I have to give credit for this one to my friend Dave, who has three beautiful children of his own. When I was pregnant with my oldest, Dave told me that when I was feeling bad about my abilities as a parent I needed to take the kids and head to Wal-Mart on a Friday night. I wasn’t really sure what Dave meant back then, but in the last few years, as I have become more and more ensconced in the role of Mom, I have come to understand exactly why this is such a boost to my ego.
First of all, if you haven’t actually been to a Target or Wal-Mart or other similar store on a weekend night, you have no idea how many people will actually be there. The place is packed. Getting a parking place is like parking at the mall on December 23rd. There will be a wide variety of families wandering the through the sea of cars and abandoned carts. Every now and then a kid will dart out in front of your car, causing you to slam on your brakes. This will be the first thing that makes you feel better about yourself–I may have yelled at little Jimmy today, but I didn’t let him play in traffic.
Once you get into the store you will see most, if not all, of the following:
- A child who, every time his mother looks away, tries to tip over the cart with his sister in it
- That same mother who will never notice what the kid is doing because she is checking out all the boxed wine on sale
- A series of children who are dressed in wildly inappropriate ways for their ages–3-year-olds in belly shirts; high heels and shorts on a 7-year-old
- At least one kid ordering his or her “regular” at that weird food court thing near the door where they sell old hot dogs, pizzas, and slurpees. This will usually be close to 10pm and will count as that kid’s dinner.
- A pre-teen boy asking a lot of really pointed questions of the 18-year-old clerk at the gun counter
- Someone yelling at their kid in a language you have actually NEVER heard–even while watching the UN in session on C-SPAN8
- A kid eating candy that he may have stolen, or may have just found open on a shelf
- If it is summer, there will be a very large pregnant woman buying a very small bikini while wearing short shorts and a tank top–this isn’t actually parenting related, but her other kids are probably embarrassed
- A kid on a leash
- A 12-year-old who has been put in charge of her 3 younger siblings while they all run around yelling
After about 20 minutes, you will be renewed as a parent. You may not have it all together, but you’re doing o.k. Grab some Sam’s Cola and head on home.