Dear Lady I Don’t Know:
Oh, hi. You probably can’t hear me over the screaming toddler in this stroller. Did you spring yourself without your children from the jail called home? Good for you! Or, do you not have children? I see kid stuff in your cart, so probably you do. Or, does it just pain you and make you frown that hard when you hear a child cry regardless of reason or a parent’s attempts to calm him? I get it. I get that you probably left home hoping to avoid this scene. You probably left home because of the screams in your own home. I get that you have tried to just move away from us, move on to something else on your list. I also get that you can still hear my child screaming nine aisles over. You should buy headphones. Also, avert your eyes because you roll em, I swole em. Swole has never been a word other than on every playground since the invention of the blacktop.
Listen, sometimes kids act their age and there’s nothing we can do to change it. Today, in this Target, my two-year-old is decidedly neck deep in his twoness. I have not hit him. I have not taken something from him. I have not walked by the toy aisle pretending he has suddenly been struck blind and can’t see the toys (or that he has suddenly lost the sense of smell because I’m telling you, toddlers can SMELL ALL THE TOYS). I have not told him no about something. I have not accidentally rammed the cart into a display hard enough to snap his head back (today). He has eaten and he is dry. Sometimes? He’s just two.
Your judgy, rolly, glarey eyes mean nothing to me. Believe me, if I can listen to him scream like this and not react, your eyes ain’t penetrating nothin’.
Your smirky mouth twisted up all smirkily? Yeah, no effect, sorry. I almost want to laugh at you thinking that your smirk is going to make me abandon my absolute need to get Simply Lemonade at nearly $1 less than in the grocery store.
Your exasperated sigh doesn’t even register on my Quick, Get Your Kid Out of Here; You’re Embarrassing All the Black People Meter.
Then there’s your dramatic, blinkless stare. Suddenly, stranger lady, we are locked in a heated eye battle. You are daring me to look away. I cannot look away because then you’d think I give a shit about your staring at me. You want me to respond to this child but I have to keep staring so that I win the unspoken you blinked first game. And guess what? It’s just gonna get worse because if I continue to ignore him, if I continue to pretend as though I can’t hear him screaming about or for whatever the hell it is he is screaming about or for, HE WILL LOSE HIS SHIT. Oh, it’s going to be so much fun for you. You’re welcome!
I know you’re wondering why I’m ignoring him. I’m not; you are! Why won’t you help this crying boy? Look at his face. He needs three tissues: one for his eyes, one for his nose/mouth region, and one to clutch like a pained old man at a funeral. You are failing the youth of today with your inaction.
I think that you think that I am enjoying his screaming. Do you? I mean, this boy is hollering like I have him suspended upside down on a clothesline with just one clothespin keeping him on. By his penis. So yes, I’m enjoying this (if today were opposite day!). There is nothing wrong with him. I just determined through his hyperventilating sobs that he is screaming because he wants out of the stroller. But I am in no mood to chase him from aisle to aisle as he threatens to knock over all the tampons. I’m sure you have multiple suggestions on what I could have done differently, or what I could do now to make you check the I Had A Pleasant Scream-Free Time box on your imaginary Target shopping experience rating card. I don’t need your advice or your eye rolls. I don’t need to overhear your exaggerated attempt at whispering into your phone, “It’s like Bebe’s kids up in here.”
Look, lady. Normally, I really would leave. Normally, I would scoop this boy up, hug him, offer him something totally inappropriate like salt and vinegar chips because he likes them. I would stroke his head and wait for him to calm. I just might carry him then, have one of the girls push his stroller. But today? Today sucked. If I could quit my job and not have to resort to working the pole, albeit boobless and likely making no money because of it, I would. But, I can’t. And we need the remaining school supplies tonight. And I’m too tired to take them home and come back. And I’m hungry and thirsty, and I have to pee. Today, I’m giving myself a pass. I never give myself a pass, not when it comes to irritating other people. So, even as this boy screams and snot is glistening his entire face because he has smeared snot all over his face OMG WHERE ARE THE TISSUE, I am allowing myself to annoy you and everyone from the card aisle to electronics because sometimes two-year-olds are assholes. Just like you.