As usual, Whole Foods was crowded. I’ve never been in one that wasn’t. Our three-year-old son, sitting in the front of the cart, did his typical thing: asked a thousand questions, wanted everything that caught his eye, required attention as we browsed the aisles. Nothing new.
Unfortunately, the store was woefully lacking in free samples of delectables like organic whole-grain free-range tortilla chips, organic brown rice syrup caramel popcorn, and Terra chips (also organic because, well, it’s Whole Foods), so he didn’t have the necessary distractions to keep him busy during shopping. Hence, the lure we’d used to keep him relatively patient turned out to be an empty promise. And I wasn’t about to take a box of Gorilla Munch cereal off the shelf and open it up for him to, uh, munch on. Even if it did have tasty bits of organic gorilla baked right in. That’s shoplifting.
He got a bit fractious by the time we reached the checkout line, and as the cashier rang up our organic strawberries and flaxseed-enriched organic peanut butter, I heard him bellow at the top of his lungs:
“I LIKE SPIDER-MAN!”
The entire front end of the store stared at us, and as people laughed or scowled according to their general inclinations, he added, louder:
“I LIKE SUPERMAN!”
I turned and asked him, “Are you all right?”
My wife explained, “He’s performing.”
“I LIKE GREEN LANTERN!”
“Well,” I replied, “it needs work.”
The cashier snickered, and I began to experience a vague sense of embarrassment as I became that parent: the one who can’t control his little barbarian. He’s usually very good, I swear, I said in the privacy of my mind. He never does this in public. Etc, etc.
The bagger asked him, sweetly, “Who do you like better: Spider-Man or Superman?”
“I LIKE FLASH!” he informed her at top volume, grinning maniacally.
I paid for our overpriced (but organically delicious) groceries, and we left the store. My son was pretty happy at that point, because he got exactly what he wanted: massive amounts of attention from everyone around. Most of it positive (though it doesn’t matter at that age: even negative attention is worth getting). At least he didn’t mention the color of his underwear, or the amount of body hair on his father’s stomach.
That’s what being a parent is, I suppose: mild embarrassment, nonsensical shouting, and relief that whatever happened could have been worse.