My First Sans-Children Shopping Trip

The day dawned bright. Gorgeous sunrise, predicted warmth, low humidity. Ahhh, it was even going to be a "good hair day." As I enjoyed my few moments of pre-awake children silence, I sipped my tea and ran through my list of errands for the morning. I shuddered with anticipation, for this way not going to be just any morning. Today, I would be taking a naked walk through Wal-Mart (figuratively, of course)! You see, for the first time in over three years, I would be running my errands sans children. Today, my youngest daughter was to enter the hallowed halls of preschool, leaving me with three and a half glorious hours ALONE!

When you have a child, you get used to wearing them like a second skin. They are always there. They go where you go. To paraphrase Sting, you factor them into "every step you take, every move you make." And from the vantage point of their car seat, you always know "they’ll be watching you." Time alone just rarely happens, and time out alone is unheard of. The mere thought of running errands requires logistical planning and half a bottle of Prozac. I have three daughters, let us refer to them as Curly, Moe, and Larry, or just CM&L for short. During the summer months, my little troop of Stooges are like my shadow—although I rarely have to shout at my shadow to "sit down in the cart" and "stop touching your sister!"

When school started last week, I happily walked my oldest daughters, Curly and Moe, to their classrooms, only to be told, "You don’t need to do this tomorrow, Moooo-oooom. We’re not babies. Sheeeesh." Sheeeesh is right. Where’s a little sadness? A little melancholy? A little "miss you Mom"? Not to be found with my daughters. Since their first days of preschool, they have never even blinked when it was time for me to leave them alone. While heart-wrenching separations were taking place all around us, children clinging to their parents, begging them not to go, mine would wave over their tiny shoulders as if to say, "Don’t let the door hit you in the &$$ on the way out, Mom." Notice I spelled that with dollar signs, as preschools and their doors do not come cheap.

With the oldest in school, Larry and I did what we do best, everything. Post office, grocery store, car wash. I have often referred to her as my tattoo, as she has not left my side in over three years. Because she is my baby, I have been facing her preschool beginnings with a mixed bag of emotions. Any milestone she has hit—from walking to potty training— have been sad, as I know "I will not pass this way again." However ... wait let me rephrase that ... HOWEVER, the other emotion in the bag is one of uncontrollable excitement, elation, FREEDOM. I am finally to be emancipated! Well, actually paroled is more like it, but I’ll take what I can get, Warden.

As we stood in the parking lot of the preschool, aptly named Bright Beginnings (a good omen for both of us) I looked at my "baby" one last time. A small tear threatened to fall, but was pushed back by my Big Girl announcing, "Me ‘cited. Me go in NOW, please!" In her classroom, we placed her lunch and backpack in her very own cubby and then I went to join her on the rug for circle time. She looked at me, pointed her tiny finger at my nose and said, "Dis MY room. You go now." I did not need to be told twice, kissed her little head and left, &$$ intact. I must have resembled a Senecot commercial as I leaped into the air, emitting an aura of freedom and "I feel good" vibes. I climbed into the minivan and was actually several miles down the road before I realized that I did not have to be listening to a Veggie Tales tape. Where is that Springsteen?

Walking into Wal-Mart, I felt naked indeed. People smiled at me as if I were naked. Well, perhaps it was just that I was smiling at them first. What a feeling to walk the aisles and actually look at things! The cart, how smoothly it turned without a 40-pound child hanging off the back! The fish! I did not have to go look at the $%#@ fish! I even went to the electronics department and listened to a CD sample, just because I could! Oh joy! Oh rapture! Oh how sweet to walk past the bathroom. Oh how much cheaper to not have to buy an Icee! Oh how I miss those little arms reaching from the front of the cart to give me a hug, making me feel clothed in a toddler’s unconditional love! ...When do I pick her up?