I’ve heard the term “setting yourself up for failure” many times, but never realized how easily it applies to dealing with a toddler until last night.
I picked Autumn up from daycare and brought her straight to the mall after work. I only needed to to pick up a pair of swim goggles at the sporting goods store and didn’t need to go into the mall proper.
Autumn was holding my hand as we walked towards the store when I stopped, bent down and asked her to look at me. “We need to talk about some rules before we go in,” I said. “You stay with Mommy and don’t let go of my hand. You don’t run away. Okay?”
She nodded and uttered a barely audible, “Okay…”
I continued. “If you’re good and do as I ask, I’ll take you to the book store and buy you a new book. Okay?”
We completed our errand at the sporting goods store without incident. She broke free of me a couple of times to insist we go “that way”, but for the most part she was good.
At that point I should have just taken her home, but I had made certain promises contingent on good behavior and intended to keep them. I also wanted to go to the book store myself and should have just gone there straight away. But no. I had to stop at Younkers to see if they had any toddler winter coats on clearance.
I think the Younkers trip put us over the threshold of toddler tolerance. She was fine in Younkers, but as we approached Barnes & Noble, she tugged on my arm and resisted going in. “That way,” she pointed towards some unknown spot past Victoria’s Secret.
“This is the book store,” I said, “Don’t you want Mommy to buy you a book?”
“No,” she said and continued to tug. I think she may have caught sight of the carousel near the food court and wanted a ride.
I finally coaxed her into Barnes and escorted her to the children’s book section. Once there, she had a great time pulling sticker books and board books off the shelves and depositing them on the floor like she does at home. I followed behind her like a dutiful maid, re-shelving books and scolding her for making a mess.
We settled on a book called Spongebob’s Easter Surprise and left the children’s section so I could make my selection. That’s when she started to melt down. She sat her unhappy butt in the middle of the main aisle and refused to budge. Then she rolled over and buried her face in the heavily-traveled carpet. One of the Barnes employees looked at her and said, “It looks like we have a pretty new rug here.” I looked at the young woman. “Yes, you do,” I said and wanted to add Would you like to keep it?
I hauled Autum up from the floor and brought her to the front register to check out. As I paid for my purchase, which did not include Spongebob’s Easter Surprise, Autumn found a spot next to a magazine display and started pulling issues of Time and National Geographic out of the rack. “Look, doggy!” she said and pointed to the front cover of Time, multiple issues of which now strewn across the floor.
“Yes, that’s a doggy,” I said and bent over to clean up yet another mess. As I straightened back up to sign my credit card receipt, the cashier looked at me and said, “It sounds like you’re having fun there.”
“That’s one word for it,” I said. There were customers behind us waiting to check out, no doubt sizing us up as an inept mother and her bratty child. Years ago I would have thought the same thing.
My friend Sarah says it only takes seven seconds for someone to snatch your child. I tried to keep that in mind as I walked towards the Barnes exit while Autumn remained rooted to her spot next to the magazine rack. Only when she lost sight of me did she come running. She took my hand and we went back out into the mall.
“My book?” she asked when she spotted my bag.
“I’m sorry, but you were naughty. Mommy said you had to be good to get a book.”
She seemed to understand and kept repeating “Autumn naughty” as we walked back to the car. As always, each unpleasant incident with the child winds up being a learning experience for me. This whole thing could have been avoided if I’d stopped at the goggles. It could have been avoided if I’d just demanded good behavior without promising anything in return. That’s the way it should be.
Maybe some day the two of us will figure that one out.
Read Full Post »