When my youngest, Mr. B, finished potty training, I couldn’t wait to purge my house of all things diaper. As my caboose, Mr. B’s completion of this toddler rite of passage marked the first time in more than nine years when I would not need to purchase diapers during my weekly outings to Target.
I remember the first time after Mr. B’s potty training that I barreled down the brightly lit linoleum floors, the excitement building as he and I approached the aisle where the Pampers and Huggies live. But as we came closer, I couldn’t help myself. I slowed down. I didn’t make a full stop or even turn in, but I reduced my pace enough so I could steal a glance of the purple, yellow and turquoise packages in all their shapes and sizes.
As I passed the boxes of diapers by, I breathed in and I breathed out. Then I smiled. I turned to Mr. B who was sitting in the cart in front of me and said, “We don’t need those diapers anymore!” His smile beamed back at me proudly. While my girls completed the toilet training thing swiftly and easily, both my boys presented with their share of difficulties, and Mr. B was excited to now be doing it right. Or maybe he was just happy to finally be getting the pirate ship I promised him once he mastered the potty.
After twenty minutes of back and forth in the toy aisle deciphering which pirate ship was indeed the best to get and why, we arrived at checkout. I couldn’t wait to see the savings I would incur without those expensive diapers in my cart! As I pulled in, Mr. B started handing me things to put on the conveyor belt. I grabbed a divider to separate our loot from the person in front of me. And that’s when I saw her. She was probably just a little bit younger than me. In her cart sat an infant car seat, a toddler and a child around the age of five hung off the back. As she muddled her way through the checkout process, she kept turning to her brood, “Not now,” she would say while she unloaded another item. “Please stop,” with the next. “Watch the baby for a second while mommy pays,” she told the older ones as she got out her wallet. Her hair was pulled back in a frizzy ponytail, her clothing was rumpled, her demeanor was harried.
I couldn’t help but stare. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “Wasn’t that just me? How did I end up here with a semi-cooperative three year old in my cart, who’s wearing underwear and happily munching on goldfish crackers? Did I really just walk by the diaper aisle and NOT buy any?”
I wanted to reach out to this other mom and tell her that it does get easier. I wanted to help her load up her car while she buckled everyone into it. Instead I just caught her eye and smiled, nodded in that “I get it” way I remember receiving from other moms when I was the one juggling multiple packages with multiple bambinos. It wasn’t much, but sometimes seeing someone who understands can help ease the chaos and restore a sense of inner peace even if our surroundings are anything but calm.
As the harried mom wheeled her cart and crew of children away, I felt a little pang of nostalgia. I suddenly had a deep maternal desire to go back to that stage when I roamed Target aisles with my whole crew, praying no one would melt down, loading up on household needs as quickly as possible. I wanted to rush over to the diaper aisle and fill my cart with Pampers sizes 0 and 4, toss in some wipes and diaper pail bags too. I wanted to feel the pride I felt the one time I took all four very small kiddos to Target and left with not a tear or cross word from any of them.
But mostly, I wanted to run back to the mom I once was, trying to stay calm under the pressure of impatient fellow customers, my older two bickering, my toddler whining, my baby crying and tell her, “One day, you’ll be in line at this store with a preschooler perched in your cart, your other children busy at elementary school. Your hands will be free to unload your stuff, your lips will kiss him instead of shush him, and your eyes will look up at the struggling mom ahead and let her know she’s doing just fine.”
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “It started in the line at the grocery store…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee http://www.findingninee.com, and co-hosted by Dawn (this week’s sentence thinker-upper) at https://www.facebook.com/dawn.skorczewski, and Nicki from Red Boots http://redboots.me.