Aunt Melody's First Really Good Public Mr. Pie Tantrum
"Well, you do what you think you've gotta' do!" So said my sister, looking at me with an expression that left no room for interpretation, "I've always thought you were a little bit of a nut case. Now I have the proof to back up my suspicions." So began the little adventure that led to the sore muscles that took me off-guard when I woke this morning. Muscles that were strained by the twisting, screeching, flailing, back-arching child I held onto for dear life, lest he fall to the concrete floors, then later onto the asphalt parking lot that surrounded us yesterday evening.
It started off harmlessly enough. Sis had asserted, with the wisdom of her 20 months of mothering experience, that I should use the stroller when I took Mr. Pie into the shopping mall with me. I rarely go to the mall. Never go there with my nephew. Not those indoor ones with three floors and a food court and the cozy access to Any Kind Of Product You Can Dream Up, anyway. I can't quite say why, it's just that the outdoor malls are more my speed. I like all that open air, I guess. And the accessibility - "the mall" isn't really on my beaten path.
We went anyway. I had a reason, and figured I could combine it with my little bit of Pie Time and we'd all be happy. I mean, after all, he is The Most Charming Child In The History Of Ever. (Seen here charming us all one day recently, expressing his simple pleasure in having finagled the ink pen away from his Uncle E, after a bit of negotiation.) What could be the big deal?
There were warnings, of course. I could have turned around many times before we even got inside, and returned to the car for that stroller. Having explained to the little man who walked beside me that we would hold hands and he could walk, or I'd carry him when he needed a rest (hey, it worked for the 3 year old for whom I was a nanny at 19 and 20!) we walked along toward The Very Big Building, hand in hand. And he reached out to touch Every Single Bumper Of Every Single Parked Car We Passed along the way, even straining to reach those that were too far out of his reach. It was when he squatted down to put mulch in his mouth (declaring "rocks!!!) that I realized maybe carrying him the rest of the way THEN putting him down might speed things up a bit. However, when we got inside, he thought those really tall walls were so incredibly cool. Especially since that woman over there? She's leaning against the wall while she talks on her phone...why wouldn't he prop himself up against one for a while, too, no thank you Auntie, I don't want to walk over there into the big mall, I like it here beside this wall but hey...wait a minute, there's a bench over there. I love benches. Let's go to the bench!!!
All this was before we'd actually gotten more than 30 feet into the mall.
I'm not going to belabor the point and go on about all the details of that time between our arrival and departure. I won't even give you the play-by-play of how he confiscated the uncapped ink pen from the dude at the kiosk we'd come there especially to visit, and wrote all over his pants, nor how My Nephew (makes me so proud, now just telling you about it,) managed to knock down a third of the dude's (thankfully cardboard and plastic,) display flanking one end of his kiosk. Thankfully "the dude at the kiosk" was appropriately charmed by my companion, even declaring that he was the cutest baby he remembered seeing before. For you I'll also skip all the in-between details of how, once we'd finished our business at said kiosk, clever me looked over and noticed the Body Shop just right over there, and although I haven't been inside one of these places in a couple of years, surely we could run in for a second now, since we were so close by. Why, just the other day I found a tiny little bottle into which long ago I poured a bit of this glorious lotion I'd had scented-to-order at the Body Shop. I've been enjoying the remnants of this lotion I'd thought was long-gone, for maybe a week now and well, how handy would it be if we just quick ran in and got some more?
Never mind I'm also not going to run on with all those details of how the edge of a display also got knocked down in that yummy smelling store, nor will you have to hear of how it wasn't Mr. Pie at all but my hugemongous purse that knocked the scanner thing off her counter when we were turning to leave. I also won't go into too great a detail by telling you that the young woman (She's normally lovely, I'm sure. Actually, I really do believe she just had a nasty breakup, or perhaps made a bad grade on a test, or perhaps had a flat tire yesterday morning which made her late to work,) was not one bit charmed by my nephew from the second we entered the store until we left, nor was she that particuarly impressed by (or acknowledging of, for that matter,) my apologies when things didn't run as efficiently as she perhaps would have liked. (She would have liked it a whole, whole lot more, I am convinced, if somebody had not come into her store, at all, carrying a baby. That's exactly what she would have liked.) So we left with the lotion, and Mr. Pie was very proud indeed that his Very Cool Auntie let him carry the bag with its little handle All By Himself. (He told me so by giggling as he looked up at me with such pride, as we walked together.) And he walked like a big boy, too, carrying that little bag that barely drug the floor, until we stopped, abruptly, in the middle of an open space so he could fiddle around inside and take out that bottle of lotion. Because Mr. Pie? He wanted to put on some of that lotion and rub it in. Right in the middle of the mall.
So I let him.
Only there was a bench nearby, so I expertly guided him over there where we sat like that for at least 2 minutes while I took some deep breaths. And got my no-doubt nearly-matted hair out of my eyes, and wiped the sweat from my brow and retied the silk ribbon bow that had earlier been so fashionably tied around my sharp, professional blouse. And cursed myself for having insisted on wearing the butt-kickin' high-heeled boots to work that morning. Then to the mall. With a 20 month old. Sitting there on that bench, breathing deep breaths for the first time in nearly an hour, it became clear that I would not be keeping that child out in this public for a single moment longer.
Which I politely shared with His Highness, because it's good to include your plans with those who are affected by them, right?
He had other plans in mind, however. I didn't know how strongly these other plans had imbedded themselves in his glorious little baby brain until we were back out in the middle of the mall's beaten path and I found myself squatted, purse on the floor, right in the middle of throngs of people, reaching over to the thrashing small person who lay at my feet. So I talked to him calmly and picked him up, which was a little tricky seeing as how his arched back renders him a totally different shape than the one to which I'm accustomed. And my purse was spilling over with the extra baby accoutrement I'd added. But I managed to lift them both and there we went, back toward the door. Excruciating step by excruciating step.
Why don't I also refrain from giving you a description of every single step between that spot where I'd squatted on the floor, and just outside in the cool evening air, where cars whizzed by and this child nearly threw himself out into that traffic, such was his displeasure with me that a) he couldn't have more lotion out of that bottle, and b) he couldn't run through the mall without holding my hand. What with all those stairs and escalators so suitable for falling down, and retail displays so perfectly placed for knocking down. (If one should be so inclined to touch things that are typically meant for looking but not for touching.)
I was probably halfway to the car before I finally hefted the child up and over my shoulder like we do when we're playing and his squeals have a decidedly more pleasant tone to them. I did this because the alternative was that I was going to drop him on his curly little head - it was only a matter of seconds before my strength was going to fail me - and that would be unthinkable.
As we approached the car and he further declared his emphatic disapproval that now not only were we leaving, and he wasn't holding a bottle of lotion, but I was going to strap him in... well, a truck with a man and his maybe 11 year old son pulled up. They decided to wait for our not too shabby parking space, so as I struggled to strap in the writhing being in my arms, I now had an audience. (Not that we hadn't already gathered more than our share of stares along the way, you understand.) But this audience was very keen to get our spot, so they hung around quite attentively. I'm happy to report the expression on this guy's face was generous and kind and I think I read there a glimmer of relief, too, that he was past those years. I saw, too, a look of "Hang in there...it'll get better...I promise." I like to think that's what I saw in his expression, anyway. So when I stood up and locked Mr. Pie's door where I heard him kicking on the other side, I stood up, shook my hair back over my shoulders, picked that silk ribbon up from where it was hanging on the ground, took a deep breath and walked confidently around to the driver's seat...and I smiled at that man, letting him know I very much appreciated his kind thoughts. "Ain't no big deal!" my demeanor surely declared.
But you know what? I never once freaked out. I didn't think "Why, oh why are you doing this to me?" I didn't feel severe anger or want to yell, or - God forbid - hit him. None of those thoughts came to mind. I did, of course, wish I hadn't worn those blasted high heeled boots and that prissy top. Of course there was annoyance and irritation, since it's a lot more fun when you don't have to deal with tantrums on your errands. Sure I wished I'd brought a smaller handbag. More than anything, though, I also wished I'd brought a stroller. 'Cause you know what? I really am one of those sappy, bleeding heart types who believes emphatically that this manner of expressing himself in this uber-passionate way of my nephew's, is what babies do. He's learning and with every disappointment and raving fit he throws, he gets to see how I handle myself and how I respond to him, and how even as I "stick to my guns" when I've said this is how something has to be, (because I do believe in consistency and boundaries,) I also know that he gets to feel what he feels and express those feelings. And in time, those kinds of displays will be less and less acceptable because he won't always be a baby and there will be a time and a place for everything, and you can't always "act like a big baby" in the mall parking lot. But right now? Mr. Pie is a baby and his tantrum puts him right on track in the developmental stage at which he's supposed to be.
'Course, it's also true that I'm not a parent, or even an early childhood development professional. I'm just me - the former nanny and nearly professional babysitter from years ago who spends very little time with scads of children like in the olden days, and who has largely avoided them for years and years (until my friends and sibling started breeding, that is,) and now it's crept up again, this familiar comfort-level with small people. And just like parents, I'll learn a jillion lessons, too, as I play my role in his and those other little people's lives.
New rules, though: I do my extraneous errand-running on my own time. Sure, it's one thing to take the baby to Target or the Supermarket, or even Michaels - you can strap him in and the aisles are wide and there's a decidedly more family-friendly aura around me when I go on these outings. But aside from those excursions, unless pressed for time, my time is better spent by doing Mr. Pie appropriate activities when we get together.
Not that time at the mall without a stroller doesn't render a few laughs in recollection. Which is something, I guess...