Wednesday, April 16, 2014

And now, (a lack of) social interaction

I'm so bad at social interaction.

I would say, "You have no idea," but I'm about to tell you how bad I am so you'll know in a moment. I've never been particularly extroverted, but it's been worse the last few years. I blame it on being chronically sleep deprived. THAT should be in the parenting books. "After Giving Birth, Chapter 8: You Will Never Have a Fully Coherent Conversation Again. For the Rest Of Your Life. Ever."

Anyway. It was one of those days where the kids desperately needed to get out of the apartment (is there ever a day when this isn't the case?) so we went to a children's museum, located inside a mall. It's a great place, geared mainly towards the 5 and under crowd, with a huge water play section, books, giant Lite-Brite, fish tanks, even a semi truck cab open for kids to play in.

Strawberry enjoyed this for approximately two minutes. Then she wanted to go back out into the mall. You see, one wall of the museum is nothing but windows, and those windows look out onto the part of the mall that every parent hates. The mall rides. For just four quarters, your child can sit in a completely unsanitized, 80s era vague-animal-that-might-be-a-dog,-possibly-a-bear and listen to generic mechanical squawks that kind of resemble music, while the dog-maybe-bear either flies around so violently your kid gets whiplash, or barely jiggles from side to side--which one you get is a surprise! But the parents take one look and say "Yeah, NO I'm not spending quarters on that," which immediately and forever impresses among children that these must be The Most Sacred, Amazing, Incredibly Life-Altering Dog-Maybe-Bears ever, because Mom and Dad said "No." And so they are always flooded with young children climbing all over the stationary rides while parents stand around, warily glancing at all the other parents, ready to stab the first person who decides to pop in a few quarters and thus show all the kids that they will actually move around if money is spent. Because if there's one thing kids are experts at, it's making you spend money on random crap for them.

I dragged Strawberry away from the window. Puppy was asleep in his baby carrier and I wanted him to take at least a half hour nap. I tried to entice her away from the window, throwing plastic balls into a mock river. She took the bait.

Annoyingly, other kids were starting to drag their parents out to the rides. Strawberry, who is only two but still notices things like Other Kids Are Going Where I Want To Go But Mommy Said No, Now It's Time To Whine, started heading towards the door again. We were really at the mall to get her new shoes and as she tugged at my leg I decided that shoe shopping while Puppy was still asleep was not a bad idea, so we headed out. Strawberry ran straight to a dilapidated ride that resembled an ice cream truck in a horror movie and climbed in. I checked the time on my phone and decided I'd give her five minutes, max, before we headed to a store.

There was another mother there, also watching her kid climb all over the rides while never actually saying the forbidden words, "Do you want me to put in a quarter and make it go?" Puppy was stirring in the baby carrier and I absently played with his foot while keeping one eye on Strawberry and trying to remember which shoe store was closer.

I had just decided that I might as well hike across the mall to the store I figured we'd have the most luck at when the other mom to my right said something, and I panicked when I realized she had directed her comment at me.

"WHAT?" I started, in a voice loud enough to probably scare off most people.  I silently cursed my unintentional abrasiveness. The brave mother calmly plunged on.

"I said, these are great sippy cups, aren't they?" She held up her kid's sippy cup, which was the same as ours.

"Oh, yes. The sippy cup. They're great," I floundered.

"We went through so many before we found these. They're the only ones that truly don't leak!"

"Yeah. No leaks. I mean, we had a lot of cups before, too. That leaked. These don't leak. They're great."

The mother's smile slowly froze on her face. I tried to smile back to show her that, see, I am a normal person, just a little tired from dragging two young kids around the mall before noon. It must have been a mortally offensive expression I gave her because she turned around and moved closer to her child.

I gritted my teeth. Really, I just wanted to grab my kid and run away but then I figured someone would call 911 to report what looked like a kidnapping, so I moved towards Strawberry. "One more minute, then we will go look for new shoes."

"One minute new shoes," she agreed as she continued pushing random buttons. I zoned out, wondering if I should stop to get ice cream on the way to the shoe store. I noticed the woman from before grab her child's hand, causing him to protest, then start hauling him away. She shot a look in my direction. That's when I realized that what I called "zoning out" looked very much like I had been giving her child a murderous glare.

I am so very bad a social interactions.

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