Target trips always happen the same way. No matter what the season, no matter what I’m buying, no matter how many children I have with me and if I’ve taken friends, relatives, or neighbors along. We park near the cart return, so I can stick kids in a confined space as quickly as possible. The toddler always gets into the cart — not into the seat, but into the basket. The other two, ages 5 and 6, cling to the edges of the cart. Thus I slog through the parking lot without killing any of my spawn.
First, they yowl for Starbucks.
I refuse because I am history’s greatest monster. Tears ensue for their pathetic lack of soy milk steamers. They gesture longingly and theatrically at the barista while beweeping their outcast state. I hustle them by.
Then, they yowl to hit the Dollar Spot.
We always hit the Dollar Spot because I might want something, but I never do and it turns into a “buy me toys now” debacle. I pick up some Ninja Turtle socks for the toddler because one sock is always disappearing. They fight over light-up skulls, sticker books, excavation kits, and glowing balls. I say no. They say please. I say no again. Then the toddler really, really wants stickers, and they’re only a dollar, and suddenly everyone’s getting a battery-powered fan or something that requires 10 minutes to select, discard, and select again. I freaking hate the dollar section.
In a vain attempt at “me time,” I hit the women’s clothing section.
The toddler begs to get down and then runs away. The others chase him. He runs some more. I try to ignore them all and look at clothes, but old ladies and Target employees start glaring at me, so I put the toddler back in the cart, where he screams. Take that, Judgy McJudgerson.
My oldest tries to lie under the cart while it’s moving.
I stop him and tell him he’s going to grievously injure himself. He climbs out, annoyed. He will climb back under at the first opportunity.
I need makeup. I always need makeup. We hit the makeup section.
My sons make suggestions about eyeshadow and beg for me to buy them sparkly nail polish. When refused, they beg for cotton balls, which they will swear are for crafts but will instead scream “Snowball!” and lob at each other. Refused, Q-Tips are a mysterious second.
We drive by the gummy aisle. They insist they need more vitamins.
They have plenty of gummy vitamins. The toddler starts to scream for vitamins. This screaming continues until we wheel all the way around to the juice aisle, where juice boxes are grabbed. One is opened and handed to the toddler to shut him up. That means two more are opened for his brothers. My credit card better work on this Target trip.
Then it’s SEASONAL!
This demands a stop unless it’s the stupid cheap-stuff stock they carry in between major holidays. There may be garden gnomes! Halloween costumes! Christmas crap and Valentine’s Day and then Easter baskets! All of these are worth getting down, investigating, begging for, and Charlie-Brown-hunch-walking away in abject sadness when they can’t be purchased. Sometimes I let them buy ornaments to shut them up. I have no shame.
After seasonal, comes toys, specifically Legos.
Good deeds are cited as a chance to get a Matchbox car. Dinotrux are begged for, prices are pointed out, more sadness ensues. “You are not getting anything!” I chant in a demented anticapitalist mantra. I finally give up and sit on my phone while they spend half an hour perusing various Lego kits and Ninja Turtles and Star Wars. I don’t look up from Facebook when I tell them to put it on their Christmas list. They squeal and people look at me like I’m insane, but I know what aisle each kid is in at all times. I find the one with the best Wi-Fi and park there.
Then we hit the children’s clearance.
They whine to go look at the $5 dollar junk toys just across the aisle while I sift through the discounted clothing. After about three minutes, because my tolerance for whining is thin, I let them. Then we fight about how no one’s getting anything. This fight ends in tears, and not just from the baby. Target, your geography is a bitch.
Then I’ve got to get the hell out of there.
Somehow, in between these stops, I’ve managed to get what I wanted/needed/was coerced into purchasing. We wheel down that center aisle, away from the $5 dollar toys, wailing changing to sniffles. I pick the quickest checkout line, which is always the oldest lady there. She’s seen it all. She knows the score. She’s aware I have to get through the line in approximately two minutes or someone’s going to lose their shit.
The toddler has a total screaming meltdown.
He saves this for the checkout line on every Target trip. He may be screaming because the evil lady has to scan his toy. He may be screaming because his brother breathed on him. He may be screaming because of the existential woe that comes with being three. I generally have no idea. My oldest seems lost, and I panic. He is lying under the cart again, on top of or underneath the dog food. Someone else points this out to me, like I’m the world’s most pathetic mother. I finally juggle my purse open and put my card in the chip reader. It works, thank little toddler Jesus. We sprint out of there like it’s the Super Toy Run.
Then they scream for Starbucks. Again.
I say no, again. Weeping ensues, again. The toddler never stopped crying, anyway. I strap them in the car. They cry for their Matchbox cars/dollar items. I have to unwrap everything. I swear I will never go to Target again. I will go to Target two days later.
Because I need it. Because Target is my sanctuary.