Moms (and parents in general) are masochists. Some of us are out, wearing our mortification like badges of honor. Some of us closet ourselves away, hiding our shame in the dark recess behind the two-sizes-too-small black dress from six years ago and the college sweatshirt we can’t bear to toss in the garbage bin despite the fact it looks like something the cat chewed on then spit out in the middle of the kitchen floor. We huddle in the corner atop the mountain of shoes we haven’t had occasion to wear since our impregnation with the spawn of Satan. Sometimes we get so comfortable in our little closets, we stash chocolate behind the vibrator we haven’t had time to touch since our boobs became food sources for our creatures.
Still, we take these creatures, who unwittingly torment us, into public. We do it willingly, dressing them in their finest and spit shining them on the way into whatever new hell awaits once we cross the threshold of Walmart or its equally evil counterparts.
One particularly fine day, I traipsed through the Walmart parking lot, stopping three times to tie shoes. I hadn’t had the forethought to buy Velcro shoes for the children and, apparently, a child of mine tying their own shoes required the starts to align just so, the angels to break out in chorus, and God to smile down in pity rather than the sadistic smile with which he preferred to grace me. By the time the gates of hell whooshed open and lured us in with promises of low prices, I knew it would be one of those shopping trips.
We managed to find nearly everything on my list, I’d fished out all the extras the kids tossed into the cart every time I turned my back, and I aimed my mini caravan toward the front of the store. Absently snatching the bottle of dish soap from child three’s mouth, I nearly ran into child one who stood, feet planted apart and arms crossed, directly in my path. His angry scowl puzzled me and I wracked my brain for some item he’d declared a must-have that I’d vetoed.
“You didn’t tell us it was Halloween today,” he growled in his most stern voice.
Thoroughly confused, I replied with all the sweetness I could muster. “Halloween is months away. Move your butt or you’re going as a smear on Walmart’s floor for Halloween this year.”
He moved his butt. He marched it right up to a group of four nuns who stood in the cleaning products aisle, obviously debating which cleaning product would help them achieve the cleanliness closest to godliness. At first, the sight of one of God’s little lambs didn’t interrupt their spirited debate, but when boy child tugged gently on a habit, they all turned at once, and I nearly quaked at the hive-mind action.
“My mom,” he punctuated with a glare at me, “didn’t tell us it is Halloween today, so that’s why we’re not wearing our costumes. Are you the penguins from March of the Penguins or are you from Happy Feet?”
Jaws dropped. Not just mine. Not just those of the nuns. Every single person who happened to be shopping for cleaning supplies stopped, stared in wide-eyed horror, then picked their jaws up off the floor when they realized they were gawping at a precocious child and a waddle of nuns.
My sweet, sweet, boy child hadn’t finished. Yet. “Anyway, we don’t have our candy, but we can pick some up while we’re here. This is Walmart, you know, and they have everything here. We can get groceries and mom can get wine and the parts to fix all the stuff we break all in the same place. So we’ll get some candy. You’re kind of big for trick or treat, but if you come to our street (boy child inserts the name of our street here), I’ll be waiting at the door for you. But you have to say ‘trick or treat’. It’s the rules, you know. No, not rules….”
He turns to me. “What are those rules that aren’t rule kind of rules?”
“Etiquette?” I managed to squeak.
He returned his attention to the nuns who had clamped their mouths shut tight, most likely praying furiously that they didn’t burst out laughing and insult my humiliating child. “Yeah, that stuff she said.”
The youngest of the nuns–yes, I’m assuming because, frankly, it’s damned difficult to guess ages among penguins–hunched down on eye level with the little man. “We truly appreciate your kindness, but I’m afraid we can’t trick or treat tonight. We have to work this evening.”
“Hmmm. Your boss must be a real jerk to make you work on Halloween night.” He reached out his pudgy little five-year-old hand and patted her on the shoulder gently, commiserating with her as only a child could. “I know how it goes though. My dad’s work is full of jerks, too. Dang government sends him all over the world. It’s poopy, but you gotta eat, so you gotta follow orders.”
I have to give the nuns props. Apparently, they go through rigorous training to keep their faces straight. I had no such training. My lack of training earned me another scowl from boy child.
“Well, we have to go home before this milk gets warm and turns into cottage cheese, but you can come to our street next Halloween and we’ll give you extra candy since you don’t get to trick or treat this year.”
Masochism. It’s the driving force of parenthood.