Today was the first day since my littlest started kindergarten that I found myself running errands alone. Did you hear that? ALONE.
You guys. I have waited for this day!
I shopped leisurely. I peacefully made my way through Costco without navigating my cart to every single sample station. I strolled through Trader Joe’s at my own pace without anyone accidentally pushing their kid-cart into my heels. I tried on clothes at Target and even perused the home goods aisle, because it turns out you can accomplish a lot more shopping when no one is constantly whining that they’re thirsty, no one has to use every single public restroom they see, and no one is asking you for the 17th time if you will buy them that package of twisty straws.
Like I said, I’ve waited a long time for this day.
I thought that I was ready for my last tiny tender to go off and join the ranks at big kid school. I really did. I thought I would drop him off and have to refrain from shouting “Bye Felicia!” out the car window as I drove away. I thought I would be high-fiving and celebrating with my other mom friends as we drank lattes and played Gin Rummy all morning. (If you can’t tell by my fantasies, I’m a real party animal.)
Instead I barely made it out of his classroom on the first day before the tears started dripping down onto my sweater. Instead I went home and cried with real sadness while I mourned the end of an era. Instead of enjoying my chance to run errands alone, I just got really sad.
Everywhere I went today I saw little kids and their moms laughing, hugging, and being generally adorable. I didn’t even see any of the naughty kids, which is saying something, because usually they’re everywhere.
In Target I saw a toddler riding in the front of the cart while she leaned against her mother, hugging her neck and twirling her hair. I stared a little bit too long at them, blinked back the tears that were threatening to surface, and bravely pretended to be interested the new Nate Berkus collection one aisle over.
In Costco I caught a mom acting goofy and pretending to speak with one of those giant stuffed bears while her son giggled uncontrollably. I leaned over the front of my cart, watching the scene unfold like I was an audience of one at a broadway show. When the little boy caught my eye, I gave him a silly smile. He made a silly face back. I swallowed hard and wondered what my kids faces were doing at that very moment. Were they laughing? Were they nervous? Were they having trouble getting their little straw into their juice box? Who would tie Jaxon’s shoes for PE class? He’s shy- what if he’s too embarrassed to ask for help? If anything, my worrying provided a momentary distraction from all the accidental staring I’d been doing.
At Trader Joe’s I wound up behind a super cute hipster couple while they patiently walked at the pace of their super cute hipster toddler and let her put all the items in her tiny little cart. They chatted and laughed. The little girl smiled at me over a bag of noodles and I smiled back at her a little too eagerly. Then I had to remind myself to rearrange my face and keep walking before the cute hipster parents noticed that lady that kept eyeballing their kid from the wine section.
Every time I saw sweetness unfolding, I sort of froze and smiled dumbly at them for a little bit longer than what is considered socially acceptable. They would inevitably feel someone staring, as most normal people do, and then they’d acknowledge me with a strained kindness as if to say, “Look lady, you seem harmless enough, but it’s getting weird. Move along.”
I couldn’t help it. I knew I was being a weirdo and I couldn’t even stop myself.
Sometimes when you’re sad it makes you a little socially awkward for a while.
So the next time you see a woman of birthing age in the cereal aisle absent-mindedly clutching a box of Frosted Flakes to her chest and intermittently smiling maniacally then staring forlornly at your toddler, cut her a little slack, eh? She’s probably grieving. She’ll get over it in a week’s time when she remembers how awesome it is to shop alone. Until then, just ignore her.
* This is Day 6 of a 31 Day series on Keeping It Real. You can find all of the posts in this series here. I hope you follow along and join the conversation! *