I have to go to the store and get milk, simple enough task, but my husband is home and that complicates the matter somewhat. Our two year old Samuel, will want to come with me. He'll also want to stay home with Daddy. A parental dilemma waiting to erupt.
I stand at the kitchen window while Samuel sits on the bench next to me putting small coins back in the money box and then demanding that I empty them out again so he can begin his routine over. I watch the rain spatter at the window listening to the alternate chink of it's drops and the coins hitting the bottom of the money box, knowing that I will again be called to emptying duty before long.
Broken from my trance I look across at my husband Joseph, who sits on the lounge watching Titanic, and mouth the words "I have to go to the shops." Irritated he mouths back "What for?" "Milk" is my silent response.
He's irritated because we both know this will upset the peace that's descended upon our house this afternoon. It's rare for Sam to play contentedly alone, and Joseph is enjoying his movie.
Taking a slow, deliberate breath I look at Sam and he catches my eye. Those stunning, huge, brown eyes looking at me with expectation -- eyes just like Daddy's. I sigh, and then "Hey sweetie, having fun? Mommy's going to the shops, do you want to come with me?"
"NO!" he boldly proclaims. I look at Joseph who shrugs and I slowly pick up my keys and bag.
Turning the door knob slowly, I jar open the front door with it's cream back and cracked burgundy front and cringe as I hear the wail begin "M-O-M-M-Y!!!!"
Ugh! Here we go, "OK, want to come with Mommy now?"
"YES! Shops please."
"OK Mr Monster, jump down and we'll go the the shops!"
Prying the door open again, taking a breath, knowing what's about to come.
Halfway in and halfway out the door, Sam screams "WANT DADDY!"
And here we sit, want Daddy, want Mommy -- Daddy and Mommy going in different directions. After 5 minutes of this dilemma playing itself out in the mind, and very loud voice, of our toddler I finally pull out my trump card, "Mommy will get you a surprise."
Sam looks up at me, eyebrows high, eyes sparkling with anticipation, "Chocolate?" he asks.
"Maybe, Come with me and we'll see if they have any."
And he does, readily climbing into the car, waving a vigorous goodbye to Daddy with a smile and a wink proudly announcing, "Bye, Bye Daddy. Get chocolate now.". As bold and proud as you please.
As I drive to the stores I wonder how this happened. In a void of time between the pregnancy test turning pink and this moment, I've allowed myself to slip into this routine of bribery and treats just to perform the most mundane tasks of life in peace. I cannot do the grocery shopping without first indulging Sam in a milkshake and donut, driving past McDonalds is a nightmare and so I drive the long way so as to avoid it or we go in. Depending on the time frame I have to get to where I'm going.
Buying milk means also buying chocolate of some kind or, on a hot day, a popsicle. Picking up the paper on the way home means an ice-cream or small junk toy -- with which my car is lined.
How did this happen? This isn't the kind of parent I was going to be. This isn't the kind of diet I want my son to have and this wasn't what I had in mind for basic trips to the store for the rest of my life.
Somewhere, somehow -- I've slipped into this routine and I don't like it. But what scares me more is the process involved in ceasing it, the firm and confident "No chocolate" or "No toy" or, heaven forbid "No McDonalds, we're just driving past." I'm not sure I have the energy.
And so, driving to the store for my milk and regular chocolate hostage -- held for the price of peace -- the guilt sets in. I am a bad mother, or if not bad, at least not that great. Who would allow their child this luxury every trip to the store, if only the store stocked healthy snacks, maybe then it wouldn't be so bad. And it goes on.
When we arrive and get my milk and allow Sam his treat I think that maybe tomorrow I'll start to tame the pattern, if I get a good nights sleep. If I get through the night without a toddler waking at 2am and then 4am and then again for the day with engines running full pace at 6am.
I approach the counter just slightly ahead of another mother who loads her goods to the counter next to mine -- milk, chocolate bar, lollipop complete with spinning Buzz Lightyear holder and a packet of Star Wars potato chips -- while her three children stand dutifully behind her.
Sam eyes them, I look at the mother and smile. We take our chocolate hostages to our respective cars both smiling, knowingly, at the other.
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