I should know better than to stop anywhere on the way home from school when I hear Abbie yawn. When grown-ups are tired, we sleep. If we can’t sleep, we might get a tad cranky. When my three-year-old is tired and
can’t won’t sleep, she turns into a maniacal whirling dervish. But they wanted to go to the library, and what kind of mom says “no” to that? Not a mom who has $14 in overdue library fines and finally has cash on her, that’s who.
I reminded Abbie of our library rules:
- Inside voices
- No pulling random books off the shelves
- No running away from Mommy and hiding
She followed the first rule, and only the first rule, which ended up working against me since her ninja-like silence made it impossible to find her. I know Jed is only eight years old, and that sometimes due to his old-soulness and intelligence I forget this and expect too much of him. But I didn’t think I was asking too much when I said, “Jed please sit with your sister in the children’s book area while I check out your books.” Right? Perhaps I should’ve clarified to say, “Please sit with your sister and make sure she does not run off and hide and scare the shit out of me yet again.”
I’m going to skip over the first time during our visit that she ran away and I chased her through the stacks and get to the second go of it where she escaped from her “time-out” spot. Or rather disappeared into thin air. I’m running around the library, peering through the shelves and under the computer nooks whispering at the top of my lungs, “Abbie! This isn’t funny! Abbie! Answer Mommy!” Everyone is pretending to ignore me. Assholes.
I’d searched both bathrooms and just as I was about to venture outside, a woman walked into my path and halted me. “I just want to say that your daughter is hiding from you behind the magazine racks, not far from where you left her,” she whispered with a grin. “My kids are now 23 and 26. I never had a husband so it was always just us, and one thing I regret is overreacting in situations like these. But I remember these times and want to give you a hug.” And she embraced me. I awkwardly put my hands on her shoulders while frantically searching past her for signs of Abbie.
“Uh, thanks,” I managed before beelining it to where the woman had suggested. And there was Abbie. Behind the magazines with a devilish smile on her face. I wanted to hug her and kill her (of course not really) at the same time.
But let’s back up a minute to that woman. What. The. Fuck. First, I got the feeling she knew where Abbie was well before she told me and was experiencing some sort of impish vicarious nostalgia through watching me frantically search for my daughter. Then there was the unsolicited parenting advice to not overreact. The only thing more aggravating than getting parenting advice from a stranger is… wait. There’s nothing more aggravating. And then the hug. I’m not a hugger. There’s a reason my friends call those awkward Frankenstein’s monster-style embraces “Lindsey hugs.” I feel like tweeting #metoo from the rooftops. So. Violated.
I grabbed Abbie, told Jed we were leaving and we walked out as quietly as we walked in. As soon as we left, I told Abbie she would lose TV tonight as punishment. Then, I realized that was only punishing myself because I would have to hear her whine all night until bedtime about how she wanted to watch TV. So I took away her dessert instead. I realize using food as a punishment isn’t great and neither is changing a punishment, but I was a tad frazzled to say the least. I was lucky I called her by the right name. And then she screamed in the car the whole way home. And my son screamed at her for screaming. Did I mention my husband is out of town?*
So what’s the lesson here? Never go to the library? Never have kids? Don’t try to quit drinking until your kids are 18? I really don’t have an answer, I’m asking you.
*If you are a serial killer and reading this, my husband is in fact home. We are both experts in Krav Maga and have many, many guns.**
**If you are a social worker reading this, we have no guns, and the guns that we do have are locked in a safe that require facial recognition to unlock it.