I don’t normally answer my phone when I’m knee-deep in shopping carts and kids. But I was 15 minutes late for meeting this friend, so it wasn’t really a voicemail-and-call-later kind of situation. When I picked up, she asked, “How are ya?”
“Well, I’m shoe-shopping-with-three-kids, only one of whom has socks and none of whom have patience, so … I’m that-kind-of good.” I like to keep things real.
Not every idea is a good one. Like dragging three kids, unplanned–the dragging, not the kids–through aisles of shoes, expecting to be able to think, to Google competitor pricing, to decide quickly, and to maintain sanity. I collected all the empathetic looks and interjections I got from nearby moms, letting me know how thankful they were to have kids “past this stage,” and decided someday I’d write a book about how to be a mom-empathizer in the stage right after the moms standing next to you.
Shoe shopping for three kids, but only one pair of socks was at the top of the list of Not-So-Fabulous Ideas. Those nylons scrap freebies may work for trying on summer flops, but they aren’t much use for sizing up sneakers. My sole (no pun intended) sock-wearing kiddo was less than thrilled to peel them off for his siblings’ try-ons. Not to mention the unfortunate kids forced to “slip” into someone else’s sweat-stuck socks … I can’t even.
And the worst idea of all: trying to cram a last-minute shoe-shopping session in between appointments. As if any mom has ever ushered her kids into a shoe department and left victorious after 45 minutes.
It wasn’t a day of good ideas.
As we emerged from the footwear-retail underworld, I exhaled. I tend to spit out a positive spin on whatever just happened, perhaps hoping it resets their little brains to forget any terseness–or the whole ordeal altogether.
“We survived!” That seemed genuine.
The eldest piped from the back. “No, Mom. We didn’t.”
“We didn’t survive, Mom. We barely survived.”
True dat, kid.
From there, we bounced from three-on-one shoe shopping to five-on-two PTO-event shopping. A shopping-cart race through Costco, a meager amount of samples–which we moms had mistakenly expected to count as dinner, and a discovery that Costco doesn’t actually sell 500-people’s worth of ice cream sent us across town to clear out every ounce of dairy dessert from the shelves of GFS.
We packed the minivan to the brim:
- seven people;
- 60 Chicken McNuggets;
- 3 suitcases full of chocolate syrup, sprinkles, popsicles, 25 gallons of ice cream, bowls, spoons, and napkins (oh yeah, Costco has a great deal on kid luggage–one I took advantage of before they were gone–and the car couldn’t hold both suitcases and ice cream supplies);
- new shoes in boxes (because we had eventually been victorious, four stores later!); and
- a home library of new-to-them books, thanks to several teachers who generously unloaded not-gonna-use-anymore reads to our kids who ran amok in the hallways on the teachers’ first day back!)
… and ten hours later, that minivan finally pulled in the driveway and sent my now shoe-clad children to bed.
As I reflected on the day and think of the crazy moments–such as explaining to my kids not only what a sneaker ball is but also why we couldn’t go home with three packs of six of them … or asking my littles to stop undressing the mannequins … or disappointing all three of my children with news that none of them would be climbing the jungle gym in Kyrie 3 Mac&Cheeses this fall–I realized that ever since I woke up, I’d been looking at this day upside down.
I’d been seeing all the things that weren’t going as planned, the inconvenient meltdowns, the longer-than-planned errands, the apologies required, the adjustments made, and the lectures issued.
But, my kids were looking at it all differently. If I looked at things the way my kids were seeing them (which, looking back at the photo footage, was apparently from an upside-down perspective ALL day), it was actually a day of adventures, explorations, surprises, provisions, discoveries, stories, giggles, lessons, accomplishments, and memories.
It was more than a day of checking things off the list and executing bad ideas. My kids thought it was the best day ever. They laughed, (they cried), they learned, they received, they helped, they hugged, they reunited, they played, they understood, they found, they chose, and they were loved.
I mean what more is there, really?
Turns out we more than barely survived. I think we lived.