I realize a trip to Walmart is fraught with ethical, political, and social justice questions for those of us privileged enough to care about such things, but that's not what this post is about.
This post is about toddler meltdowns and the management thereof.
We needed groceries for the two weeks we're here. We had just arrived on Saturday evening, and the kids were tired, excited, overwhelmed, and a little discombobulated. We didn't change time zones. We didn't leave the state. But it was still different and fun and new and unusual and so they were, understandably, not quite themselves.
Anyway, whenever I take all the kids to almost any store, they get a little nuts.
It was about 11:00 in the morning. The kids usually have a snack around 10:30, but we were going from one errand to the next after having a later-than-usual and bigger-than-usual breakfast, so the snack didn't happen. This matters. A lot.
We got to the peanut butter section. We needed a small jar of peanut butter. My almost-three-year-old, G, picked up a jar - at random! - from the shelf and announced we should get that one. It wasn't the brand I wanted or the type I wanted. It looked like it wouldn't taste good. I showed him the jar I wanted to buy and told him to put away the one he'd picked up.
You know what happened, don't you, if you've ever had an almost-3-year-old who is sleep deprived, hungry, and excited, right?
Yes. He melted down. Screaming, tears running down his face, collapsing to the floor, the works. Could. Not. Handle. It. We had to get this peanut butter. He wanted this peanut butter.
I did not want the peanut butter he had offered. I took it from him and put it back on the shelf, showed him the jar I wanted, and put that one in the cart. We moved on. He followed, still crying piteously. I don't think he even knew what he was crying about anymore.
Then, just as he was calming down from the Peanut Butter Incident, G tripped over his brother's foot, fell, and hit his head on the wheel of the cart. Resume meltdown status! I comforted him as best I could, rubbed the sore spot, tried to settle him back down. I spotted the Parmesan cheese. We needed Parmesan. I didn't particularly care which container of Parmesan we ended up with. G loves his "papajon cheese." I said, "Look! G! Look! What's that up there?" Tears continue. "G! Look! Parmesan cheese! Do you want to pick out the Parmesan?" I was talking in the exaggerated, desperate, high-pitched, overly sweet voice most moms know well, the one that says, "Please, oh please be distracted by what I'm doing so you'll stop crying. Please, please, please!"
No dice. The "papajon" cheese wasn't enough to enable him to get over the Peanut Butter Incident and the Bumping Head On Cart Fiasco.
I chose the obvious Parmesan option and tossed it into the cart and we attempted to move on.
Next came the cereal aisle. I wasn't intending to buy cereal at all, but the kids like it, and when G saw where we were, he finally - finally! - gathered himself and returned to Normal Operating State. Mostly.
He picked up a Family Size box of Froot Loops. Of all the cereals in the aisle, of all the options there, he picked up a Family Size Box Of Froot Loops.
"Mommy, can we get cereal? I want this cereal!" he said, in his impossibly cute little voice.
"No," I started to say. "Let's get - "
He looked up at me with those big brown eyes. Those big brown eyes that said, "You don't want me to melt down again, do you? DO YOU?" Those big, adorable, tired, overwhelmed, excited, hungry, brown eyes, attached to that adorable, tear-streaked face, with that adorable, curly, disheveled, bright orange hair. He looked up at me, clutching the big red box of Froot Loops, the Family Size box of disgusting, sweet, colorful, horrible cereal, and said, "Mommy, I want this cereal!"
My sentence did not end with "Cheerios." It instead switched direction mid-word and became, "Okay. Yes. Let's get that cereal!" And into the cart it went.
That wasn't the end of our shopping trip by a long shot, but it was the end of the meltdowns. There was a minor setback when the question of which chips to buy came up, but we were able to prevent that one from escalating by allowing him to take his sweet time choosing exactly which flavor of Pringles to buy.
(I realize it sounds like we bought a cartful of junk food, but I promise we also bought lots of other stuff. Really.)
Anyone who witnessed only the Cereal Selection Episode and the Pringles Question might think we were indulging our toddler, that we were giving in to his demands, that we were spoiling him. But I hope that most parents would realize that sometimes you give in just to get your shopping done. Sometimes, you want to spare your overwhelmed toddler (and your exhausted self) the stress of yet another tantrum. And sometimes you simply can't reason with, or win against, a toddler on the edge, and it's easier just to buy the damn Froot Loops.
At least he's eaten them for breakfast every morning since.