Craig had just offered to skip a day of work to accompany the girls and me to Montrose. The trip was a necessity; such a potentially perilous undertaking – flying solo with a two-year-old and a fresh-outta-the-womb newborn – is not assumed under any other circumstances besides necessity.
The offer of throwing away a day’s pay to escort Elle, Emme and me over mountain passes, then across blazing asphalt parking lots to the aforementioned required doctor’s appointment, spoke to my husband’s grasp of the gravity of this mission.
No, I assured him, that wouldn’t be necessary. I could take the girls to Montrose by myself. Exactly how I was going to accomplish this without losing my mind, or my wallet/cell phone/diaper bag/small child, was, of course, yet to be determined. But how else would I learn to navigate our two-kid vessel, if I never steered the Elle-Emme ship out of the driveway? How would my motherly competence in the field of all-day errand-running ever be fully realized if I submitted to his offer?
Traveling to Montrose with one child is punishment enough for not shopping locally, this I knew. There is, first, the issue of driving a car with a small child in it. Small children do not understand that retrieving lost toys or locating a dropped Goldfish cracker is not advisable while driving a car. Nor do they realize that it is not humanly possible for a chauffeur on a three-hour drive to find a means by which the sun never shines into the eyes of her passengers.
Arriving in Montrose offers little relief. Between interrupted nap times and the fact that there isn’t a potty in Aisle 7, combined with your growing realization that you might be turning into one of those short-tempered grocery-store mothers you vowed never to become, you can assume that you will accomplish approximately half of what you had originally set out to do.
I took on the Montrose mission knowing full well what it’s like to attempt the trip with just one child. This first trip with Emme in tow would be the first real test of my two-kid mothering/juggling skills.
I expected a meltdown or two. I didn’t, however, expect the first to occur before we’d even reached Sawpit.
Emme had been screaming since Society Turn; of course, in my haste to pack two children and all of their assorted gear for an all-day outing I had failed to fill her tummy just before we left. She’ll fall asleep soon enough, I kept telling myself.
“Mommy, I don’t feel good.”
“What doesn’t feel good, Elle?”
After too many not-in-time carsickness episodes over the course of Elle’s two-and-a-half years, I took her word for it. I begged that the next roadside pull-out would emerge in time.
Pull over. Unbuckle sick child No. 1. Wrench her out of the car, set her down next to a bush, tell her to throw up there. Unbuckle screaming child No. 2. Wrench her out of the car, check on child No. 1 (whose tummy is now fine, turns out.) Fiddle with shirt and bra, stick boob in child No. 2’s mouth. Tell child No. 1 not to go anywhere or else she’ll be squished like a bug.
Breathe, then carry on.
Of course we arrive 15 minutes late to the doctor’s appointment. Luckily, they take pity on us and squeeze us in.
With the doctor’s appointment, accomplished without any significant hiccups, I could have counted my blessings and headed back to Telluride. But no. I had to test my children’s limits, and my patience, further. We turned into the City Market parking lot, for what was to become the longest grocery-shopping excursion of my life.
Elle is hungry. I feel lucky that City Market offers a place to sit and eat, and so it’s there that I steer our enormous shopping cart (you know the one, kids can’t resist it; shaped like a car, twice as long as a normal cart and back-heavy to boot. With a baby car seat loaded into the basket, it is as close as I may ever come to driving a semi.)
Lunch goes as well as could be expected when feeding a two-year-old from a salad bar (pickles and Jell-o is enough lunch, isn’t it mommy?)
Then: “I have to go potty.”
I didn’t feel so lucky then, with the bathroom literally as far from our location as was possible.
Toss half-eaten salads in trash. Hoist child No. 1 into shopping cart car’s driver seat (no room anywhere else). Hustle across the store to the bathroom, avoiding slamming into other shoppers’ ankles when I can. Arrive in bathroom. Child No. 1 doesn’t need to go to the bathroom, turns out. Meanwhile, child No. 2 wakes up and is hungry.
I’m not sure if a newborn’s wail sounds any different to a mother than it does to an average grocery store shopper. But judging from the way most average grocery store shoppers scurry out of your way as if you were carrying a gremlin, I’m guessing that a newborn’s wail sounds equally jarring to anyone who can hear it. Except for the woman who doesn’t seem to notice that the baby is screaming her head off, and wants to stop you to talk about how cute she is.
I carry the howling gremlin, steer the cart with one hand, and beg the toddler to remain inside the vehicle-shaped plastic seat (cursing my earlier decision to not buckle her in). Swift as a shoplifter, I snag a bag of the treat I think will keep my toddler occupied for the longest while I nurse Emme: Baby Goldfish.
Arrive back at Salad Bar. There is one table left. In the middle of all the other tables. Park my semi-truck shopping cart. Open the bag of Baby Goldfish for child No. 1. Fiddle with shirt and bra, stick boob in child No. 2’s mouth.
Everything is quiet at our table for approximately two minutes. Then…
Child No. 1 falls backwards out of chair onto linoleum floor. Wrench boob out of child No. 2’s mouth to pick child No. 1 off the floor. Both are now yowling. Salad bar guests are traumatized.
I would have fled towards the relative sanctuary of our 100-degree car and hour-and-a-half drive home then and there, except for the knowledge that if I did desert my half-full grocery cart and shopping mission, I would have to do so as a shoplifter. Damn Baby Goldfish.
There is nothing left to do. I have no choice but to breathe, and carry on; vowing to never again attempt this mission alone.
I guess I’ll be getting used to the two-kid thing later rather than sooner.