When I got married and we decided that children would be in our – very – near future, I had visions of what it would be like.  A peaceful day with flowers in our hair and butterflies swirling around our family’s heads as we shopped hand in hand, our baby laughing in her pressed,  white dress and sunhat, waving at the stressed out Mother’s with screaming children in the store thinking  “That will never be our child!”

target cart

Yes, the fairy tale of motherhood and family rivals the fairy tale known as the institution of reality.

Three kids later and  the fairy tale goes “poof”.  Just like that.  Shopping with one child, much less three, is impossible. It is trying at best and a call to recite the Lord’s Prayer before entering the establishment is necessary.  I might get one or two of them quietly in a cart – and by quiet I mean anything with a decibel below a 747’s engine – but I can never get all three to behave presentably in public at the same time.  I have tried to shop with a bag over my head so that I could not be identified as that insane lady with the three wild animals, but just ran into the orange display, sending California’s little balls of sunshine dancing happily along the floor, playing hide and seek under the lettuce display.  When we were kicked out, it had nothing to do with my three loud, screaming, adorable offspring.

So my solution to shopping has come to three options.

Hire someone to watch the kids while I go.  Great during the summer, difficult during the school year.

Leave them with my ex-husband.  OK, OK, simmer down the laughter, I have more to blog.

And three, go late at night.  After my aching and tired body has been up with the kids for 10 hours or so, I have made 6 square meals – I’ll hold while you figure that one out – cleaned the house at least 3 times, done the dishes and fought three children to bed.

So, as I look at the clock and see it is 9:26 pm, calculate the 10 minute drive to Target and think of the things I need so I can plan out my route once in the store, I enter a world that is only known to the Mom.  The keeper of the list …  the matriarch to the fridge.

When I get into the store, park crookedly in the first open spot I see, I feel empowered.  Like I am about to enter a world just for me.  A world where I am up against the clock – the clock to complete my trip, get everything I need and get out of Target before the lights flash and I am kicked out by the pimply faced teenager who’s girlfriend is waiting outside to pick him up.

I am not alone in this competition even though it is mine to win or lose.  There are other Mom’s there, easily distinguished by the quickly up done hair, the stained shirts, the quickly written lists and the sheer speed and catlike ability to maneuver a basket.  We’ll nod at each other as we pass, focused on our mission but are respectful and understanding of the plight to get it done.

“Attention Target shoppers.  The registers will close in 15 minutes.  Please make your final selections and make your way to the front.”

The race begins.  I put on my game face, purse dangling from my wrists, flip flops slapping on the floor with a definitive slop – slop-  slop.  My eyes darting from sign to sign looking for Toys, Baby, Dogs, Housewares and assessing the obstacle course ahead.  I pass another Mom who knowingly says “Isn’t it fun doing this at night?”.  There is sarcasm noted but I have no time to gab…  I have a list that will be fulfilled.  I leave her with an agreeable chuckle.

I find the dog food, throw a bag in my cart, quickly follow with stickers and plastic tumblers and feel the anticipatory hairs raise on the back of my neck when I hear the familiar click of the PA system.

“Attention Target shoppers. The registers will close in 10 minutes. Please make your final selections and make your way to the front.”

OK, OK, I can do this.  What is left on my list.  Marbles to go into the tumblers.  Crap – where would marbles be?  Toys?  Where was the Toys sign?  Ahhh!!!!

Oh good – a Target teenager waiting anxiously to go home – surely he’ll help me.

“Excuse me, do you guys sell marbles?”  I feared he wouldn’t hear me as another Mom whizzed by us so fast, clearly headed for the milk case, that you could hear the swoooosh of her cart.

Luckily, he did and, shockingly, got on his magical walkie talkie and paged someone who was older, wiser, and paid better to find out where they were.  While he waited, I multi-tasked like a true late night shopping pro and grabbed some Oreos.  I felt my fat cells do a happy dance.  They even promised to stick around for another month in appreciation.

As I come back from the “I am in heaven” aisle, the boy tells me they don’t carry marbles.


But it’s on my LIST!!!

“Attention Target shoppers. The registers will close in 5 minutes. Please make your final selections and make your way to the front.”

Oh no!  OK – this is no time to stress – I must turn my attention back to the task at hand lest I be locked in Target, marbleless for eternity.  Or the night…  which could be fun… hmmmmm.

No, no – I have to get out of here.  Think of the carnage at home if I am not there in the morning!

OK – so – I quickly make a new game plan. I head down the aisle the teen indicated had other trinkets, search desperately for something small enough to put into the tumblers so that the children might be bribed into some sort of obedience, and then get out of this store!

I throw my purse in the cart – can’t have drag at critical times, you see – grasp the cart with an new determination and haul it.

Little rubber bouncy balls?  Um – no.

Crayons?  Boring.

Stickers?  Already using those for the bedtime chart.

Umm – ummm – think woman!!!!

Ahhh!!!  I found them!

Little rubber butterflies and frogs! PERFECT!

Task accomplished, I head to the front.

There is a dull roar of cart wheel and flip flop slaps heard in the halls of the store as the Mom’s simultaneously, as if on cue, head to the registers.  Target employees are wise to the overload about to happen and I see two more lights click on to open extra registers!

Great!  I’ll make it!

I find a register, unload in record speed, cram my list into my purse, swipe my card and gather my receipt.  As I head out, I feel the pressure of the race lift from my shoulders.  A slight smile appears on my lips and I think “I got you again, Target.  Your closing time is no match for me.”

I relish my pro late – night Target shopper expertise, and as I pass another Mom with a cart full of red and white bags, her step a little lighter with her victory, we smile at each other, share a mental high five, and silently vow to cheer each other on next time.

Because that is how to make a trip to Target!