Whenever we shop at Target, Ethan always asks if he can look at the toys. Depending on how things are going that day the answer is usually yes, but with a stipulation. The other day he asked and the answer was, "Yes, for five minutes." He was okay with that, and since he was with me, he may have known that my clock runs really slow.
We made our way around the back corner by the dressing room and the men's and women's clothes, and continued past electronics until we got to the toys. As we entered the aisle I announced, "Okay, five minutes." We walked up the aisle, looked around at a few toys, pick one or two up, smelled the package, studied it closely, shook it, put it back, and moved to the next one. We reached the end of the aisle and turned and headed down the next, always following the same pattern. We finally finished our fifth aisle, and I said, "Okay, times up."
He seemed fine that we were done. He had seen what he wanted, touched the ones he wanted from Santa, asked for a few others, and all was well.
As we continued down the path we saw the Christmas display. As all seemed good, I turned the cart and off we went down the aisle, window-shopping at the decorations and goodies that marked the most wonderful time of the year.
We finished the first aisle of decorations and turned to see the trees. Suddenly it was game on! "Dad, we need to go home now! We need to get our Christmas tree!" Realizing this was getting ugly fast, I pushed the cart along the wall until we reached the end, then turned up the aisle to head towards the groceries. With each step, each demand, I parried it with a gentle response:
"Remember, we put our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving?..."
"We can't put it up now, Morgan will miss it..."
"How about we finish shopping and we call Morgan. We'll ask her if we can put up the tree when she gets home..."
"Morgan will be home in five school days, we can put the Christmas tree up when she gets home. How does that sound?..."
The strategy seemed to be working. We made it through the fist aisle of groceries, then the second, then it happened.
But this was not your ordinary meltdown, this was, well, hard to describe. We thought we had reached an agreement, a plan, we would get the Christmas tree and the decorations out of the garage on Monday, and have them waiting for Morgan when she got home. The next day we would put up the tree with Morgan there to help us. He was in agreement, it appeared, and we were going to make it through this...
Not so fast, there was something about the whole idea that he just couldn't let go of. Suddenly as we neared the finish of the cereal aisle it happened.
I stood there in shock for a second; we had never encountered such a meltdown like this.
I wasn't sure if I should laugh, cry, or pull out my hair as it happened. Those six or eight aisles had taken their toll on me as well: so I just watched...
...and thought to myself, "Oh, you sweet boy. I wish I could fix this. I mean really fix this."
After a few minutes he stood up. There were no ugly words, no ugly faces, but it wasn't over. It had crested, had peaked, but there were still aftershocks to contend with as we finished the shopping.
We reaffirmed our plan for putting up the tree. We hugged, and I gave him a kiss on the head, we held hands, and we continued shopping. Thirty hugs, a few more kisses, several more affirmations of our plan, and a promise to cuddle when we got home finally got us to the cashier where we paid for our groceries and headed home...