“NO!” the little girl screams, arching her back and falling out of her Mother’s arms.
The young Mom has three little ones, and I read the exhaustion in her eyes as she tries to put the little girl in the stroller. She thrashes out of her reach again, and this time, the weary Mom just sits down on the floor next to her other two children. Tears spring to my eyes unexpectedly. It seems like just yesterday that was me. I was that overwhelmed Mom at the mall.
The noisy boys must have been around three when we had our Big Episode.
“We’re all going to smile nicely for the picture,” I explained. “This is a special picture for Grandpa’s birthday.”
Twin B. didn’t want to go to the mall. He didn’t like having his picture taken.
“If everyone is good,” I continued, “we’ll go to McDonalds for lunch.”
I pulled into the mall parking lot, anxious to meet my sister-in-law and her girls. The noisy boys were happy to see their cousins, but Twin B. was still scowling. He managed to hold it together until the photographer told everyone to take off their shoes.
“NO!” he screamed.
“Remember, B. if you cooperate we’ll go to McDonalds for lunch.”
“I don’t want to take off my shoes!” he yelled.
And it just got worse from there. He screamed and cried through the entire picture taking session, even after we let him keep his shoes on. I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide with a martini. Make that a double.
Leaving the mall that day, I half dragged him through the department store toward the exit. “We’re leaving, B. We can’t stay and have lunch at McDonalds because you didn’t cooperate for the picture."
Looking back, maybe I should have waited until we were in the car to remind him of his consequence. Because at that point, all hell broke loose.
A security guard actually stopped us in the store, “Is everything okay here?” He asked.
“He’s having a temper tantrum because we’re not going to McDonalds,” I explained, suddenly grateful that my boys look so much like me.
“Is this your Mom?” He asked Twin A.
“Yes.” He said, thank the Lord.
“And this is your brother?”
"Oh, they're twins," he noticed. “Good luck, Ma’am.”
We survived that day, the noisy boys and I. It was horrible in a million different ways, but we survived.
I didn’t always cope well when the noisy boys were little, and today, I see myself there, sitting on that mall floor unsure of what to do next. And so I stop and the overwhelmed Mom and I lock eyes. “You will survive this,” I tell her. “Hang tough. All the Moms in this mall are on your side.”
We both smile. I hold the stroller while she buckles her screaming daughter in.
And I cry at the beauty of God's grace right there in the middle of the mall. Because whether we recognize it or not, it really is enough.