Shopping with preschoolers can be fun. Shopping for clothing for myself accompanied by the girls, however, is more like a military operation than any kind of enjoyable experience. It requires speed, agility, intelligence, and bribery.
Step one: (while still in the car) “We are here to buy jeans for Mama. There will be NO touching of the items in the store. You MUST stay with me. If you behave, we will go see the puppies at the pet store.” Firmness and bribery work wonders.
Step two: Arrive at the store just as they are unlocking the door, so we are the only customers. I refuse to have my kids ruin anyone else’ shopping experience. Nobody wants my kids asking them why they want lacey underwear, or voicing their opinion on the color of bra they have picked out.
Step three: I go directly to the wall of jeans, ignoring any and all other clothing displays. This is no time to browse. We are on a mission, people! No, don’t look at the cute new tops in the center of the store. Pretend you have blinders, woman, and go for the denim.
Step four: With one hand holding on to Ellie’s hood, quickly scan the bootleg jeans’ tags for the size I think I am, repeating to Laurel that no, she can’t hide behind the dresses on the rack next to us.
Step five: Loudly announce that we have to go back to the fitting rooms so I can try on my jeans, thus alerting the store employee and my children that we are moving into Phase Two.
Step six: “You can use the handicapped room, ma’am.” Thank you, kind salesperson. You obviously have children of your own. Now we have containment.
Step seven: Encourage the girls to amuse themselves by looking in the three-way mirror while I try on the first pair of jeans. They are too big. Crap.
Step eight: Lock the kids in the fitting room and run back out to the jeans wall in my socks, frantically scan the tags for a smaller size, and run back before Ellie realizes that she can crawl under the door and escape. Too late. Ellie is missing. I hear her giggling from the next fitting room. Which is locked. I coax her back out with the promise of puppies later. Listen to sales lady laugh at me.
Step nine: Get my old jeans back on, look for my shoes. Where the hell are my shoes? Laurel, get back here! Why are you wearing my shoes? Where are YOUR shoes? No, Ellie, get back in here!
Step ten: Take my new jeans up the counter. Yell at the girls to GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW while answering the nice sales lady’s questions. Yes, I have a charge card. Yes, I have a coupon. No, I don’t want you to order another pair for me in the lighter color I really wanted. I don’t have time for that. No, I don’t want to spend five more dollars so I can save ten. Nothing in this store costs only five dollars. IF YOU TWO DON’T GET BACK HERE RIGHT THIS INSTANT WE ARE GOING STRAIGHT HOME.
Step eleven: Push purse up to shoulder and shopping bag onto wrist. Grab the girls’ hands, and head for the doors. “Mama, I have to go potty!” Of course you do.
Step twelve: Beg sales person to let us use the employee-only bathroom. Thank them profusely. Pick up Ellie so she can’t run off while we wait for Laurel to go potty. Hold her as she struggles and yells “DOWN” over and over. Ask Laurel if she needs help. No. Try to get Ellie to calm down by dancing around and being silly. Get smacked in the face. Ask Laurel if she is done yet. No. Try swinging Ellie around in circles to amuse her. “DOWN DOWN DOWN!” Laurel, you need to be done now! I need help! Put Ellie down and try to keep ahold of her hand while propping the bathroom door open with my foot and reaching inside to push the soap dispenser for Laurel. Lose grip on Ellie.
Step thirteen: Catch Ellie before she can pull down an entire display of necklaces, grab Laurel’s hand, and head out to the car. “Mama, what about the puppies?!”
Step fourteen: Go to pet store and look at puppies. Remember how much easier life was when we just had dogs. Wonder if the store would take a trade.