It’s a dirty job

This morning, without even getting permission, I found myself spot-cleaning my husband’s sweater. While he was wearing it.

Hey, it had a splotch on it, possibly from a small child’s orifice. What can I say? He was still able to proceed with making his cup of coffee, and didn’t wriggle nearly as much as a toddler. Though I didn’t clean his ears, I did sneak a peek just to make sure they were good to go, too.

I’m not the neatnik, meddlesome type, but I want to protect others from my fate: to find myself rolling the shopping cart along on a visit to a local superstore, and looking down to see I have mud on my shoes. And my pant leg. Oh, yeah, and on my sleeve. And my hood. And, gee, my children aren’t looking so clean either. (We do, after all, live in the land of everlasting muck and rain.)

And that’s when it hit me: It’s just not possible to look even remotely dignified in a public place with two small boys tailing you, hanging off of you, yelling. As if your hair could appear to have been brushed. As if your clothes could be deemed even slightly clean. As if you appear calm and maybe the tiniest bit benevolent. You’re instantly dropping at least two socioeconomic levels just by walking in with them. And that’s before you get home and microwave the chicken dinos you gave in to buying. (However, I’ve decided it’s not trashy to eat chicken nuggets at every meal if they’re labeled “100 percent natural,”  or if you eat them with kale.)

There is also no way known to look sophisticated when you’re pushing along two kids in a shopping cart designed to look like a NASCAR tractor-trailer. This thing is huge — it fits a 4-year-old and 1-year-old comfortably, riding up high, and handles with all the grace of a Humvee. Seriously, the elderly look frightened and turn back when they see us coming, often when I’m attempting a five-point turn in an aisle with lots of glass jars.

The latest trip turned out fine, and we came out with little red sneakers for Baby, little light-free shoes for Big Boy, and nothing at all for Mommy — not even dinner — because one suddenly decided it would be fun to shriek and stand on the shopping cart. Not in the cart. On the cart.

But I have to concur that it must be kind of fun for them. Hanging out in one of those big red Cadillac Escalade-size carriages is as close as a toddler gets to a tailgate party. Checking out the other kids, hoping to get lucky in the toy aisle. With a little tweaking, and the addition of copious amounts of alcohol, I can see this standing and screaming in a cart thing really taking off with the over-18 crowd.

If only we could get someone to chauffeur us around the store, too.

–Jillian O’Connor