In parenting, it’s important to pick your battles, or so they say. Of course, they don’t tell you how to pick them, but that’s another story. In spite of the lack of direction, I’ve found that, over time, I’ve developed a better sense of when to stand my ground and when to let things slide. Sometimes, though, it seems that the people around me disagree with my assessment. For a case in point, consider my tale of a recent trip to buy cat food.
The pet food store is, thankfully, only a few blocks from my house. Given its proximity, my habit is to stop in when I’m already out and about. Making such a short car trip feels sort of ridiculous on the one hand, but on the other I’m not up to carrying a 40 pound bag of kitty litter home in my arms. Since I stop in when I’m out running other errands, I often have my children with me. This is more challenging than you might imagine, as my four-year-old Jacob has a serious love for cat toys, and dragging him away from them is often not easy. I put my game face on and soldier through as best I can, though, because that’s the sort of thing that parents do.On a recent occasion, Jacob was engrossed with looking at the cat toys and there was a small line at the counter to pay. The cat toy aisle is actually all of four feet away from the cash register, on the other side of a low shelving unit. Jacob wasn’t doing any harm to the toys, and could easily hear him. I decided to pay before I dragged him from the store, to save the pain of having to try to keep him still and quiet in line. For the most part, this tactic worked. I could hear him quietly chatting away to himself, exclaiming over all the little mice and balls and whatnot.
As I neared the front of the line, I started to feel that antsy feeling that you feel when you haven’t seen your kid for a while. Since the wait was pretty much over, I decided to ask my seven-year-old Hannah to go fetch her younger brother. She immediately walked over to the cat toy aisle, and then they both went silent for a minute or two. When they appeared around the end of the shelving unit Jacob was lying on his back, silent, still and expressionless, while his big sister dragged him across the smooth tile floor. The nylon shell of his jacket made him particularly slippery, so she wasn’t having to work too hard.
Now, when I asked Hannah to fetch her brother, this wasn’t the picture I had in my head. I had imagined that they would both walk back to me under their own steam. However, since neither of them were in any sort of distress, and since they weren’t causing a serious disruption, I kind of rolled my eyes as I handed my credit card over to the cashier. As I said, we’re told to pick our battles, and this just wasn’t the hill I wanted to die on.
Unfortunately, the older lady behind me in the line-up wasn’t quite on the same page, as she took in the scene and gasped, “That child is pulling the other child!” The shock and disapproval was very apparent in her voice. I glanced at her and half-shrugged. “You’re okay with this?” she asked, with some measure of disbelief. I mumbled something about how they’re siblings, and this the kind of thing siblings do, as I took my purchase from the cashier and beat a hasty retreat. I was glad when my kids were all buckled in and I was once again out of the view of the lady at the store.
At least life with kids is never boring, right?