Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Agony of the Feet (Shoe Shopping With Kids!)

I've been needing a new pair of running shoes. My old ones are, well, old, and they don't have much support left in them. Plus, a few years back they got really wet and muddy, and since then they have acquired a rather annoying, if subtle, musty smell. I'm not even remotely a runner, but I do walk quite a bit, and I've been starting to attend a local gym sporadically to work out. My feet hurt, so I decided today was the day. I would go and buy some new shoes.

Well, the thing is, I blew all of my solo time yesterday at a step aerobics class with Mary, then coffee and browsing the computers at Best Buy. Then I even went solo grocery shopping, what a luxury. So it was all Mama, all the time today while David did his thing. No problem, I figured. I even learned from my mistake the last time I attempted to buy my new running shoes with the kids--I brought my own stroller. See, Kohl's (our standard shoe-shopping first stop) has these cute little carts that combine shopping basket with stroller, and I had been planning on popping Monkey into one of those, where he'd lounge happily, and I could shop at my leisure. It always worked with The Jabberwock when he was a baby. However, last time the store was so busy that they had run out of the little carts, so suddenly I was reduced to carrying the 25 lb. back-arching wriggler around with me while searching the shoe aisles, and every time I set him down, he'd sprint off in the opposite direction from the direction his brother was sprinting. I was unsuccessful, to say the least.

This time, though, I was ready. I brought up the super-light umbrella stroller from the basement, and I was encouraged when I practice unfolded it in the living room and Monkey climbed right in, eager to be "vroom-vroomed" around the house. I was confident that he would be happily contained in the stroller, and I could actually select a pair of shoes to try on today. Heck, maybe I'd even get to try on two pairs!

We pulled into the parking spot, and everything seemed great. Both kids were smiling, talking, cooing. Then I got out the stroller. Instantly, Jabberwock began to whimper, but it wasn't until we got all the way into the front door of the store that he hit full four-year-old meltdown level.

"MY LEGS ARE TIRED!" he wailed, collapsing dramatically on the floor beside me. "I WANT TO RIDE IN ONE OF THOSE STROLLERS!" Sure enough, there was a whole double line-up of stroller carts waiting at the door. He flailed about like he was in the middle of a serious medical condition. So far, people were politely ignoring us.

I should start here by saying that gentle discipline is my ideal, but it doesn't always come automatically to me. "Well," I said, shrugging my shoulders, "I guess if your legs are so tired, you'll have an awful hard time walking over to the toy department to get those new summer toys we talked about in the car."

Cue the wailing crescendo. Some shoppers were now glancing over in annoyance or disapproval. Monkey had had enough of the coveted stroller and leaned forward as far as he could go, trying to wiggle his hips out of the seat belt. I knew that I was on borrowed time then; there is nothing short of a five point restraint that can hold my little Houdini.

"Jabber," I said, more gently now, "You know we have some errands to run. Mama's trying to find a new pair of shoes, and then we want to get over to the toy aisle and get something fun for you to play with your friends this afternoon when they come over for a picnic. Those strollers do look really cool, but I can only push one stroller at a time, and I don't want to chase Monkey all over the store. You are such a good listener, and you're already four years old, so I can trust you to walk."

He stood up then, still crying a little. "I wish I didn't have a little brother!" he spat out passionately. I gave him a hug and assured him that he loves his little brother, and that we'll go shopping sometime soon, just the two of us, and he can ride in a stroller. Drama over, we headed over to the shoe department. Monkey seemed a little more at ease once the show was rolling again.

Still, the clock was ticking, and I went into the shoe aisles with a purpose--find the pair of shoes that I wanted, and find it within two moves. Like one of those toothpick-moving puzzlers I give to my students in elective class, I had to strategize and economize: scanning prices, searching for sizes, seeking the wide width. I found a likely contender, a pair of Avias on sale for $29.99 (three days only, sale ends today!). I parked the stroller next to a bench and removed my shoes somehow while simultaneously doing the hand motions and singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider." Monkey smiled grimly and began yanking on his buckles.

The shoes were too narrow. I needed a wide width. I had just one more chance. Monkey was standing up on the foot rest and leaning outward, attempting to gain his freedom by overturning the whole stroller. Somehow, he had managed to wiggle almost all the way out of the seat belt, so I stuffed him back down in and gave him my keys to play with. "Uh-oh!" he said sweetly, and then threw my keys on the floor. I stuffed the Avias back into their box and replaced it on the shelf. I tried to get the stroller moving again quickly, but for some reason Jabberwock was lying down on the floor, blocking the aisle, our cloth shopping bag wrapped around his head so he couldn't see that we were trying to get past.

"Jabber, honey, can you get up so that I can look for another pair of shoes?"

"Just drive over me," he said.

I finally found a pair of size 7 Adidas in a wide width. They're not my favorite color, but at this point I had done three laps of the shoe department while making "vroom-vroom" noises and played patty-cake twice with both boys. I put on the shoes, took a few steps, and decided to go for it. We zoomed over to the toy aisle, bought our frisbees and bubbles and sandbox shovels, and beat it to the van.

Tonight, both boys in bed, I put on my new shoes to take my evening walk. Sigh. They're too big. I have to go back. Worst part? They don't have the half size smaller in this shoe. Oh, well, at least I figured it out before I walked outside in them!

Jabberwock kindly took a picture of my new shoes!

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