Looking back, I can see the humour in this. But at the time, I was mortified.
We’ve all experienced the grocery store melt-down at least once, either as the parent of the kid who is freaking out, or as the bystander having to listen to it. Whichever your vantage point, it is always irritating and sometimes extremely embarrassing. I was lucky that my daughters would rarely tantrum in public. But when they did, I had the anonymity of city dwelling to shelter me. All the faces that would look and judge were the faces of strangers, so I really didn’t care what they thought.
In a small community that cloak of anonymity drops, and you can feel a bit naked without it, let me assure you.
My son is getting to the age now where he tries to take me on intellectually, and sadly, often wins. “Why did you do that?” I will ask. “Because, I did that,” he will reply.
We’ll hold eye contact for a few seconds, until I look away in defeat. It’s hard to argue with that logic.
For many parents of young children, the trip to the grocery store can be stressful. It’s hard to keep the toddler strapped into the cart while trying to be a smart-shopper, and letting them out is simply not a wise option. The outing is often preceded with bribes and in some cases outright threats. Two things that, in my righteous pre-parenting days, I thought I would never do.
But threats and bribes have become two of the most effective tools in my parenting arsenal.
And so it was that I found myself at the local grocery store along with my mother and my son when Cal convinced me he could walk instead of riding in the cart. I was feeling generous and decided to allow it, but I warned him that if he ran off or touched things, he would find himself back in the cart.
Seconds later, he ran off and touched things. I wrestled him back into the cart. He was furious. I could see it happening; I could see his little brain trying to find just the right words to let me know the depth of his rage and disappointment. And then, he found them. Perfect in their simplicity. And, with a voice radiating decibels only achieved by infant vocal chords, yelled:
“YOU HAVE A VAGINA, AND IT’S DISGUSTING!”
I could see all the heads in my vicinity turning towards me in perfectly-timed synchronicity. I am grateful for the gene that separates me from the violent creature I could be. Instead of doing what I wanted to do, I calmly exited the store.
But, I had to swallow my pride and return a few days later. It’s my local grocery store after all, and there aren’t many up here. And so with as much dignity as I could muster, I returned, with my son in tow.
Now, remember my good friends “threat” and “bribe?” Well, they made an appearance in the car on the way. I promised Cal that if he behaved well and stayed in his cart at the grocery store, we would go to the liquor store on the way home. I know that sounds crazy, but here’s the thing: they give him suckers when he goes there. Little rewards for good behaviour. Now, I must explain something important here. He refers to suckers as “lickers.”
I suppose it’s because whenever his big sisters had suckers and he was too small to have his own, they would offer him “licks.” And so, “suckers” became “lickers.”
The irony here is that he calls the “Liquor Store” the “Licker Store.”
Jump back to the grocery store. Cal has decided to be a jerk, and so I told him no licker store….
For the next 20 minutes, at the top of his lungs, he hollered:
“I WANT TO GO TO THE LICKER STORE! I WANT TO GO TO THE LICKER STORE! I WANT TO GO TO THE LICKER STORE!”
Sometimes, you just have to laugh. And after trying to explain to the lady at the check-out that he meant suckers, while she just looked at me blankly, I saw it for what it was: a fantastic story of the trials of parenting. And, of course my revenge will be sweet….
I get to teach him about the birds and the bees. And, vaginas.
And speaking of vaginas, check out this fabulous muff. “L’Origine du monde” by Gustave Courbet, 1866. I got to see the original hanging at the Musée D’Orsay three years ago in Paris. Beautiful.