Shopping Trauma with Three-Year-Old

Clothilde jammed herself in the orange safety cone we keep for slowing down traffic when the kids are riding bikes in front of our house.

I had two awful shopping adventures with Clothilde this past week.  I must say first – she is the sweetest, most affectionate of any of my children.  When she sees a younger child or baby, her first reaction is to give them a kiss or help them with something (many small children will push or pick on a smaller child).  And she really does, for the most part, try to be good.

But being in a store sparks off something incredibly devilish in her.  She gets a gleam in her eye and does things I can hardly believe are happening.  We get rushed out of stores.  Once the manager even offered her a free cookie so she would behave.  She’s stolen apples whilst in the baby backpack, choked on them, and vomited into my hand in the store (worst shopping day ever).  One time (and only one time) I had the misjudgement to take her into a bead store with the big kids.  I still get a stab of anxiety when I think of that time.  After ravaging the store and getting us all yelled at by the nasty store owner, I strapped her (struggling) into the backpack.  Her response was to kick her foot so that her shoe flew into the middle of the store.

Last week I had to get snacks for Rose’s Nutcracker performance.  She had to be eight times on stage during five days – with shows close together, and it was a long time of being stuck at the theatre.  They provided some “snack” for the kids, but I knew it would be something I really didn’t want her to eat.  My MIL arranged for us to bring our own snack, but it had to be marked “nut-free” and be packaged.

Mirin stayed at home while Rose, Clothilde and I went questing for such snacks.  We went to Earth Origins and noted how nice their new freezers are (we’ll see if they go out again next December, though!).  We started looking at crackers.  I had to find all the ingredients lists, read the tiny print to make sure there wasn’t something awful in them, and check to be sure they were marked “nut-free”, too.  After a few minutes, Clothilde got that gleam in her eye.  I hadn’t been able to find the Ergo backpack – later I discovered it under several archaeological layers on the floor of the truck – so there was no way to restrain her.  She doesn’t stay in carts, but climbs all over them in all the ways it shows not to let your kid climb on them, and in several other ways she has figured out, too.

She started running away down the isles and vanishing.  I would leave Rose with the shopping basket and run after her.  I would find her in one of the isles, she would startle, turn around, and shriek with laughter as she ran away and disappeared again.  All the employees were laughing at us.  Rose had to help me corner her and bring her back to the cracker section and try to unsuccessfully pin her down.  I left the store feeling exhausted, humiliated, and shell-shocked.

A couple days ago we went to the local natural pet store to get Christmas treats for Teasel and Belle.  Mirin got dropped off at a friend’s house, so it was only me and the girls again.  When we first got there, I got out, opened the doors and fought to get Clo’s shoes on her little, kicking feet.  I didn’t realize it would take Rose 50,000,000,000 years to put on her shoes with laces, so I unbuckled Clothilde and shut the doors.  Clothilde promptly hopped down and ran with gleeful abandon through the crowded parking lot.  I chased after her, with Rose wailing, “Don’t leave me!” from the van.   I knew there would be inconsolable tears, so I tucked Clothilde under my arm and went back to the van.  All the doors were closed and locked, but Rose was still inside.  She unlocked the door, and I opened it from the outside.

This somehow made the van’s built-in burglar alarm system believe that it was either was being stolen, or someone was being murdered.  (How I loathe car alarms!).  It started loudly honking, blaring to the world that we were in crisis.  Incredibly embarrassed, I had to hold Clothilde under one arm (while she squirmed) and fumble around in my purse for the key, and then remember how to get it to shut up.  It did, and we made it (finally) into the store….

Once in the store Clothilde was released from my aching arms.  I couldn’t help feeling that the lady in the store marked us out as problem customers from the start (but she was very nice to us).  Clothilde immediately sprung away from me, having developed that gleam-in-her-eye while we were still struggling with the car alarm in the parking lot.  She began moving merchandise around, pulling things off the shelves, mixing up the help-yourself dog treats.  When I pounced on her to get her to stop, she squealed horribly and wriggled away, ran over to the piled up bags of dog food they have lying around the store and began climbing and jumping on them.  I tried to get her to help pick out something for Teasel – a catnip toy?  Some treats?  She streaked away and went to harass the shop cats that are always lounging around the store.  Both cats got up indignantly and stalked off.  The lady at the counter said the one really fat tabby hadn’t moved all morning, but he moved halfway across the store because of Clothilde.  Eventually we made it out, much to everyone’s (including everyone in the store) relief.

After thinking about it, I find I have no desire to go shopping with her again until she’s at least five.  It’s possible I could arrange that.  I hardly ever go shopping, anyway.  Stores just have that really bad effect on her that I think should not be encouraged, if possible.

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