“Go to target,” my inner voice said. “What’s the big deal,” they repeated (yes, there are a few voices now). What people without young children need to know is- I haven’t been to the bathroom alone since my first child was born. I am chronically dehydrated, and as I lift a quivering cup to my mouth for necessary hydration, a child screams and throws themselves to the ground, holding child protective services documents clenched in their tiny fist. How do they know I was thirsty-how did they know how to print documents? It doesn’t matter. Also, veteran mothers who once had little children, and now have older children… I mean this in the most lovingly, sleep deprived way: Go fuck yourself. Your patient wisdom, coupled with the gentle gift of hindsight only makes me want to pull clumps of my hair out and slap it onto the counter in front on you. Use this as evidence when I’m committed. Please. Please commit me.
It’s societies fault that I mustered the courage to go to Target. To the pregnant lady in the parking lot, sauntering by with her shopping cart piled high full of Baby Genius promises and the same EXACT giraffe rattle everyone has, I deeply apologize for what you saw. I can explain. Just as you waddled by us getting out of the truck and offered my Happy Singy infant a smile, all you could see was me hanging half way out of the truck, and onto the concrete- screaming at my toddler, “ONE MORE TIME YOU LICK MY SHOE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. ONE MORE TIME.” Her saunter turned into a wobbly jog to her car. In my defense, my child is licking the BOTTOM of my shoe. Not the side. Please take a moment to internalize for a second that I felt the need to specify what SIDE of my fucking shoe was inappropriate to lick so you understand what’s happening in my mommy head. Simultaneously, with one foot solidly wedged between my older kids mouth, I am attempting to cut Ms. Happy Singy out of her car seat straps, who although can’t even walk, managed to wrap herself up in her seatbelt during the shoe incident so elaborately, you’d think our truck was a projectile aimed for Mars. Meanwhile, in the panic of being a mom in the world of entirely too much information, I’m trying to avoid undercooked foods, uterus melting mosquitos and vaccines that will make my child walk in circles for their rest of their life. So what does my kid do? Lick my shoe. Full disclosure, I have no I idea how long she was licking it for. None.
We had finally made it into the store, and my children briefly entertained while playing with cat toys (Yes, this shit it all true). When somewhere around the yams is where my toddler decided she was a seagull. Yes, the ocean flying bird, the seagull. We moved from shoe licking in the parking lot to being a seagull. I don’t make the rules; I’m just trying to have us all survive. So in the quiet, cantaloupe squeezing section of the Target produce department my child performed her impression of a seagull. Cucumbers were dropped, cart pushers stopped in the tracks, people whispered questions in the distance. My toddler squawked the most jolting and disturbing noise you have ever heard. If you made sound effects for Japanese cult horror films, you would have had a moment of reflection as to how impressive this noise was. Ms. Happy Singy made a tiny version of the sound and they were both delighted. And you know what I thought- screw it. My child is a seagull. This is happening. I can be supportive or tell her she’s an asshole. So I chose to be supportive. I looked at both my daughters lovingly, leaned over and said, “That was beautiful. You are a beautiful and amazing seagull.” I pinched their little faces and pet their little beaks and told them I couldn’t believe I had pet seagulls. Screw you shoppers, my kids are imaginative. You’re all fucking birds now, deal with it.
We eventually pushed our way to the cash register and found ourselves far back in line. Dead last in a never-ending line of impatient people behind others opening credit card accounts, complaining about the bananas, price checking appliances with items they found for less in a Malaysian store using child labor. It was at this moment, something within me changed. Quieted. I felt this overwhelming sense of peace, being there with my girls, even in this cramped space with strangers. Everyone was elbowing each other, anxious and unfriendly- trying to edge their way to the front. I leaned over at my beautiful daughters, who stared up at me with those wide exploring blue eyes. I smiled and whispered sweetly to them, “Let me hear my beautiful seagulls again.”