We go through 4 to 6 gallons of milk a week in this house. No, I am not lying. We just do. I’ve accepted it and am appropriately docking college funds to compensate. So to say we have to hit the store more than once a week is almost redundant. But we do.
I try to plan ahead, buying 4 gallons at a time. But sometimes – usually right at bedtime when all three are screaming for some milk and I am at my wit’s end – I open the fridge where I attempt to stock up and it is bare. Bare like my patience in bundling up three kids and taking them to the store up the street to get some milk.
But, just like the other night, I do it. My theory is that heading to the store is easier than dealing with the extra hour of asking for some milk.
Even though the kids were already in their jammies, I changed them, loaded them in the car and drove the mile or so to the dollar store right outside of our neighborhood. We got there and the parking lot was fairly empty – because everyone else had milk and was happily enjoying an hour before bed of peace and quiet as their milk bellied kids slept – so I predicted this to be a fairly easy in and out trip.
Predictions with three kids.
Since I was grabbing one gallon I bypassed the carts that normally serve as buggies for at least one of my kids. Carts make life easier with three little kids. As you will learn.
We got the milk and headed to the register. I ignored calls for chips and candy and expired Valentine’s treats and started to check out.
Now, as we moms know, you kind of always have an eye on your children when you are out somewhere. And when you have more than one and they are small and easily lost, you look up at every chance and do a head count. Which I did… multiple time… always landing on three little heads.
Until after counting out the cash for the milk, I only counted two little heads.
Where was my little one? She was just RIGHT HERE?
I looked up the candy aisle behind me. No Megan.
I looked behind the table with with the sale items. No 3 year old.
I asked here sister’s where she was hoping sisterly radars would point me that way. No clue, they said.
Panic started to seep in. She was right here just two seconds before, where could she be?
I called her name, the cashier joined in and even the man stocking the shelves looked up in alarm.
She, literally, had vanished!
I ran to the front of the store, opened the door and screamed her name out into the desolate parking lot. Not there.
I ran up and down the aisles, directing my other 2 kids to stay with the perplexed cashier. As I ran I imagined the lights and sirens of the police I was about to call. I imagined her beautiful little face and soft ringlets flashing across television screens as Amber Alerts were issued. And I imagined her scared and lost and not knowing how to get back to mommy.
Deep in the throws of a mother’s worst nightmare, and seemingly an hour later, the woman stocking the shelves in the back of the store yelled that she was HERE! Following her pointed finger down, I see my little three year old, clutching her bedtime teddy bear, with a huge grin on her face, clearly thrilled that she had tricked mommy.
My fear tuned to anger for a moment and as I approached her I said, more sternly than I should have, ‘This is not funny, little girl. You don’t ever run from mommy in a store! Do you understand me?”
And she started to cry. Which I understood. I wanted to too.
In hindsight, my instant scolding was a bad move. I should have swooped up my little child and hugged her and thanked God above that she was playing a game and not actually in a stranger’s car being taken from me forever. But I was mad. And emotional. And scared.
And so I handled it badly.
I don’t know if my scolding will prevent her from running away in a store again. I have decided carts are the only way to prevent this from happening any time soon. But I know that I never want to experience that fear again. So as we go about our daily tasks I remind my kids constantly to stay with mommy no matter what. And I hope that next time I remember to be glad first and angry later.
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