Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Motherhood Aptitude Test

Is there a Motherhood Aptitude Test? I don't think there is. Certainly, we are not required to pass anything before becoming mothers, except a pregnancy test. (Or in the case of adoption, many more difficult tests, I imagine.) The great thing is, once you are a mother, your kids will test you daily, and sometimes hourly, so you can assess your skills, your sanity level, and so you can see who is winning. These tests are graded by only two people. Well, actually, they are assessed by everyone you know and  sometimes by strangers too. But the only grades that count are the ones assigned by the mother herself, and by her child, or children, whomever is doing the testing.

Apparently, this week is exam week for me. I have appointments or necessary outings every single day, which already makes things busier for me. Yesterday, I had the joy of taking three of my four children to Walmart. First, we went to Dollarama, an experience I normally avoid at all costs. (No offense, Dollarama. But your aisles are extremely narrow, and your employees leave stacks of giant boxes in them, making them more narrow, plus they are not labeled, so it is impossible to find anything. And don't get me started on your ridiculous prices. Seriously, are you a dollar store, or not??)

Anyway, I know despite my extreme aversion to the dollar store and nearly all its merchandise, my boys would be thrilled with all the bright, cheap toys bursting off the shelves. So I did a mommy-style preemptive strike. As I strapped Lauren into her Trekker (baby-carrier, for those unfamiliar) because the Dollarama carts are too tiny for a baby car seat, in order to make up for their ridiculously tiny aisles, I gave the boys a pep talk. More of a warning, really. It went something like this: "Okay, guys, we are going into this store, and I have to buy some stuff, but we are NOT here to buy toys, so I need you NOT to beg me for stuff. Okay?" They both agreed. Lauren grunted very loudly, already thrilled to be strapped to me. We went in the store.

As soon as we were in the doors, the begging began. In addition to that, the boys both insisted on walking beside me, on either side of the cart. Did I mention how tiny the aisles are in that store?? Passing was not an option, but even after jamming Micah between the cart and a stack of giant boxes (thank you once again, Dollarama), he still insisted on walking there, and when I say "insisted", I mean in a very loud, very whiny voice. At the end of the first aisle, there were water guns. I then found out that their very lives were contingent upon acquiring water guns. Everyone in the store also found that out. Our journey through the store was one long dialog that went something like this:

Micah: Can I have a water gun?
Me: No.
Jamie: Please? We really want guns! Can we please get guns?
Me: No.
Micah: WAAAHHH!!!! But I REALLY want a gun!
Jamie: Can we have these? (chocolates)
Micah: Yeah! Can we have those for our treats? And those? And THOSE?
Me: What treat?? No. You can't have guns, and you are not getting candy in here. I told you not to beg!

I could go on here, but you get the picture. Imagine that conversation, but repeat it one thousand times over a period of ten minutes, and you have an idea how things went. By the time I left the store, I was muttering to myself about how much I hate Dollarama (no offense, Dollarama, really) and I didn't even find the most basic stuff I wanted from there. So I strapped everybody in the van and we drove across the parking lot to Walmart. During the drive, I took the opportunity to lecture them on the terrible behaviour in Dollarama, and to encourage something much better for our Walmart visit. I assured them if there was begging like that in Walmart, they would get nothing from this trip. Nothing! Jamie agreed, and Micah, well, he said he agreed. So we went in.

Things were going okay at first. Well, except for the shopping part. You see, I am not fond of Walmart either. Ours just got converted into one of those "super centres" and there is nothing super about it. Not really. Sure, now they have a grocery store as well as a department store. But guess what? Their selection is now terrible. Okay, I won't say any more about Walmart. The boys were pretty good, and so when I saw some Crayola products on sale, I decided their "treat" would be a new box of markers, seeing they have destroyed or lost almost all of theirs. I made them a deal. It went like this:

Me: If I buy you guys some new markers, do you promise to only use them on paper?
Dynamic Duo: Yes.
Me: That means not on furniture, floors, walls, ceilings, clothing, human bodies, or anything else that is not paper. Got it?
Dynamic Duo: Yes.

You can grade me yourself on that one. I said yes to the markers. I know. Dumb, right? I didn't even realize they were scented. All I cared about was one word: Washable. So at least when our walls get coloured in the future, they will smell fruity. I can actually hear Micah using them in the background.

So I grabbed the pack of markers. Micah wanted to carry them. I said okay, but he was not to open them. He agreed. I'm an idiot. About five minutes later, the markers dumped on the floor. I did a mini-mommy-rant. "I told you not to open those! What are you doing? Why did you do that?! Pick them up!" Then I tipped the scales of justice. I told Micah he could no longer carry the markers and I handed the box to Jamie, who also promised not to open them. (Yes, yes, I know.) That did it for Micah. He began throwing a tantrum. In Walmart. Which made me "one of those moms". Yes. I'm pretty sure I have been there before, though I don't have specific memories of it. But Micah was so upset to have "his" markers taken from him that he bawled and yelled "I WANT MY MARKERS!" and other unintelligible phrases, loudly enough for everybody to hear. Those are the moments every mom with young kids dreads when they take them out in public. (Except for those of you with perfect kids. Your turn will come. Or not. But don't judge us normal moms. Actually, you can go ahead and judge. That's how it works, which is why I mentioned that even perfect strangers will grade us on our performance as parents. Dads too.)

Amid Micah's loud wailing and yelling and begging, a strange thing happened. I didn't care. I have never felt so calm out in public with my kids. Here I was, in one of the dreaded scenarios, and I didn't even care at all. Sure, I was annoyed, and I was finding it really difficult to look for a cute pair of pyjamas for Lauren, but I was not embarrassed, and believe me, there were other people in the store. When Micah begged loudly, I simply said "no", and when he ran off to take things he wanted off the shelves, I walked away without looking back, calmly telling him I would not be buying that. And when his tantrum got really ugly and extra loud, I continued browsing without looking at him and calmly stated that if he didn't stop it, I would be putting the markers back and we would not be buying them at all, and that it was up to him. Guess what? He stopped. It was miraculous. And I wasn't even stressed. Don't get me wrong, I had no desire to loiter in Walmart, but I felt no need to collapse in a heap of tears in my van afterwards, or to go to therapy.

And so today, I went again to town, this time with only Micah and Lauren. We went to the ophthalmologist, another dreaded place for me. It was quick and painless, and then we went to Walmart again, and also a horsey store, for some supplies for the show this weekend. I told Micah he was not to beg like he did the day before. I told him I was not buying toys or water guns, and that if he saw something he liked, he was welcome to say, "Look, Mom! Isn't that cool?" But he was not to ask me for it. And today, he did great. The most embarrassing thing he did was to insist on wearing one of those little mini-gloves that look like they are made for three year olds, but are actually for people of all ages. He wore a blue one, and referred unabashedly to it as his "glove of power". But today, he was cute, and not at all unpleasant to be with.

So I don't know whether I'm passing or not, or even who's winning. And I kind of suspect if there was an aptitude test as a prerequisite to becoming a mother, most, if not all, of us would fail. But here I am, thrust upon this journey, and hoping as they grow and as I grow it will become easier and easier to keep my head above water. And now, though I may fail the wife test for today, being that I have absolutely no supper plan, I hope to pass the mom test by baking a giant, pizza-sized cookie with peanut-butter M&Ms on it.

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