Outnumbered: A Retail Tragedy

I took the kids to the mall today. Both of them. At the same time. I try never to do this because it tests my sanity but today it couldn’t be helped. Either child on their own is no problem 99% of the time. However, the two together are a volatile mix, the likes of which blow up chemistry classrooms and send chemistry professors into early retirement or a habit of drinking in the closet.

But BFF’s birthday party is tomorrow and we hadn’t yet found the perfect gift. We’d found many imperfect ones but not the absolute right gift to capture the specialness of the bestest friend in the entire universe, including fairy kingdoms, without whom my daughter would surely perish of sorrow and boredom. So off we went today, all three of us, to the mall.

Dum Dum Dum Dum.

I should mention that Conor has skinned and reskinned his knees again, so he’s working his Dickensian limp while holding his shorts up, like Tiny Tim learning to curtsy. It is impressively tragic. Immediately after entering the mall Conor wanted to be carried with his imaginary cane to the Disney store. Scrooge Mommy denied his request.

Don’t laugh. It’s tragic.

The Disney store didn’t have the item we sought. They also didn’t have the back-up item Riley came up with after 15 minutes of coercion. Conor on the other hand found 50 things he desperately wanted in the same amount of time. Have you ever tried to keep two children together and focused in a Disney store? It’s physically impossible. Because they sprinkle crack on the floor.

(Note: Disney denies this allegation and the local CSI teams are all too busy solving “actual crimes” to call me back, but I’m pretty sure I’m on to something.)

Finally we fled left and headed to another store in the mall to look for a back-up to the back-up item. But alas, the perfect gift was nowhere in the second store either. We know because we checked. Every. Aisle. Twice. Riley was despondent and Conor was losing patience and demanding his twentieth escalator ride, so I corralled them into a restaurant to eat.

Immediately after we ordered, Conor announced that he had to pee with an urgency reserved for pregnant women, drunk coeds and children who wait until the last minute. Riley is deeply insulted by even the thought of any boy’s “private parts” (congratulations Hubs) and didn’t want to come with us. As the waiter had disappeared, I also didn’t want him to think that we’d ordered and then left like fugitives. So, with Hubs popping a blood vessel in my imagination, I left Riley to hold our table. Alone. At the very front of the restaurant. Wearing her Dear Child Predator, Take Me Because My Mom Is An Irresponsible Parent t-shirt. While Conor and I took a trip to the bathroom. In the bowels of the earth.

Okay Riley wasn’t wearing that t-shirt. She was wearing this.

Her My Mom Is Irresponsible Enough To Let Me Draw On My Clothes tank top.

Same difference. And the bathroom wasn’t in the bowels of the earth, but it was in the back of the restaurant, which curved around a corner and went on for ten miles. Nearly.

Riley wasn’t abducted but I got plenty of dirty looks on the way back to the table. I wanted to yell, “Shut up! Tiny Tim had to pee!” But I realized that would only be an admission of guilt and we already knew I was guilty. Of so many things.

Conor likes to stretch his meal out as long as possible, so we finally took his corndog to go. Not in a container. That would be too classy. He yanked the stick out and mashed the fried bread/meat combo into his little fist and we took it through the mall. We were giddy from all-you-can-eat steak fries and beyond caring.

When I stopped at Teavana to sample their wares, Conor was possessed by the spirit of mall music and started to bust out some ambitious dance moves, still clutching his fist o’meat. A steak fry buzz will do that to you. Mid-spin he went down hard. So hard, in fact, that the Teavana sample dude just took his things and went inside his store. Conor lie there stunned, wondering where it all went wrong.

Never dance with carnie food. (image via dreamstime)

I helped him up and we shuffled on. Not ten yards later, Conor stepped on somebody’s discarded pastry and took another digger, this time letting loose with his famous super sonic cry. Malls have excellent acoustics. I gave up on BFF’s gift and started to giggle hysterically.

If you saw a manic woman hustling two children through the mall, one of them screaming and limping dramatically while clutching a dirty wad of corndog, it was me. At the car the kids managed to headbutt each other and all three of us started to cry, though I was the only one who also cursed. Then I bought them candy and waited for our car to burst into flame as a capper.

When Hubs got home, Riley and I went out on our own and found a birthday present. We laughed, skipped, shared a soda like childhood sweethearts. It was magical.

One child. It makes all the difference.

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