Side Effects

Side effects of living in the middle of nowhere may include a complete lack of decorum in public places such as malls, movie theaters, Target, or any other location not found in rural Vermont.  Suggestion treatment: continued exposure.
This past Monday I broke up the drive from Civilization back to Vermont with a stop in a rarely visited locale: a shopping mall.  I think both of my kids have been in a real mall less than five times combined, with our lack of mall and two-kids-under-two issues creating difficulties getting to one.  But I did realize that there is one halfway between  my mom’s house and ours, so it is the perfect place to break up the over two hour drive, stretch our legs, and get some lunch.
Oh, Friendly’s.  Why do we eat there so much?  I honestly don’t know except that I have such fond memories of eating there as a kid.  The food isn’t that great, except it is cheap, and lately I have even been skipping out on the ice cream thanks to my nemesis, Weight Watchers.  Can you even believe that’s even possible after reading about this day?  Anyway, as we were driving to the mall, we passed a slew of fast food joints, one of which was McDonald’s, and I was horrified to realize that my kid was one of those kids who sees the golden arches and screams for us to turn in.  Granted, he was screaming for the apple dippers, no caramel sauce, but I was horrified nonetheless.  So I chose the much healthier alternate, Friendly’s.  Much better.
Nothing of consequence to this sidenote, other than a question I ask those of you who have taken an infant to a public restaurant.  When you, babysitter or parent, need to go to the bathroom yourself, where do you put the baby?  You have no bucket or stroller with you.  You are armed with only yourself, your toddler, your baby, your diaper bag, and anything you can find in the restroom.  Do you a) strap the baby to the changing table and hope she can’t squirm her way out? b) put her on the floor with something interesting like a cell phone or car keys and pray she doesn’t crawl? or c) lay your toddler on the ground and use him for a germ shield since he’s had more vaccinations than her?
It’s been a while since I’ve had a baby in a bathroom with nothing to lay her on, and now that she can crawl, she’d just crawl off it anyhow.  So I was going to strap her to the changing table but the changing table was outside of the stall. So now, do I strap her there and hope I’ll be fast enough to apprehend any potential kidnapper?  Or do I bring her in with me and into the world of public bathroom nastiness?  Well, the choice was taken out of my hands since Em decided that she would pee all over the public changing station, all over our diaper bag, and a little on the floor, so those options were out.  What was I going to do with her?
Then I had an epiphany.  Maybe this already occured to you paragraphs ago, but I swear I had never thought of this before.  I went out into the restaurant with my kids, grabbed a highchair, and ignoring the questioning stares of all my fellow Friendly’s patrons, dragged the highchair into the bathroom.  I waited until the handicapped stall was available, plopped Em in the seat, entertained Jax with Where Is Thumbkin? so he wouldn’t touch anything, then dragged her back out so that I could wash my hands.  Problem solved.  The older ladies in the bathroom thought I was so funny and kept saying, I would have held her for you.  Of course you would have, but this is still Friendly’s, people.  You never know what kind of people you may run into there.
So that is my unsolicited advice on how to avoid germs in a public restroom.  If you have any other suggestions for me, please leave a comment and let me know!  If your suggestion is why didn’t you have a stroller?, I will redirect your comment to my husband who left our double stroller under an open window during the winter.  Feel free to ask him why our shed has an open window anyway.
Sorry for that anecdote.  The real meat and potatoes of the story comes next.  What happens when you take country mice and bring them to the city and its shopping mall.  With no stroller, mind you.  You drag them around the mall, going in and out of stores you used to love and admire clothes you can neither afford nor fit into anymore.  While lugging around your twenty pound 9-month-old, be sure to keep your eye on your toddler monster, who will not be impressed with American Eagle and its soft t-shirts and sundresses in the middle of January.  He will not care for you nostalgia for UTC mall and days when you used to shop in the sunshine and just grab a size six and knew it would fit.  Make sure you don’t get too caught up in your daydream because next thing you know, your toddler will wreak havoc upon all of American Eagle and its employees.
Oh yeah, he ripped down the front display.
These are the side effects of too much civilization on a family whose big shopping choices are Walmart or Kmart.  Mother acquires a kind of dementia as well as blindness to the potential disaster arising from her toddler’s unsupervision.  Toddler goes into a type of distructive frenzy brought on by too many colors, lights, and the number five (so many 50% off signs!).  Baby is infected with swine flu or God knows what else from Friendly’s public bathroom.  All in all, the sweater purchased at AE off the clearance rack in a size small (bought solely because it was a small and it fit) was not worth having to change a poopy diaper in a trendy dressing room filled with skinny people and irritated employees.  I even heard some teenyboppers saying something like, “When I have kids…”, implying irrational teenage judgment.  They probably thought I was too old to be having kids anyway.
I guess the only cure for civilization dementia and shopping mall distruction is to keep introducing it into my kids’ lives, like peanut butter, in small doses so as to not cause a reaction.  We’d better keep practicing because one day I plan to live near civilization again and I don’t want to forget how to behave there!
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