I blame my wife for what happened.
She makes going out and getting things done with our children – Emma, a 23-month-old-girl and Jake, a six-month-old-boy – seem easy. I needed her to know I could do everything she did with the kids – everything except for the breastfeeding and, you know, the birthing, that is.
That’s why I started taking both of my little gremlins out in public well before I was ready. If only something had gone terribly wrong during those early outings, then maybe, just maybe, I could’ve avoided the Wegmans incident that occurred on December 2, 2017.
But everything always went smoothly for me. So smoothly, in fact, that I started to believe carting around two children under two was no big deal – even for a dude who’s so absent-minded and disorganized he once sped off with the nozzle of the fuel pump still firmly embedded in his gas tank.
The comments didn’t help, either. I can’t tell you how many times people stopped me in the grocery store or Walgreen’s to comment on how impressive it was for me to handle both of my own children in a public setting by myself.
“Whoa, you certainly got your hands full today. I give you a lot of credit for what you’re doing right there,” random strangers would say to me, ignoring the countless moms around us who, to these strangers, warranted no credit for doing the exact same thing.
Between the lack of problems and the ego-inflating comments, I was downright cocky about my parenting skills when I set out to the local Wegmans on December 2, 2017, to pick up some wine for the evening.
I walked through the automatic doors into that beautiful utopia of overpriced food and booze with my daughter clinging to my left hand and my son in his car seat and safely stowed away inside the cart and thought, “Why does everybody think this is so hard?”
When I described the events of the day to a couple of friends ( both moms) they had the same reaction. “Your first mistake was getting a coffee. You can’t be strolling with two kids and enjoying a coffee. It doesn’t work like that.”
Indeed, it doesn’t. As I was waiting in line to pay and sipping on the coffee I’d purchased on a whim, Emma grabbed a bottle of wine from the display rack next to us. As I went to grab it from her, I spilled some coffee in front of me. Luckily, I had some napkins in my pocket, so I bent down to clean up my mess. While I was on my knees cleaning the spilled coffee, Emma screamed “Bye!!!!” and started booking it toward the end of the store in a full-out toddler sprint.
I thought briefly about leaving the cart (and my son) in line – the way you’d leave a chair next to a curb to claim a parking spot – while I went to get Emma, but decided against it and awkwardly backed out of the line with the cart to chase down my daughter.
Despite her head-start and the burden of the cart, I had no trouble catching up to Emma. After all, she’s not even two. A toddler’s run, much like the movements of Congress, is composed of wild, dramatic motions and gestures with little actual forward motion.
Convincing her to come back with me, however, was a bit trickier. Eventually, I just had to scoop up her inconsolable, flailing body in one hand and push the cart with the other. By this point, Jake had awoken and wasn’t happy there wasn’t a boob within striking distance. Together, in a cacophony of little people sorrow, Emma and Jake wailed from the soda aisle – where I’d caught up with Emma – past the take-out section and all the way through the line in the booze section, which had grown considerably since I’d been gone.
I managed to get the crying to stop simply by asking Emma if she wanted to pay. She started laughing when she handed the check-out woman my card, which caused Jake to start smiling and I thought the ordeal was over.
But on the way out, the bump of the cart on the automatic door strip was enough to jostle the wine I had placed in the spot normally used for seating children and a bottle of Cabernet slipped through a leg hole and shattered all over the little entranceway separating the freedom of the outside world from the cruel, hellish obstacle course inside Wegmans.
“F-U-C-K-K-K-K!” I screamed, really sticking the K, in a voice my daughter hadn’t heard before – at least not in such close proximity to me. Instantly, she started wailing again. A teenage worker who had been in the entranceway tried to defuse the situation. “Don’t worry about that sir, I’ll take care of it for you,” the kid said, rushing to kick the giant pieces of glass out of the way.
I mumbled thanks, and the kid must’ve noticed something alarming in my demeanor. “Umm, sir, are you, like, okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine but you know …” I shrugged and walked away without finishing the sentence.
“… but you know, this is a lot harder than I thought,” is how it would’ve ended.