There are few things I hate more than marketing with two children. I have avoided it like I do public toilets, only relenting in dire circumstances. Today was one of those times. Target alone is my Zen; Target with children is a prisoner of war camp. But I was out of everything, my refrigerator was barren and I had resorted to giving TIT old cans of formula for the last two days when I was struck down with a virus and out of milk. I had no choice. I readied myself with a cup of black coffee (because I was out of cream) and a mantra chant to provide me strength to survive Superfresh with two kids.
The Commander cannot leave the house these days without dressing in full Star Wars regalia. Clad in his Jedi robe, his lightsaber hanging from his Nike shorts he filled the top of TIT’s stroller with his arsenal of weapons. “I need my other water gun,” he wailed as I tried to strap a feisty TIT into the stroller. “I need the blue gun! Zac needs a gun. He needs one too, Mommy!” I focus on the task at hand, a rather simple on of just getting out of the house with my sanity and two kids in tow and I try to ignore he requests for weaponry and satiate it with an ice pop, one of the only food items in the house.
I take no list and think surely I can pull it all together when we get there. Just the basics, I tell myself. Nothing fancy, no crock-pot dinner tonight, we will dine on microwavable delectables. I am happy these days with hummus on some Triscuits but I was out of that too, so it would have come down to macaroni all around. The walk to the market was fine and I high-five myself mentally that I have accomplished walking five blocks with one kid in a stroller and one destroying pigeons and squirrels in his wake with an electronic lightsaber. But all bets are off when the doors to Superfresh swing open and the Commander sees the coveted and all too present vending machines pushing crappy tattoos and plastic balls for a quarter. “Can I have a ball? I want a green ball. I can use it to destroy the angry birds. I want that ball,” he says pointing to a swirly green ball deep in the middle of the machine. And if it was only a quarter for him to shut up, I’d gladly pay the sum and continue on with my marketing while he’d inevitably bounce the ball behind a stack of feminine products which would cause me to search on my hands and knees through Kotex boxes to locate said ball. But these people who stack these vending machines know better and the ball he wants, the prized swirly ball is not the one, which is going to come out. With my luck, it would be a pink princess ball, which would send the Commander into fits of hysteria. So I say No to the ball which then sets the tone to the rest of my shopping experience.
I want this to be quick. I want to grab a gallon of milk, some cream, a few vegetables and some odds and ends. I want to be in and out in under 10 minutes without any carnage and without any catastrophes. But I am sure we all know how this story is going to end.
I make it to the produce aisle, but not before grabbing TIT a few snacks along the way to buy his silence. So while he is munching on some dried cherries, I take all of 30 seconds to inspect some blueberries when I hear TIT scream. I turn to find the Commander unloading a full water gun on his brother. The Commander is laughing his ass off as his brother is being drenched in a water gun filled with Washington Square fountain dysentery-laden water. I am disappointed not because TIT is crying and wet and I should feel bad for him, but more so for that fact that now I definitely need to bathe him after he has been shot up with water that is a bathtub for the city’s homeless. “PUT THE GUN DOWN,” I scream at the Commander. I scream loudly because I have to be heard over his convulsing giggles. Every purveyor of fruit drops the melon that they are holding and looks our way and I realize that shouting “put down the gun,” in a crowded supermarket may be just as bad as screaming “fire” in a crowded theater. With my head hung low, I grab the Commander by his wrist and rip gun from his sticky little fingers and toss it under the stroller. “You cannot shoot your brother. You don’t shoot babies in supermarkets.” People are staring but I have already, 7 minutes into this journey, reached the “I don’t give a fuck” stage.
Undeterred the Commander moves on to a different weapon and is a few feet ahead of us making lightsaber swooshes to the pineapple display. In a pathetic attempt to regain my composure and standing as a decent mother with other shoppers, I ask the Commander what type of fruit he wants in his lunchbox this week. “I don’t want fruit. Fruit sucks. I want fruit gummies.” It is then I realize that the Commander is wearing his shoes on the wrong feet. I would stop to address, but I fear the looks I would get if anyone caught the stench of his shoes when I removed them from his feet. “Max, your shoes are on wrong,” I say. “Do you want to go and change them?” He looks down at his feet and then up at me. “Why? This is how I like it.” So I decide it’s not worth it and let him keep wearing them since he seems to be walking just fine.
I had managed to get through the produce department and was working my way over to dairy when TIT became disenchanted with the dried cherries. Rather than handing them back to me, he dumps the bag out all over the floor. I try to pile them up, kicking them into a pile in aisle 2, but the Commander has gotten a few aisles away and is trying to get something on a high shelf. “Mommy!!! Mommy. Mommy???” he is wailing from afar. I find him in the chips aisle trying to reach for a bag of Lays on the top-shelf. TIT gets in on the action and is yelping and gesturing towards the Pirates Booty that seems to be the better choice. So I grab a bag, bust it open and dole out to both boys. The savages are momentarily tamed and I take the opportunity to grab some milk, cream and yogurt.
I have filled the entire under-carriage of the stroller with a week’s worth of groceries and am ready to check out before I press my luck and try to recall any forgotten items in a final sweep of the market. But checkout is the hardest part of this journey and I had to time it correctly. I needed to make sure I wasn’t behind an Extreme Couponing contestant or anyone who was going to need any extra assistance. Hoping I picked the right line, I bend over to start unloading my haul onto the conveyor belt. TIT had been relatively peacefully once he was mauling a huge bag or Pirates Booty and the Commander was fighting Battle Droids and Storm Troopers right in front of the cereal aisle. I begin to place the bagged apples on the belt when I get rammed in the butt with a lightsaber from behind. Shocked that I am being anally attacked in the checkout line at Superfresh I jump up at lightening speed, hitting my head on the handle of the stroller only to turn and find the Commander in the “force push” position wanting to battle me. “Let’s fight,” he challenges me. “I lightsabered you, Mommy. You need to fall down and die.” Clearly, I wanted to at that moment but I couldn’t because now TIT had discovered my other favorite part to supermarkets: checkout lane candy. I look over and he has covered himself in the stroller with M & Ms and Twix Bars and it trying to tear open the wrappers. “Mommy, Mommy. You need to lie down on the floor and pretend you are dead. Lie down. Scream, pretend you are bleeding and your guts are coming out.” He is yelling loudly, but not loud enough to drown out TIT’s “OPEN! OPEN.”
I chose to do neither; and clean the diabetic shock-inducing buffet off TIT and try to strong arm the lightsaber from the Commander. “Do you have your loyalty card?” the checker asks oblivious my own personal hell which is happening feet away. TIT goes back for a second swipe at the candy and refuses to take no for an answer. He has now inched his way forward in his seat and is standing and trying to wiggle free from the harness to get the gum. He manages to snag a package of Mentos and looks at it quizzically. “Put it back. I am serious,” I say to him. He ignores me as he always does and starts making lightsaber noises and slashing the credit card machine to his left. “Paper or plastic?” the checker asks me again as he is bagging the groceries. Do I really give a rat’s ass? Plastic, paper, garbage bags? I don’t care. Just bag it fast so I can get the F out of here before all hell breaks loose.
I make it out of the store and survive the walk a few blocks, as I am repeatedly wacked with a lightsaber. TIT refuses to stay in his stroller. He is hysterical and has managed to work free from his restraints. So I stop to adjust and realize that I am going to have no choice but to carry him the remainder of the way. I reach in to untangle his leg which sends my precariously balanced stroller flying. TIT was balancing the weight of the groceries hanging off the back and when I removed him the entire stroller tips backwards, dumping out half my groceries on the ground. No one stops to help as I am trying to catch rolling fruit and contain two toddlers. “Mommy? Mommy. Can you put Zac down for a minute? Can we have a water gun fight before we go home?” Mommy, can I have one of those? Can you open that box? Open it. Open it.” Amidst the chaos, the Commander sees a box of Blue Bunny ice cream cones and thinks at this moment on the street; his brother shoeless and wailing and my groceries spread across a cross walk, it is a perfect time for a fucking ice cream cone and water gun battle.
As I throw every last item I find on the ground into the bin on the stroller, I notice a ball of mozzarella cheese and a wedge of Brie in TIT’s seat. He had managed to pilfer some items from the store and hide it behind himself in the seat. Over the years, my children have managed unwittingly shoplift a large array of odd items in our travels. Anything stroller level is fair game and many times winds up tucked behind a guilty toddler. I think, for a very brief second, about going back to return the items. It would be the right thing to do and as a good mother who is trying to teach my kids good things, I should take back the cheese. I think this for all of six seconds until the Commander slaps me again with the lightsaber. So I am sorry Superfresh on 5th Street, IOU. And I do promise to repay you the next time I market peacefully alone without my children.