On Thursday afternoon, I looked into the eyes of a spazzy mom, and I saw myself.
I have been there too.
Spazzing out, that is.
We all have our moments. Well, most of us have our moments.
Do you like how I'm trying to "out" all of you as a bunch of spazzes too? Whatever makes me feel better in my own mind, right?
For all of the mothers reading this who are all, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Clare? I do NOT spazz out. Surely, you must be talking about somebody else!"
Allow me to explain.
My definition of spazzing out has nothing to do with anger. Anger is just that. Anger. No, spazzing out is that feeling you get when you cannot control a situation. Because sometimes, no matter how much you try to perfectly order your little world, things happen. Kids get sick. Kids get hurt. Kids get lost. Stuff happens.
It feels like somebody spun your body around 20 times and then delivered a roundhouse kick to your stomach. Hence the need for a spazz-out.
I encountered Spazzy Mom at Macy's on Thursday afternoon in the women's department. Annabel and I were at the mall wasting some time before we had to pick the boys up from school at 2:30. She is at that age where she is fiercely independent, yet still my 3-year old little girl who wants to be carried and cuddled. I still foolishly bring the stroller into the mall, hoping I will get her to sit in it and ride, thus making it easier for me to shop, but to no avail. It becomes a bag carry-all.
As I was thumbing through the countless racks at Macy's on Thursday, Annabel was at my side, but of course not riding in her stroller. Another mother was positioned nearby, pushing her stroller/bag carrier as well, while keeping a watchful eye on what looked to be her similarly independent non-stroller-riding, 3-ish year old little boy.
"Tommy. Stay by Mommy," I heard her say repeatedly.
In turn, I offered up several, "Annabel. Stay right here. Do not walk away from Mommy."
The two of us kept calling out to our children, keeping them with in eyeshot, while also glancing over at the racks, looking for bargains. We even offered up a knowing glance to each other from an aisle over, that basically said, "I'm feelin' ya, sister. I know what you're going through. 'Sup with little kids who hate to shop?"
Then I heard the mother say again, "Tommy." Silence.
Dude. We have a situation at Macy's. Tommy still hasn't surfaced. At that moment, I looked over at the mother, and I saw it. Full-on spazz mode.
Not that I blamed her.
Like I said, I have been there. The panic. Feeling frantic. Sweating. Tears brimming. The roundhouse kick to the stomach.
I immediately grabbed Annabel by the hand, and pushed my stroller out of the crowded racks and into the aisle. I had to help this mother. I said, "Did you find him yet? Can I help you?"
"PLEASE!!! TOMMY! WHERE ARE YOU? COME OUT NOW!!!"
Nothing. Not a peep out of any 3-year old boy, and the racks are deep, and the sales floor is vast, not including the many dressing rooms, which would also be a super-fantastically-fun hideout for a 3-year old boy wanting to make his mother urinate herself in the middle of Macy's out of sheer fright. And let's not forget the spazzing out part, because at this point, Spazzy Mom was shaking, wringing her hands, and had tears streaming down her face.
Not that I blamed her. Like I said. I have been her. The Spazzy Mom.
I shoved Annabel into her stroller quickly and went to look for Tommy, whom I didn't know, nor have any idea what he looked like.
The chances that a complete stranger would waltz into Macy's and just grab Tommy were slim. However, that simple fact in NO WAY stops any mother from thinking of that right away. Logic, schmogic. Your head suddenly fills with visions of Amber Alerts and every scary mass email and Oprah episode about kids being kidnapped at Wal-Mart, taken to a bathroom, having their head shaved and being shoved into a van with blacked-out windows.
It's almost impossible to stop your mind from going to that place.
I could tell that Spazzy Mom was thinking of these very things as she started to hyperventilate and almost tossed her cookies all over Michael Kors' new spring collection.
Not that I blamed her. I have been her. The Spazzy Mom.
The two of us called out Tommy's name, looking under clothing carousels for what seemed like an eternity, but looking back, was barely five minutes. Five minutes of a lost child is an ETERNITY.
A few people glanced our way, but then looked back at the racks, apparently deciding to mind their own biz. Believe me, I am ALL for people minding their own biz. Except when a child is missing. Then there should be much less minding your own biz, and a lot more helping to find the lost child. I'm just sayin'.
It was at that moment that I fervently wished I was one of those ballsy, loudmouth women that could be all, "LISTEN UP, BITCHES SHOPPING AT MACY'S ON A THURSDAY AFTERNOON. I KNOW Y'ALL ARE ALL TERRIBLY EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW OFFERINGS BY RALPH LAUREN FOR WOMEN, AND THE FACT THAT MACY'S HAS A CURRENT COUPON OFFER THAT WILL ALLOW YOU TO TAKE 15% OFF THE TOTAL PRICE OF YOUR PURCHASE EXCEPT FOR REGULAR-PRICED ITEMS AND CERTAIN EXCLUSIONS, AND YOU KNOW THAT COUPON IS A SUCKER SCAM ANYWAY BECAUSE THEY NEVER, EVER LET YOU USE IT ON ANY BRANDS YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT, BUT A CHILD IS MISSING. A CHILD THAT SPAZZY MOM OVER HERE, WHO IS A TOTAL STRANGER TO ME AS WELL, LOVES MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD AND WOULD CUT OFF HER RIGHT ARM TO SAVE. IF YOU COULD JUST FIND IT IN YOUR MATERIALISTIC LITTLE HEARTS TO JUST GLANCE AROUND YOUR LITTLE AREA OVER THERE TO SEE IF YOU HAPPEN TO NOTICE A LITTLE BOY WHO IS MISSING, THEN THAT WOULD BE FABOO. HE IS A LITTLE BOY WHO IS VERY MUCH LOVED AND ADORED, BUT ONCE RETRIEVED WILL ALSO PROBABLY NOW BE GROUNDED FROM NICK JR. FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK FOR SCARING THE POO OUT OF HIS MOM. IT WOULD BE VERY MUCH APPRECIATED."
But I could never say such things out loud. They exist only in my head, which is a very colorful place where I often shout at strangers. In all CAPS.
Finally Tommy was found hiding under a clothing rack all the way across the expansive room. Spazzy Mom scooped him up, started hugging him and continued to shake and cry. There would be time for scolding later. Hugs were in order.
Tommy sheepishly grinned at his mother, giggled and said, "I was playing hiding, Mama!"
Understatement of the year, buddy. Say, "buh-bye" to your friends Dora and Diego for a few days. Or is that a-hole Caillou one of your cohorts? In fact, this whole situation has that cueball Caillou written all over it. This is totally a trick he would pull on his mom. And then he would whine about it, of course. Whatevs. As I have said before, Caillou is dead to me. I will speak of him no more.
Spazzy Mom looked over at me, still shaking, with tears in her eyes and said to me, "Thank you so much. I feel so stupid for getting so upset. I knew he was just hiding somewhere."
I actually felt myself getting choked up over this mother's tears. This woman, who was a total stranger to me, almost made me cry. Because I have been there. I know what she is going through. Even one minute is too long to have your child go missing.
Damn girly hormones.
"Oh my gosh, no! I would have done the same thing!" I responded quickly. "This has happened to me before," I reassured her. "I have four kids, so I've definitely had this happen to me."
And with that, I wished Spazzy Mom a nice day, and I let her have her moment back with her son in private. I walked away with Annabel, who was still in her stroller trying to comprehend what just happened. I pushed her off to a side aisle, got down into her little face, wagged my pointer finger for emphasis and said, "Did you see that boy? He ran away from his mommy and now he's in big trouble. THAT'S why you have to stay by me. Look at that mommy. She is sad because her boy ran away."
Annabel was all, "Whatevs, Mom" about the whole situation, like any 3-year old would be.
It was time to go pick up the boys at school at this point, and as we headed toward the exit, Spazzy Mom was behind us, also trying to leave the store.
"I'm ready to go home now, Tommy, " she said, clearly exasperated. "This was not a very fun day at the mall."
I didn't blame her for wanting to leave. Like I said. I have been her.
The Spazzy Mom.