I know that somewhere in a very secure, secret location you have tucked away a list of all the things you can't wait for me to experience as a mom. I'm sure on that list is a generous number of wonderful moments, those filled with love and joy and pure exhilaration. Any mother would want that for her daughter, and I have no doubts that rings true for you. Of course as part of the delicate balance that is a mother-daughter relationship, I am also equally certain that contained in that list are many detailed not-so-Hallmark-movie-worthy moments that you can not wait to see delivered as payback for some of the trauma that I put you through during my formative years. You've been quite vocal over the years that you can't wait for the time when you can sit back, relax, and have a good laugh as I navigate my way through parenthood's trickier moments. You already know full well that time has come, and tonight, I would like to inform you that you can probably cross "learning that she experienced a near emotional breakdown in a public place (preferably retail oriented) as a direct result of raging hormones" off your list.
It all started innocently enough. Needing to check just a couple more things off my Christmas list before next weekend, I decided that after picking up the girls we would make a quick trip to Joliet. The drive up there was relatively uneventful. The girls entertained me with stories of their day, traffic was light, and we sailed up I-55 without incident save for a Silverado driving Nascar wannabe who swerved in front of me unexpectedly with merely inches to spare in his attempt to pass a semi (side note #1: this daredevil of a driver who appeared to be in quite the hurry when he put the lives of my daughters and I at risk suddenly must have realized he had time to spare as he set his cruise under mine immediately after making that move). We entered the mall, dropping two quarter in the Salvation Army bucket in an attempt to spread joy and happiness to others, and within about 10.7 seconds I realized that I might not be in exactly the right frame of mind to be making this particular outing with these particular people on this particular day one week before a particularly busy shopping heavy holiday. But alas, we were there and we were going to make the best of it.
I choked down my quickly surfacing feelings of frustration toward your two beautiful granddaughters who seemed suddenly incapable of standing next to me for any length of time. I tried my best to keep my voice calm as I reminded them to keep their hands to themselves, to stop whining, to stay close to mommy, to not run into other people, and on and on. It was hard, mom, I'm not going to lie. You've been there so I know you understand. Punkin started getting ridiculously fidgety, complaining of feeling "all wee-uhed" for reason she was not able to articulate (I suspect a classic case of wearing a winter coat inside an overly heated mall as the culprit), Shortcake asked me no less than 10 times if she could eat her now melted Kit Kat despite the fact that I had told her no less than 10 times that she could eat it after supper, and we hadn't even been in the mall ten minutes.
Moving out of JCPenney's, I thought that a new location might improve the mood. Unfortunately once in The Children's Place we replaced fidgeting with pouting (antecedent for this attack: I refused to buy Punkin the Justin Bieber t-shirt she found immediately upon entering the store) and gloating/brown nosing (Shortcake: "I'm being good, aren't I mommy" *bats eyelashes*). (side note #2: Yes, Punkin loves Justin "Bee-vuh" and no it is not sitting well with me) Store number three was relatively painless if you don't count the pleas of a hot pretzel treat on the way there, and the quick trip through Carson's was about the same. It was on the way out of the department store, though, when things all came crashing down. And if most of my memories from my own childhood are correct, it was the youngest one that caused me to nearly lose my shit.
When she wasn't lagging behind us by five feet or more, she was tripping over air. I'm not kidding you. In some kind of freakazoid lack of gross motor skills this child tripped three times over nothing, the last time falling all the way to the ground in the middle of a pack of people in the middle of the mall. Looking at her at one point I noticed that she was wearing a rhinestone encrusted red top with faded navy sweatpants and brown snow boots. In addition to that getup she is currently sporting a terribly outgrown haircut that today was not styled in any way. On top of all that mess I caught her picking her nose at least five separate times while in the mall, and as I was dragging her along with what I'm sure was a look of pure evil on my face I was struck with the realization that I am that mother I always used to talk about (and judge), promising myself that I would NEVER be like her when I was a mom. My children will also look presentable. My children will always be courteous and respectful. My children will never be treated with anything but love, patience, and understanding by me. I was so foolish grandly making claims like that, but you already knew that then didn't you?
Charging through the mall at a pace probably faster than their legs could keep up with, sweat dripping down my back courtesy of my warm winter coat and mall temperatures set somewhere between 75 and the surface of the sun, Punkin refused to hold my hand and whined at length about not having time to frolick in the ceast pool of a play area outside of JCPenney's. Steam may have been coming out of my ears at this point, and in a flashback to the early 80s if we had been driving down Rt. 47 on the way home from an epic grocery shopping trip this probably would have been the point in which you would have pulled the car over and taken care of business in only the way parents in the early 80s could do without fear of being judged or ridiculed.
Out of the mall and back in the car, we mutually decided to get something to eat before driving home. Sadly, a trip to Steak and Shake did not improve my mood. At this point I was in full hormone overload. I won't go into details, but it was not an enjoyable meal for me (or, I suspect, the girls). Back in the car, their incessant arguing left me longing for earplugs. The traffic we happily avoided on our way north was now out in full force and it took us almost 20 minutes just to get onto the highway. Driving on the interstate was equally intense producing in me feelings of rage and fury, the kind I've never before personally experienced but have sometimes witnessed courtesy of your loving son-in-law (side note #3: Having now experienced them, I feel as though I can say that these intense feelings are not healthy and can not be good for your physical or emotional well-being, General. Let's seriously consider some hypno-therapy session or something, okay?). I was just at the point where I felt like screaming "SHUT UP" with the ferocity of a caged animal when from the backseat I heard Shortcake provide some unbelievably well timed beat boxing club beats to "Shake Your Groove Thing". The pure innocence and awesomeness of this maneuver brought the emotional pendulum swinging violently to the other side, leaving me in laughter and tears. Not surprisingly, this is also about the time that I realized my unstable emotions might have a little something to do with "potato time". (side note #4: Have I talked about "potato time" before and told the story behind it? Easily one of my mom's favorite stories to relive when talking about my adolescents.)
Things remained on a fairly even keel for the next 15 minutes of our ride home until the aruging started up again in the backseat. Scanning the radio trying desperately to find something to block out their noise, I finally settled on our local Christian radio station for some soothing Christmas melodies. Plus, let's face it. I clearly needed Jesus because at that point we were staring down the barrel of two options: divine intervention or certain momentary insanity.
Once back to our sanctuary at One Carbon Hill, the girls changed into their pajamas and we settled in for our annual viewing of Frosty the Snowman. I tucked the girls into our bed per their request, and now I'm writing this letter to you, pounding out frustration on a different type of keyboard than the one I used when I was younger. So there is it, Mom. Today was my moment over the pot of chili. Today was my board game throwing day. And today I once again gained a little more respect for you and all you endured as the mother of two youngsters.
With love, admiration, and a new found understand for your sometimes maniacal behavior,
(side note #5: To my in-laws who might be quivering in fear, wondering if this monster of a human being will be making an appearance at our family Christmas tomorrow afternoon, let me assure you that I will do everything in my power to keep the beast in check in an attempt to keep the mood full of merriment. Luckily, wearing pajamas is always a huge step in the right direction toward improving my disposition.)