Head to your nearest Target between the hours of 4-5:00 on a weeknight and you’ll see it: mini vans and SUVs line the rows in the parking lot. Mothers and children clog the aisles, everyone trying to get a tiny taste of sanity during the witching hour before daddy gets home from work.
Like apparently every other mom in the Southtowns, Target is usually a mini retreat when I can’t stand to be in our house for another minute. I load the kids into my mid-sized SUV, sometimes grabbing a coffee and Timbits for the ride, and the three of us happily (and quietly) make our way towards the bulls-eye to what I lovingly call the “Mom Mecca.”
While it definitely beats being cooped up at home, meandering the aisles isn’t what it used to be. Where there was once a hot latte now sits a squirmy one year old boy, eager to touch whatever he can reach. Next to him, his big sister asks for every. single. thing. on the shelves and tries to suppress her emotions when I tell her that no, we actually don’t need to buy fuzzy bunny ears.
Budget, Sam. Remember the budget.
I don’t let myself walk down the home decor aisles, in fear that my husband might seriously consider leaving me if I bring home another throw pillow or welcome mat. We eventually make it around the entire store without putting a single thing in the cart, with the exception of those damn bunny ears (Whatever. They were only $1) and a giant box of Goldfish. It’s only been a half hour. Not quite time to head home to get dinner started. Must. Stall.
Going against my better judgment, I turn the cart and we make our way down the narrow entryway towards the racks of clothing. Trendy, inexpensive fashion is one of my love languages, after all. Huck tries to grab at a few shirts and squeals and giggles mischievously when I tell him to “Look with [his] eyes, no touch!” I grab a sweater off the rack and Marleigh convinces me that I need it. Well, okay… twist my arm.
As I try to back my way out of the racks of clothing surrounding me, I manage to knock at least three hangers off the hooks. I mutter under my breath about how ridiculous the cart is and find myself envying the woman next to me – browsing slowly with her Starbucks – cartless, careless, and kid-free.
She must have noticed my stares and we lock eyes. I give her a half-embarrassed smile. She starts to say something and I immediately know what’s coming next – the advice that we, as mothers, are always hearing. “Time goes so fast.” And while I usually get slightly annoyed at this sentiment, this time it’s different, though it starts pretty typical: “My girls are in college now. I sure miss those days!” I nod. “They grow up quick” seems to be the only appropriate response I can find. Real original, I know.
I attempt to make my way back to the middle of the aisle with our nine-trillion-foot-long cart. Seriously, this thing… Huck has somehow managed to face backwards in his seat by now and Marleigh is reaching for the white sweater I just tossed in the cart with her donut-glazed fingers. I can feel my face getting hot as I try to maintain my sanity and not lecture my kids while I can feel this complete stranger still looking in my direction.
Struggling to maintain any sense of composure, feeling like I could crawl out of my skin at how poorly the cart steers, getting increasingly frustrated that my kids aren’t listening and can’t sit still to save their lives, and wishing more than anything I could have a hot coffee in my hand and a few minutes of silence to shop alone like this woman, she says it:
“You’re so lucky.”
My frustration comes to a screeching halt along with the school bus-sized cart (Have I mentioned how big the carts are?). I find myself feeling embarrassed again, this time in a completely different way than I felt during our first encounter. I smile awkwardly, this time behind tears that are forming in my eyes.
I nod, pick up the clothes I had knocked over, turn Henry around, wipe Marleigh’s hands, and walk away.
She’s right. I am lucky. Lucky to be mommy to my two rambunctious, spirited children. Lucky to have almost-constant companionship, even if it is in the form of two toddlers who sometimes know exactly how to push my buttons. Lucky to watch my babies grow and explore the world around them, even if that exploration involves trying to tear items off shelves and getting upset when I don’t agree to buy everything they want.
Lucky that while it may not be as relaxing, a chai latte won’t make up silly songs about toilet paper and make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts; wandering the aisles alone won’t allow me to make my daughter’s day by surprising her with a “treat” of Goldfish and bunny ears; and being cartless won’t give me the opportunity to hear my son’s best car noises and Lightning McQueen “Ka-Chow”s as I steer through the store.
…Lucky that although time does indeed go fast, there are kind people in this world who will give me a not-so-subtle reminder to cherish the moments.
Because someday when I’m walking the aisles of Target alone with my Starbucks, the silence I find myself longing for now will be deafening.
WRITTEN BY SAMANTHA JO
Samantha is the founder and owner of BuffaloMoms.com. Her friends call her Sam, Sammi, or Sammi Jo. Her two favorite people call her “Mommy.” Follow along with her ramblings @SJ_Gill.