Anyone who has ever been a teacher knows that taking a day off is almost not worth it. Preparing the lessons and materials to ensure for an actual day of education in your absence – instead of slapping a DVD in the player – is often more work than if you were teaching the class yourself.
Yet again, another lesson that transfers to motherhood.
Craving adult time and a long-overdue visit to IKEA, I jumped on the opportunity for both when a friend told me she had the day off yesterday. The plan was to head to her house directly after the last school-bound child was on the bus. Barring the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the non-school-bound one because I wouldn’t let her out of her car seat at the bus stop, we were good to go. She even stayed in her stroller through the entire showroom, only asking to play once we reached the toy section. The carrot of mac and cheese dangling in front of her face delayed that meltdown.
Things got slightly hairy when I took her into the family bathroom. While it was a wide-open space with a changing station and comfy chair for nursing, there was a separate stall with the toilet. So I didn’t lock the outer door. First mistake. Another mom did come in to change her baby so I herded my toddler into the stall with me. Apparently, the last inch or two she’s gained recently are the magic amount to bring her just within reach of most anything I don’t want her to touch. My cheeks barely hit the seat before she’d unlocked the door. She headed straight to our stroller which was right outside the stall so I finished my business while also trying to twist my upper half in such a way to watch for the two little snow boots she’d insisted on wearing this sunny day. I found her just about to slip out the outer door when I’d pulled up my pants and exited the stall. I mumbled to the other mom, looking over her shoulder from her cooing infant on the changing table, how awesome it was that she can reach doorknobs now. ‘Love when they reach that age,’ she said; she’d sent her toddler out with auntie.
After lunch, my friend wrangled my toddler into a shopping cart as only a loving friend who is not said child’s mother can. Feeling like I’d sicced my child onto her, I offered her the empty stroller to push. I’m glad she declined because the ensuing conversations between the two were gold: toddler logic and made-up language with a sense of humor. Plus, my toddler was much more enamored by a different face in front of her, keeping her in the carriage. We made it through the marketplace without incident, even through an email-accessing exchange at the register (apparently, you do need the physical card for your IKEA family account).
It was only when we went back into the bathroom that things got hairy again. This family bathroom had no stall and a better lock so I thought we were good. Next mistake. Right to the door, her little fingers expertly twisted the dead-bolt style lock – and swung the door wide to the lobby – as I sat on the toilet. Mid-business, I launched from the toilet in a modified crouch-walk, trying to scoop her up with one arm and slam the door shut as quickly as possible. My friend lifted her eyes from her phone in surprise. Child escapism, public nudity – I was trying to address both at once. Unsuccessfully. I ended up slamming the little fingers of one of her hands in the door. She buried her sobs in my shoulder while I finished some one-handed toileting, then ran her fingers under the cold, cold water of the sink.
Apart from almost driving out of the garage with the trunk open, we headed home without any other disasters. Then my phone chirped. My older two, who were walking home from the bus stop and then retrieving their sister off the elementary bus a little later, were holed up in a neighbor’s house because a freaky man on a bike had gone past them on the street. They video-chatted me once they ventured home, refusing to go out again for their younger sister. I finally convinced them to get her – stating safety in numbers, other parents at bus stop – but arrived home to angry children who felt I hadn’t validated their concerns.
They came at me as soon as I unlocked the door. We said a few words. I liberated their baby sister from the car. We said a few more. I grabbed the water bottles and travel mugs from the car. I apologized and reassured them. I made two more trips with my actual purchases. I barely had my coat off when my husband, who had arrived home in the midst of all this, called from the upstairs bathroom, “Why is there feces in the sink?”
After an entire evolution that included drain disassembly, toothbrushes, and disinfecting products, I was finally able to show off my IKEA haul, which seemed incredibly underwhelming at this point. This was an awful lot of work for some Swedish design therapy. Maybe my expectations were too high for a marathon shopping trip with a toddler. More likely, I waited far too long for a ‘day off’ and got a little more frantic with each little incident.
My kids were safe, only two of my toddler’s fingers were slightly bruised, my friend assured me my little escapee had blocked the lobby’s view of me from the waist down (she was the perfect height for that), and she and I had a lot of laughs. At the end of day, all was good. Still, I wonder whether it would’ve been a whole lot easier if I invited her over for coffee and we slapped a DVD in the player.