I recently had the pleasure of visiting Target. Actually 2 Targets for a combined 3 visits in a single day which was a personal record TYVM. Target is one of Caleb’s favorite places to go too. Every day I wake up and he will ask me, “Go to Target? Buy baby food for little dude?” Obviously, I can’t say yes every day but I try to say yes at least once a week…hey…little dude eats the heck out of that baby food!
This day, was one of the “yes” days. Caleb and I got showered (of course, it’s Target not Walmart, sheesh), dressed and set out. He was so happy. He was going to Target to buy baby food! Good times were coming.
When I parked the car, he bounced right out of his seat and called, “You comin’ babe? Come on, Mommy, let’s go!” before I even got my seat belt off. He was vibrating with joy. His
little gigantic, man sized hands were fluttering…there was so much excitement and anticipation flooding through him it was just spilling out of him in quick little flicks of his wrists. I can’t help but smile at him when he’s like this and I’m always rewarded with a joyous smile in return. This is what pure, uninhibited joy looks like.
We went in, grabbed a cart and I tried to steer us toward the Spot section. Caleb was having none of it. “Come on, Mommy, check baby food!” I was able to get a slow stroll going on, they had had these adorable concrete hanging pots there the last time and I needed 1 more to join the 3 I had already snagged…but they were gone *sigh*. Caleb kept a steadying hand on the cart to make sure I didn’t just start wandering around like a kid in a candy store (or a Mommy in a Target store.) I said recently that he will soon be more mature than me…HA!…in a Target store he’s been more mature than me for years.
Anyway, he kept us on target at Target (man, I crack me up.) He guided us to the baby food aisle, which just happens to be across from the Men’s hoodie section at this particular store which ups the OMFG excitement level for him by a factor of 10, easily. The boy, loves his hoodies.
He parked me in front of the Stage 3 Gerbers, waited until I had whipped out my pictures of the current stock at home (I was wayyyyy too lazy to make an actual list) before he left me to my task so he could check out the current hoodie stock. Don’t worry, he stays close enough to keep an eye on me at all times so I’m in no danger of getting lost.
I pulled the right number of the right types of food off the shelves and he came over to help me put it all in the carriage. He put one back because one of them didn’t fit in his pattern (2 rows of 7) but I showed him how to get a new pattern (3 rows of 5) so I was allowed to put the rejected food back into the cart. Yay!
So we leave the aisle, I wanted to see if they had that cute little planter in the back of the store where the outdoor living stuff is kept and he was down with that now that we had established that his little brother wasn’t going to starve. As we walked toward that section, the lights suddenly cut out. A couple people yelled “Hey!” and Caleb grabbed my wrist. Hard. We stopped moving, there are no windows in Target and we were in the very back of the store…we couldn’t see until our eyes adjusted. After about 10 seconds, the lights popped back on and we continued.
During the brief outage I was just chatting at Caleb. “It’s all good dude. The lights will come back on. Let’s just wait a second and…” pop! There was light. “See, it’s all good. We’re fine. We’re good. Let’s go find Mommy’s plant pot.”
And we walked on. After about 30 seconds though…the fire alarm started blaring and flashing. Caleb was already on edge and this was too damn much. He covered his ears and started telling the alarm to “Shut up! It’s enough!” and people around us did what all normal people do when a fire alarm sounds…they kept shopping. I looked down the aisle beside us and established that there were, in fact, no more cute little concrete planters. Of COURSE I couldn’t just leave without looking, right?
Then Caleb and I started moving toward the front of the store. Suddenly, there were employees coming from every direction, directing everyone to the front of the store. They looked stressed, I started to get stressed. Caleb was already through “stresssed” and hovering just below “losing his sh*t.”
I started up the calming talk, keeping my voice steady. “It’s alright dude, we are just going to the front of the store. It’s like a fire drill at school, we just need to go out the front door.” We were in sight of the cash registers when an employee helpfully corrected me, “No, this is real.” “Wait, really, asshole?” was conveyed very effectively in a glare (dude is really, really lucky I haven’t figured out how to breathe fire yet.) and he slid sideways and sped up to get away from me.
It was too late. I had to park the cart so I had my hands to corral Caleb and get him moving again. He started slapping the back of his hand, saying “Ow, that really hurt!” and “Sorry.” before doing it again…and again…and again. I had managed to get him two aisles further along when he looked at me and said. “I scared.”
It was like getting punched in the gut. I was looking directly into the eyes of this man-child of mine and I could see his fear. I was scared too. Not because I thought we were in any danger from a fire. There was no smoke, not even a whiff of smoke…I could see the front doors…but I couldn’t get to them. He was frozen. He didn’t want to leave the baby food, we had come for the baby food. He didn’t want to walk through the crowd of employees at the doors to get outside. He didn’t want to listen to or see that awful damn fire alarm either…but the fear of what was between us and those doors was greater than the fear of that alarm all around us.
I was scared too because there was not any possible way I could make him move if he didn’t want to. Every line of his body told me he was right on the edge of flight and if I tried to prevent it, he was going to fight. I was scared that employees who were watching us would try to “help” and send him running the wrong way. I was scared they’d send in police or security to force him out. I was scared I was going to have to physically put myself between him and whatever came at us next because there was no one and nothing that was going to touch my child. I would have burned the place down with the force of a fire-breathing dragon. I could feel the power in me to do so.
Instead, I retraced the few steps to the cart and put it in front of him. “Push the cart, dude. Hands on the cart. Right to the register.”
“We can’t check out, everyone is outside. We’ll just push the cart to the registers.”
“Check out, right now!” he wasn’t happy, at all but he started pushing the cart toward the registers and the doors. I was able to get a breath and forced my shoulders down and my face to relax into a smile. I smiled and waved off the employee who wanted to take the cart.
“We’ll leave it right over there!” He smiled back and stepped away.
We pushed the cart until we were right across from the doors. The crowd was now behind us. Caleb protested about leaving the food behind but he was no longer frozen. He was watching me like a hawk, so I kept those shoulders down and my face relaxed.
“Let’s go sit in the car.”
We sat in the car, my hands began shaking…my whole body began shaking…as a response to the adrenaline. I looked at Caleb and saw the possibility of tears. I started the car and looked at him. “Do you want to go home?”
“No, different Target. Need baby food.”
My man-child…I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of him. This had been bad, sure it could have been worse but it was bad and was only just saved from being a meltdown situation for one or both of us by the slimmest of margins. We could still see the flashing alarm and now hear a fire truck siren coming…but he was already ready to try again.
You ever want to meet a fucking superhero…let me introduce you to my kid. You ever want to meet a fucking dragon…just try to touch him.