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Furniture Shopping with Three Kids

July 18, 2010

I was THAT mom today, folks. You know the one to whom I’m referring. When she first walked into the store, you may have glanced at her to smile and offer a pleasant greeting. She was showered, dressed in matching clothes, towing three cute, smiling children behind her. You may have even thought to yourself, “Nice family,” or something else mildly complimentary.

Then, about twenty minutes later, as you’re searching for the source of the ear-splitting screams, you change your positive opinion of her into one of horrified judgment.

There she stands now, with her hair frazzled, glasses askew on her face, wrestling the formerly-cherubic pigtail-wearing toddler in her arms. The woman desperately tries to pull her shirt back down to cover the small glimpse of her exposed, pale, belly fat because said toddler is thrashing wildly with the shirt clutched in a death grip. From a distance, you look on, unable to believe that this woman dared to have three children, much less bring them all into a public place like a furniture store. Yes, ladies and gentleman. You all know her well because, today, that woman was me.

I realize now, in hindsight, that I made the egregious error of having too much confidence in my kids and myself. We’ve had minor meltdowns before, but never those on par with what I experienced today. I have seen other moms dealing with demon-spawn children in public places before, and I, too, have judged them. “That woman obviously doesn’t know how to handle her children,” I would think to myself as I smiled a smug grin of pride.

Other times, I may have been thinking of the things I would do, as wonder-parent extraordinaire. “Now, if that were my kid, I would pack up and leave the store immediately. You need to teach kids that they cannot behave that way in public, even if it means being inconvenienced yourself.”

Oh, what an ignorant, misguided, snob I have been. Well, today, I got mine. You know what they say about Karma, right? She’s not reputed to be a lovely spirit, after all. She visited me in the furniture store today, and, I can assure you, she lives up to her reputation. Unfortunately, I did not.

After repeatedly telling my kids to stop crawling all over the furniture like a pack of wild animals, I put one of them in an upholstered showroom armchair for timeout. About one minute after the timeout ended, I find him tangled with his brother, rolling around on the floor in a full-blown wrestling match. Trying to keep my voice down, but gritting my teeth and shooting death-stares from my eyes, I growl at the heathens to knock it off, sit down and be still.

Then I turn around and find my two-year-old daughter pulling apart the dried flower arrangement on the coffee table display, one popped-off flower bud at a time. I grab her away, and try to scoop the flower heads up off the table and floor, spilling them from my hand back into the vase, as nonchalantly as possible.

I look at her and quietly, but sternly, say “NO! We do NOT pull flowers!” Because she is two, and wants to be the only one to ever utter her favorite two-letter word, she erupts in the loudest, most shrill, ear-piercing scream ever witnessed, only inches from my ear. Although my attention is otherwise focused, I can feel the stares of judgment, turning in my general direction.

I try to pull her in closer to me in an effort to muffle the sound that is so high-pitched, it could send the pack of fox hounds racing off the canvas painting by the leather club chairs and into the showroom at any minute. I attempt to make it appear as if I’m hugging and comforting my little girl, when in all truth, I’m hoping she’ll just dig in and bury that shrill voice in my shirt.

Hoping, unfortunately, is not enough to quiet a public toddler tantrum. Instead of giving into to the closeness of Mommy, she decides to haul off and hit me. You may think that a two-year-old cannot possibly hurt an adult, but when the energy that we wish we could bottle up when they’re cute is 100% focused on bashing you square in the nose, sending your reading glasses flying, you will change your opinion.

So there I stood, trying to harness all of my love and adoration for this tiny terror in my arms in order to keep myself from ending up on the evening news, when I look up to meet the gaze of another woman staring at me in open-mouthed judgment.

In one split second, a whole litany of thoughts raced through my head. I imagined what I would be thinking to myself if I were the onlooker instead of the main attraction. I considered the ramifications of openly spanking in a public arena, knowing what a firestorm of attention it could attract when spun by certain audiences. I even heard the line my grandfather joked about when retelling stories of my mother’s childhood: “I’ll beat you till you cry, then I’ll beat you again for crying!”

In the end, I did none of the things my judgmental self would smugly think while witnessing someone else’s misery. Instead, I just took it. I warned them all of the accumulated timeouts and punishments that would ensue when we got home, but in that store, I took it all.

No matter what the personal inconvenience to myself and the other shoppers, I was there on a mission. After two years of shopping, I had actually found the perfect new sofa in the perfect fabric and I was not letting anything come in the way of the one-day-only promise of 12% off. Come hell or high water, I was bound and determined to see that sale through. And even though hell did come visit me on the showroom floor, I stayed to endure it.

So I write today to offer my sincerest apologies to any other mother I have misjudged based solely on the rantings and tantrums your own demon children have displayed in my presence. After all, you may have been chasing down your own 12% discount dream. I am sorry for judging you, for today, I lived your misery.


(First published in my “Because I Said So” column on

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