins.
“Char, you can only have the clips or the cart. Not both.”
Then The Scream came. She threw herself on the floor and started army crawling under the hair accessory rack. But the display rods were too low; she got snagged. She started kicking to get free, and tangled herself even further. One leg got stuck, and her backpack snagged on a rod. I was terrified she was going to impale her eye if she kept flailing. I grabbed her and yanked her free. She bolted to the shopping cart, ran and rammed it against the elevator, collapsing to the floor in a sob.
It’s at this point that Lucy stepped in—my saving grace. She approached her sister gently.
“Char, you can’t have both. You have to pick: the shopping cart or the hair clips. That’s what mommy said.”
Charlie snuffled and moaned. Snot poured from her nose. She looked up to her sister.
Okay. Shopping cart. We had a deal. I put the toy shopping cart in my own, attempted to repair the hair accessories display, and picked up Evil Charlie. Only she wasn’t Evil Charlie anymore, she was just tired, pitiful Charlie. She surrendered and allowed me to carry her—and her giant backpack—out of the store and into the car. We escaped with $9.99 worth of diapers and $12.99 worth of shopping cart.
It’s their new favorite toy.
Did I give into the tantrum? Absolutely. But it was my fault in the first place; I knew in my gut she would have a meltdown. So I chalked the $12.99 up to a lesson learned and went on my way. Four years of being a mom and I still don’t have it all figured out. I don’t think it’s even possible to have it all figured out.