Sometimes, after I drop off my four-year-old at preschool in the morning, the other two kids and I make a quick stop at the grocery store. Sometimes we go to Publix and sometimes we go to Walmart, depending on how much self-hate I'm harboring on a given day. These trips usually go pretty okay. Well, relatively okay, I guess.
When you are evaluating store trips, you have to grade the experience on a huge curve when you have small children with you. For example, if you're going to the grocery store by yourself, the outing is okay as long as you don’t…I’m not even sure how to finish this sentence. Get murdered? Mistakenly respond “you too” when the cashier gives you your receipt and says, “Thank you. Come again”?
However, when you have small kids with you, an okay grocery store visit is pretty easy to define. The trip is okay if no one falls out of the cart, throws a tantrum on the floor, knocks over more than a few cans or boxes, breaks any glass containers, poops, or eats plastic. But if any one of those things happens, it can still be okay.
Anyway, this trip to Walmart was, by the above-outlined criteria, sufficiently okay. However, a random shopper just had to ruin it for all of us (and by all of us, I am most certainly including all of you).
While I was schlepping a case of water bottles onto the bottom of the cart, a lady came down the aisle behind us. I had to move our cart to the side so she could maneuver around it. As she passed by she took a look at the baby in her car seat on the top of the cart and the two-year-old seated in the cart basket, smiled broadly, and said, “Oh, you’re giving Mommy a break, huh?”
Oh boy. Did she ever step in it. Maybe she caught me on a bad day but did I ever let her have it.
“Um, yeah, that’s it,” I said in my really sarcastic voice, rolling my eyes for added emphasis. “It’s 10 o’clock in the morning on a weekday, but neither Mommy nor I work so I decided to take a break from finalizing my fantasy football roster to take the little scoundrels to the store with me so she could kick back for thirty minutes and put cucumber slices on her eyes or whatever.
"Better yet, she actually had some bathroom floors to scrub as well as cooking all our meals for the week because I don’t know how to use the kitchen. Actually, I don’t even know where our kitchen is. Do you happen to know? Is it somewhere near my man cave? Whatever. It doesn’t matter really. When we get out of here in like seven minutes (because these kids are driving me crazy and I don’t really do babysitting) Mommy will have to deal with them and figure out how to finish up the floor scrubbing and the cooking. Because I’ll be back in the man cave, you know, doing man stuff like making deals on the phone and talking loudly.
“But hey, it's what Mommy signed up for, after all. When she married a man’s man like me, she knew she was going to be doing all the childcare, housecleaning, cooking, and laundry because, I mean, she is the woman. It’s only fair. I can’t be bothered with all that. Plus, even if I did try to help out, I wouldn’t be good at it because she probably has really high standards for cleaning and playing with the kids or whatever. Let’s face it, guys aren’t meant to do that stuff.
“And, of course, it’s completely impossible that a woman might be a full-time working professional; it’s not like she could be working at a hospital or something at 10 o’clock in the morning on a weekday. That’s crazy talk. Women doing jobs? That’s a good one.
“But you know what’s even funnier than that? The thought of a grown man taking care of his children while his wife is at work winning bread. Next you’ll be telling me that I'll be washing dishes and folding laundry and cleaning freaking toilets! Good try, lady. I’m not doing any of those things because I’m a man and men do men stuff, like driving hard bargains and taking no prisoners. You can bet that’s exactly what I’ll be doing once I pawn off these insufferable kids.
“Yeah, I’m glad you stopped to comment because you've reminded me that Mommy’s break time is long past over. Let’s go kids, whatever your names are, let’s get out of here.”
What, you don’t think that’s how it went? Fine. You’re right.
What really happened is I smiled back at her and didn’t say a word as she walked away. And then I got a little sad for all of us. Women, men, and children. So that’s why I’m standing here in Walmart with a pack of matches in my hand. There’s only one thing left to do. Nothing to see here.
“Sir,” a concerned looking Walmart employee says to me, “are you about to light yourself on fire?”
“Yes, that’s the plan,” I reply.
“Okay,” he says. “I’ll grab the fire extinguisher. This actually happens a lot around here.”
This article was previously published on Explorationsofambiguity.com