I was standing at the checkout line, and I felt my whole world spinning around me. I wanted to run away from my current reality that was nothing short of maddening and utterly embarrassing.
There I was, holding my 6-month-old baby and staring directly at my 2-year-old son who had blood dripping from his nose. As I scanned my surroundings for a napkin to wipe him, I caught the eyes of the checkout lady and everyone else in the line. I then looked to my oldest daughter who was holding the hand of my screaming 4-year old, who was ready to run out the door.
I then took a few deep breaths, put my head down and pushed the giant yellow and blue car cart out the store, vowing never to shop with one of those things again.
Because that's where it all began.
From the second I pulled into the parking lot, I knew that this would be a trip to the store that I would not soon forget.
My 4-year-old, who has learned how to unbuckle himself, did just that and bolted out of the van, sprinting through the parking lot to the shopping cart area to snag a coveted “car cart.” Thankfully, I was able to snag the coveted parking spot closest to the store entry, so I was mere steps from where he was.
I told him to stay right there while my daughter and I got the two youngest out of the van.
Once reunited with my escapee, I saw that he was guarding the blue and yellow cart from another little boy who was also eyeballing it. I looked to the boy's dad, hoping he would take this wide load vehicle from me, but he quickly declined my silent plea in an act of solidarity as we both knew nothing good came from obtaining a car cart. Yes, even having my teenage daughter push a second cart was better than what I was facing right now.
Succumbing to my unfortunate situation, I had my toddlers pick a seat and accompanying steering wheel and told them to be good drivers. They both nodded before driving straight into the automatic sliding door that didn’t open on cue.
The next several minutes were spent navigating through aisles with a cart that should require a commercial driver’s license to drive. I even recall maneuvering backward through an aisle when I was unable to complete the three-point turn, thinking the whole time that I needed some sort of horn to alert shoppers behind me.
I worked hard to keep my boys seated in their spots with seat belts that didn't work, all while convincing them that they were in fact driving the cart.
I made car noises and swerved a few times to keep things interesting. I even let them each hold a bag of crackers to distract them, not from driving but from grabbing all of the groceries that were at their level of reach.
But it didn't matter. Two toddlers within arm's reach of each other for longer than 10 minutes is bound to end dramatically.
Whether it began when one leg touched another’s, or if one child occupied more air than the other, I'll never know. All I know is that a split second scuffle resulted in my 4-year old punching my 2-year old in the face.
Blood and screams were abundant, and this shopping trip could not end soon enough. Thankfully we were right near the checkout line and the nightmare would soon be over.
After what felt like the world's longest store checkout experience known to man, I put my groceries away. I then secured my children in their (working) seat belts in my car that adequately separated them before putting the cursed blue and yellow car cart away for good.
Because our failed shopping experience had nothing to do with tired, unruly toddlers and less-than-adequate parenting skills. I’ll argue anyone who says otherwise. It was the car cart that I now blame for my parenting woes — or at the very least, my 2-year-old’s bloody nose.
Arianne Brown is a mother of eight who loves hearing and sharing stories. For more of her writings, search “A Mother’s Write” on Facebook. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Twitter: A_Mothers_Write