It is well-known that when I leave my children at home to run my errands, they trash the house, use up all the internet, and have food fights. Grounding them does not seem to make a difference. A grounded teen will sneak onto the computer to update her facebook status, mentioning how she is grounded, knowing full well I will see the update.
As one of them said recently, "What can you do to me, really? You can't beat us, you still have to feed us, and you still have to let us live with you."
This enraged me because, for the most part, it is true.
I can take away everything but oxygen, but it won't work unless the child buys-in to the grounding. And if they don't, what will I do? Ground them more?
I decided I would solve this by taking them allll with me, on my errands today. These included: going to the Newspaper to place an ad, mailing a few letters and a package, going to the store to buy items for a baby shower cake, and then at the last minute, Sadie wanted me to bring to her the prom dress that had just arrived, and the Banana Costume.
All was going fair to poor on the way to Walmart. Remembering that hungry kids behave much worse, I stopped to get food. A few bean burritos later, I was leaving the girls in the Walmart parking lot, and taking Harris in with me to choose a car to put on the baby shower cake.
While deciding between a wood-paneled Dodge Magnum and a 64 Impala, I heard running flip-flops slapping on the tile floor. I looked up to see Arden run past the end of the aisle. I stood up and saw that she was chasing Paige, who was wearing the Banana Costume.
This meant my new digital camera and my laptop were in the unlocked van, unguarded!
"Arden! Paige! ARDEN!"
Both turned and looked at me, but ran away, much like a dog that has slipped its leash.
I followed the sound of the running, and found them in housewares, posing for pictures with Walmart customers!
Arden was closest to me, so I sharply called Arden's name, and told her they were to get back to the van, at once. I reminded her of the camera and laptop. She called to Paige and said they had to go back.
I returned to the toy department to find a frantic Harris, because he suddenly could not locate his mother. I calmed him and chose the Impala.
We went to the other side of the store to get candy items that could be used as alien tentacles. While looking at gummi worms, and rainbow twizzlers, Harrison said, "There goes Tess."
"You just saw Tess?"
"Yeah. She was chasing Paige. Paige was dressed as a banana."
I'd had enough. I walked to the check-out, looking out for Paige the entire time. I did not see her, so I assumed she'd run back to the van.
When we came out of the store, Tess was in the van, but I saw Arden running across the parking lot, pushing a banana-clad Paige in a shopping cart, going in a direction away from the van.
I got in the van and instructed Harrison to quickly close the door. I threw the locks and began backing out of my spot.
Paige and Arden quickly appeared at the door and began begging to be let into the van. Without a look back, I drove off, leaving a crying Arden and Banana Paige.
"We aren't really going to leave them?!" Tess and Harris began saying.
"Yup. I need kids that are well-behaved. Those are not it. And Tess, you should be with them, for running through the store. What were you thinking?"
"I did it because Paige wanted me to."
"Wanted you to what?"
"Run through the store, chasing her, while she was dressed as a banana."
"And you thought this was a good idea why?!"
"I'm not sure... It made sense when she said it."
I drove to Joey's, and no one was home. Well, Joey's cousin was there, wondering where everyone else was.
I tried calling Sadie on her cell phone. Five times. As well as text her. No response.
So I left her a voicemail about going out of my way, and being fresh out of nice, and how she would have to crawl on her knees all the way to the house if she ever hoped to see the prom dress, and how I could not loan her the Banana Costume, because Paige was currently wearing it while being abandoned at a shopping center, and I had no plans to retrieve it.
At some point, Joey's "turn off the hard road" driveway jarred some sense (or was it stupidity?) into me and I drove back to the shopping center. As I pulled into the parking lot, Arden called from the Target phone and asked if I was going to pick them up. I told her I was in the parking lot, and to find me.
Once in the van, Paige declared it the "best day ever", while Arden was crying about being left at the shopping center, where she could have been kidnapped, and wondered aloud what kind of mother would leave her children in such peril.
"You should do a better job of parenting us!" she shouted.
"Tell me how! Please! What should I do? Ground you? You just do what you want, anyway. Beat you? Is that the answer? I leave you home, and you make messes, fight, and use all the internet. I take you with me, and look what happens! You think there are books on this stuff? I looked! There are no chapters that address sharting, or using all the internet, or running through Walmart in a banana suit! You think there's a chapter on what to do when you find a bowl of peanut butter, jelly and milk that's been mixed up and left under the sofa for god-knows-how long? Did I skip the chapter on what to do when your kids have food fights, won't clean up the mess they made, and then have the nerve to come into the kitchen at 3am and fix themselves bowls of cereal? Tell me how, Arden!" (I was screaming by this point, )
"What is the best way to parent you?"
I still had one more stop before home. I drove 80mph on the interstate with the windows down (it was a cold spring day) and the Footloose soundtrack set on "Max Vol". By the time I got to the final store, I had calmed down slightly.
I was a mess from crying, so I kept my sunglasses on to hide my Tammy Faye face. I once again took Harrison into the store with me. He tried picking out toys for his sisters, but I wouldn't let him. He even offered to buy them with his own money, but I refused.
I saw Helen at this store. Perhaps it was the sunglasses, perhaps it was the mascara lines on my cheeks? Whatever the reason, she did not stop to chat.
At any rate, her kids began getting rowdy and I heard her say, "This is not a playground!"
"Yeah", I said softly, "Wait til they are sprinting through the store in a banana suit!"
At home, I began making the cake. Paige approached and asked how she could help.
I hugged her and said, "I did not beat you today, because it will be funny, tomorrow."