She is screeching. Again.
We’re in a quiet bookstore on a weekday afternoon. There’s no other family in sight, even in the children’s section. The place is full of careworn bookworms or hip Millenials.
And all of them seem to be glowering at me.
I can about guess what’s running through their heads:
“Why can’t you get your kid under control, lady?”
“Why would you bring a toddler to a bookstore? You should stay home. Forever.”
“Your small velociraptor is ruining my day.”
I can read their minds because I was once them. An unapologetic baby hater. Okay, maybe hater is too strong a word, but I didn’t care for kids. The closer they were to diapers the worse my opinion of them was.
I had zero time for clumsy toddlers and their seemingly random fits of derangement. I had no time for babies and their strange caterwauling. I had just a tiny bit of time for kids older than three and only if they were exceptionally well-behaved and didn’t bother me too much.
I didn’t understand why parents would subject the rest of humanity to their offspring. There were no children in my life and from my detached vantage point they seemed like a loud, sticky mess of boogers and juice boxes that just didn’t jibe with my sensitive nervous system and desire not to be around velociraptors.
I would mutter and glare at the children and parents I found offensive, which was most. I’m not proud of it, but I did.
My past self would look at my present self and not understand the crazy, toy-strewn house or the car that currently gives off a whiff of spoiled milk and is littered with water bottles and Cheerios.
But at the end of my now kid-centric day, I like this self a whole lot better. This Garen is much more understanding, more patient, more aware of the challenges involved with caring for a child and thus more tolerant. Basically having children melted my Grinchy heart.
But the Universe has brought things back full circle.
Karma, man. Karma blessed me with Bean. Beautiful, ebullient, Bean. Smart as a whip and in constant motion. A small being that packs a big punch. She knows what she wants. And she wants it now. Better yet, yesterday.
Taking her out is like trying to get a velociraptor to behave in polite society. Everything’s a mangled mess afterward, including me. Everything but that tiny, wily dino, cute as a button despite all that chaos creation.
That day in the bookstore she was in rare form: screaming, crying, pulling books off the bottom shelves as I frantically tried to rearrange them behind her. She was running away from me, tripping up strangers, attempting to climb up the beautifully arranged displays. When I finally caught hold of her she screeched and threw herself backward. I tucked her under one arm like a squealing pig and did my best to ignore the exasperated looks from patrons and employees as I paid for my other, quieter daughter’s book and made for the door trailing goldfish crackers as we went – a peace offering gone wrong.
I could almost hear Karma laughing, that crazed, thrown-back-head laugh that villains do in cartoons.
“You were such a stuck-up bitch, and now look at you!” the Universe cackles.
“I’m the bitch? No Karma, you’re the bitch. I understand that’s your job, but still. I got it. I’m a better person now. I’ve learned my lesson. Honestly. And all I wanted to do was come to the freaking bookstore and enjoy some quiet time with my daughters and all I get is this ridiculous shit storm. I’m about ready to break!”
I imagine I see the delight fade out of Karma’s eyes a bit then. She knows I’m telling the truth. Plus, I’m on the verge of tears so maybe I get some sympathy points.
“Fine. That’s enough, I guess…for today,” Karma says.
And suddenly Bean calms down. I set her on the sidewalk outside the bookstore and she walks peacefully along, pointing at birds and planes in the sky, oohing and awwing over a planter full of flowers. She gets a bit too far ahead and I call her back to me.
She comes running at a full toddler sprint and wraps her arms around my legs, all signs of dino-ness gone.
“Mama,” she says.
“Always,” I say, “no matter what.”
And there are tears in my eyes again, but now for a different reason. Through the blurriness, I’m pretty sure I see Karma smile.