Juggling two kids in the supermarket is okay until we run out of room in the wagon and the big brother has to walk. I used to precariously balance the car seat on the front of the wagon, a seemingly hazardous endeavor but everyone does it and their kids seem to survive. Now, my growing-up-too-fast chubby little one gets the front seat while Aryeh gets to lounge in the back, then sit in the back, then stand in one little corner of the back, his feet surrounded by bottles of coke and cucumbers. Until the cheerios threaten his personal space, and he says there’s no more room (pronounced ruhm) Mommy, can I walk?
So by the time we reach the checkout counter, he’s been on his feet for between 3 and 14 minutes, and is slightly difficult to contain.
At our local Kosher market, Seven Mile, we are lucky enough not to have shelves of candy that can be reached by grubby hands and surreptitiously added to our wagon through the delightfully reachable metal bars. However, without this destructive little exercise, keeping busy can sometimes be challenging for the big brother let loose.
Which is why I ignored him eying the large display of pez dispensers right behind the counter as I loaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt. And continued to ignore as I saw him begin to remove one pez dispenser and then another.
Call it bad parenting if you like, but he was busy, he was quiet, and I was paying.
And trying to smile at a cranky six month old who wanted to go home and eat. Or sleep. Or play. Or do something other than sit strapped into the front of a shopping cart for an entire sixty minute hour.
The friendly checkout clerk, who informed me that she was new here, engaged me in a conversation that was interesting albeit slightly challenging to participate in while alternating between loading groceries on the conveyor belt, inserting paci into baby’s mouth, and making sure the Pez organizer wasn’t going overboard.
The conversation began with her identification of me as a member of a small insular community that, shall we say, does not get out much.
Have you ever been to a regular supermarket? She questioned.
Sure. I responded.
So you know how kids seem to whine a lot?
They don’t seem to do that here, she said.
That’s interesting, I responded. I’m sure the kids here whine too.
No, I’m telling you she said. They ask their parents for things. The parents say no. And that’s it. They don’t whine. Or scream. Or kick. I think it’s a cultural thing. And the parents don’t yell and scream at their kids either. I don’t know what it is.
I appreciated her generous view of my community, but was not quite sure it was true. Or, more accurately, I did not want to personally be the one to prove it untrue.
Just then a friendly supermarket employee interrupted.
Excuse me, ma’am. Is that your little boy?
He had splayed out around 45 dispensers in neat rows, my organized little son, as he likes to do with series of just about anything from vodka bottles to toy lizards.
Aryeh, I informed him gently, remembering that mothers of our group do not ever yell, we need to clean these up now. Let’s see if you can get them back on the racks. It’s like a puzzle.
My fists were internally clenched, hoping the impending meltdown was not about to erupt.
First came the pout. I can’t clean it up. He told me. I need to look at them.
And indeed maybe he did. He had arranged them in some order I did not have time to analyze.
Look, Aryeh, I illustrated with my hands, this is how you put them back up.
Again, the pout.
And then, a miracle.
He picked one up and put it back on. And then another.
I turned back to the cashier.
Who was cooing at my baby who was responding in that most precious of all sounds – uncontrollable baby laughter.
And I rejoiced.
I breezed through the rest of the checkout happy to know that while she just may be disproved with a screaming flailing two year old sometime soon, at least it won’t be mine.
If I can help it.
Just in case, next time I shop, remind me to avoid aisle 14.