A couple months ago I was running ragged, trying to check items off my endless to-do list, when I decided I would use an hour of free time to hit Target for toilet paper and Scotch tape. This was not a wise plan for two reasons: I had my four-year-old with me and it was 2:30, nap time. We had exactly one half hour to shop before we needed to get back in the car and drive to my daughter's school, at least a 20 minute drive from where we were. Her school lets out at 3:45.
My son convinced me to wander the toy section but I negotiated with him to get my two items first. I checked my phone for the time. 3:00. We needed to leave soon. I gave him 10 minutes to ogle the toy trains, but I started feeling anxious and gave him the 5-minute warning. Then a minute later, I gave him the 2-minute warning. Parents do this. They take advantage of the fact that four-year-olds can't tell time and don't know the difference between 10 minutes and 2 minutes. It's sneaky and I feel a little ashamed admitting this. Toby balked. "Just one more minute!" he cried. My tactic with Toby is to a.) keep my voice quiet, especially in public places like Target and b.) walk away. He does not call my bluff because he definitely does not want to be left. Only, this time I didn't count on the tired factor upping his resolve. I walked and stayed quiet. He stayed put and screamed, "One more minute!" I turned and gently said, "No, we need to get your sister." I walked past the electronics and into automotive. He stayed put and screamed louder, "One more minute!" People stared at me and I felt like a winner. I eventually had to pick him up screaming and crying. I may have bribed him with a lollipop if he quieted down. It was a disaster.
What I learned from this awesome trip to Target was this: I set him up to fail. I created this mess. Toby was acting like a four-year-old, an exhausted, frustrated four-year-old. Knowing my odds were against me, I chose to put my son in an impossible scenario that resulted in both of us feeling hurt and angry. Never mind I got to check an item off the to-do list.
Since this fateful Friday of shopping mayhem I have mended my ways. I no longer try to squeeze productivity into small pockets of time if it's going to stress out either me or my kids, or both. It's not worth it. If I have a spare hour, I try to be present in that hour and enjoy the time with Toby on our way to my daughter's school. If we sit in carpool a little longer that day, I bring activity books for him and reading material for me. Or he can play on my phone while I listen to NPR.
The toilet paper can wait. We have Kleenex.