There is no place on earth that as closely resembles kiddie hell as the fabric store. I know this because I remember wanting to bludgeon myself at the mere mention of a trip to the fabric store when I was a kid. It didn’t matter how awesome the finished product was going to be, shopping for the raw materials was enough to make me completely lose it.
Fabric store trips always take too long and the stores are too full of cool things that you’re not allowed to touch. The adult fabric shopper always needs to look at everything twice or a hundred times, feel the textures, match colors, go back for various notions several times, and stand in line at the cutting counter for sometimes several days, depending on how good the sales are that day. It is mind-numbing for small people.
But I still take my small people with me to the fabric store because I’m apparently their fulltime caregiver from now until many years into the future, and I always think that this time will be different. This time I will be super fast. This time they’ll behave. This time the thing I’m gonna make is SO COOL that they’ll be dazzled by the very idea of it.
Last week I took them to JoAnn to get the supplies to make their pirate costumes. I made several major errors in judgment. I made the fabric store the last of several errands. I took them shopping at rush hour, right before dinner time without giving them naps. Magoo fell asleep 5 minutes before we pulled into the parking lot and I woke him up to take them inside.
Once inside the fabric store, it became quickly apparent that things were not going to go smoothly. I was hungry and cranky and Laylee decided it would be fun to hold on to the side of the cart and gently push it to one side as I was trying to steer it along the aisles. I’d ask her to stop, and she would for a second, and then she'd jerk it to the other side or just start bumping against it in sort of a pulsing rhythm. Very nice.
The whole trip took about an hour and a half and cost WAY more money than any costumes should ever cost under any circumstance ever. At the cutting counter I suddenly realizing that the skirt fabric for Laylee’s costume alone cost $30. I put the fabric back and explained to Laylee that it was too expensive. If she’d had a fit, I could have handled it. Instead she stared at me with a look of agony and sadness and silently her face turned red and tears began to pour from her eyes. Slowly one by one they dripped off her red face and she stared at me, pitifully sniffling.
She followed me around like this for the next 20 minutes as I looked for notions while Magoo’s arm periodically shot out “accidentally” knocking things to the floor. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry Mom,” he would say as he positioned himself to do it again. Laylee’s pushing of the cart continued and we were all starving.
Rarely have my nerves been that shot and as the cashier began to ring up what turned out to be a cataclysmic financial event, my fuse became so short it was barely visible. And then Magoo reached out to the pile of supplies on the counter and yanked out the bottom cut of fabric. “This one’s mine!” he announced happily as everything went tumbling everywhere.
Before I could even think about what I was doing, I grabbed a fist full of notions, ribbons, elastic and such and whacked him over the top of the head like a spoiled two-year-old. He looked up at me with betrayal in his eyes, his mouth popped open and he started to bawl, “YOU ARE NOT VERY NICE. TO. MEEEEEE!”
At least 5 people were staring at me, the incriminating notions still in my hand. And I froze.
Now, I have never used physical means to discipline my kids. I have never spanked them, not even a swat on the bum. When I see other people smack their kids at the grocery store, I always think, “Wow. If he’d hit his kid like that in the checkout line, what must he do at home?”
I’m sure that’s what some of the bystanders were thinking in JoAnn. The answer to that question in my case is “nothing.” Seriously. In five years I haven’t lifted a finger – and there have been times I wanted to. But in that perfect storm of frustration, I completely lost all impulse control. We’re both lucky I wasn’t holding a mallet.
Right then and there I apologized to him for what I’d done, looking into the eyes on that face that could melt the coldest heart. I adore that kid but I’m constantly on him to control himself, to behave. Just then in that fabric store, I felt like we had more in common than I sometimes want to admit.