Enough time has gone by that I can finally talk about The Incident in Wal-Mart. Beware. This is a long post.
March 31, 2006. Princess was a few weeks away from turning six. Buddy was still a few months away from being three. It was a nice spring day. Princess had asked if we could get out the watercolors and paint. I thought that was a good idea, but, alas, we didn’t have any watercolors. I told them that if they behaved that morning, we’d go to Wal-Mart that afternoon and get some watercolors. They behaved.
I have a theory about Wal-Mart. I believe that they pipe in some sort of air that contains a chemical that causes small children to become screaming, wriggling sacks of goo. But I digress . . .
I had a modest shopping list as we walked into the store - cleaning supplies, office supplies, etc. I put Princess in the back of the shopping basket and Buddy in the front. We went down several aisles and stopped in the school supplies for the prize of the watercolors. I handed each of them their tray and they gazed upon the colors with wonder. Then Buddy began to bang his on the front of the cart.
I told Buddy not to bang the paints.
Bang, bang, bang.
Obviously he hadn’t heard me OR I just didn’t give a good enough explanation (because I didn’t want to be the type of mom who said, “Because I say so!”). So I told him that if he slammed the paints on the cart, he might break them and then he wouldn’t be able to use them.
Bang, bang, bang.
Sigh. He heard me tell him to stop and then he heard me tell him why. Now it was just about obedience. I told him that if he slammed the paints on the cart one more time, I’d take them away from him and put them in the back with Princess.
Bang, bang, bang.
I calmly took the paints from him and put them in the back of the cart with his sister. Oh! Tragedy! Buddy began the Cart Twist Move - trying to twist around in the seat and maneuver out of the ornamental seatbelt that they have on the cart to make the cart seem safe. All the while, the wailing had begun. Yay!
I told Buddy that if he continued to twist around and yell, I would put the paints back on the shelf and he wouldn’t get paints this time.
Twist, yell, twist, scream.
Up went the paints.
Now Buddy was screaming at the top of his lungs and twisting around with such vehemence that it was getting dangerous. Because I had been reading a book on behavior, I immediately deduced that at that point his fit was about attention and, in order to quell the storm I must ignore it. So I took Buddy out of the cart and put him on the floor. He immediately threw himself on my feet sobbing and wailing.
Because I needed to ignore this behavior and not reward it with ANY attention (even negative attention is attention), I slowly walked three steps to my right and browsed the scotch tape (seriously wondering if anyone would notice if I used it over his mouth). He crawled on hands and knees and again flung himself on my feet. Again, I calmly stepped away and moved back toward the cart, wondering if there was any way on God’s green Earth that the store was populated by deaf individuals. Buddy crawled back to me and collapsed once again.
Silently cursing the stupid parenting book that I had wasted so much time on, I decided that the rest of my list could wait and we just needed to get the hell outta Dodge. I scooped Buddy up with one arm and pushed the cart with the other - heading for checkout.
At this point in the story you may wonder why I decided to actually go through the checkout line instead of turn tail and run. Through this whole ordeal, Princess had been quietly playing in the cart. I didn’t want her to be punished just because Buddy had decided to do his impersonation of the Tasmanian Devil.
Please picture this - I’m pushing a cart with an angelic, blonde six year old girl who is sweetly naming off all the things that she’s going to paint when she gets home, and I’m holding an almost three year old wild thing who is screaming his head off and thrashing about so much that I almost lose him on several occasions. Yeah, you want me behind you in line.
I couldn’t risk putting Buddy down. He was too out of control. So I kept him on my hip as I took the items out of my cart and put them on the conveyer belt. I was not paying enough attention to Buddy or his fit, so he decided that he’d get my attention again. He bit me. Yes, you read that right. He sunk his teeth into my shoulder. Hard. Hard enough for me to cry out and instinctively swat his head. I gritted my teeth and told him NOT to do that again. He ignored me. More biting.
At this point, I had absolutely no idea what to do. Had I been at home, no problem. That was a spanking and then room banishment. But you can’t spank your kids in public. (Obviously.) You can’t even talk about spanking your kids. (I’m really risking something by admitting it here.) So I was out of options. I had THAT kid. That out of control, screaming to the point of discoloration kid. Everyone was looking at me. Most were looking at me with sympathy as if to tell me that they had been there. I do remember one lady looking at me with such scorn and ridicule that I almost walked over to her and handed Buddy to her and said, “Okay, show me how it’s done!” But at that point I was just ready to leave.
After a couple more bites, I put Buddy down on the ground. I did NOT, however, let him go. I kept a firm grip on his little wrist because I had absolutely no idea what he would do or where he would go were he free. He promptly bit my hand. Then he whirled around and, I am NOT kidding, he bit my butt.
That brought me to some sort of reality. It was all I could do right then to stifle my laughter. I saw the complete absurdity of the whole thing and I actually relaxed just a bit. I picked up Buddy (and my shoulder got a few more teeth marks) and I paid for our items. Then I took the screaming little mass outside to the car.
By the time we got to the car, Buddy was peaking. He was thrashing, gnashing and sobbing so hard that I thought he might hurt himself. I, however, was calm and collected. I knew that at that point that the only thing that would calm Buddy was sheer exhaustion. I wrestled him into the car seat and started the car. Then his screams started to be coherent.
He had begun yelling, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!!!” I was perplexed for a moment until I realized that “stupid” was the worst word he knew. He was cussing at me. That was enough to make me laugh out loud. My almost three-year-old was calling me a b*tch in his own little way. Oh me, oh my.
On the way home I called my mom and dad and just held up the phone for them to hear what was going on. They loved it. Payback is hell.
Throwing a fit that intense takes a lot out of a little body. He had calmed down a little by the time we pulled into the driveway. I got him out of the car and took him immediately into the to his room. I put him to bed where he screamed for another half hour before he fell asleep.
Of course I called Hubby to tell him all that had happened. When he got home, I showed him the bruises on my shoulder (yes, I had quite a few nasty bruise-bites). Hubby sat Buddy down and had a pretty intense heart-to-heart. He told Buddy that I was his (Hubby’s) WIFE and that Hubby was charged with taking care of me and protecting me and that he would do that no matter what. Hubby said that he knew that I had already given Buddy his punishment, but that if Buddy ever hurt me again, he’d have to answer to Hubby. Hubby did NOT do this in a threatening way. He didn’t intimidate at all (if you know Hubby, you know that), but he did make his point.
It’s been five years since this incident. I get a lot of mileage from this story! I enjoy telling it and, believe it or not, Buddy enjoys hearing it. He laughs and says, “I can’t believe I did that!” And then sometimes he’ll come and kiss my shoulder where he bit it. But we can laugh about it now because it was an isolated incident. That was the last knock-down drag-out fit that Buddy has ever had. It could be because we gave him swift and appropriate consequences. And it could be that we continue to demand of him (and his sister) good manners and acceptable behavior.
Or it could be because we now patronize Target instead of the poison-aired Wal-Mart.