Parents of small children will understand how amazing this was for me. Usually going anywhere involves finding clean pants for all the kids, running through the house in search of three times two shoes that make a total of three pairs of any sort, putting said pairs on two smaller kids, reassuring older kid that she has hers on the right feet (or telling her to take them off and switch them if she doesn't), taking baby out to the car, buckling her in, reassuring middle child that he's coming too and please stop screaming, grabbing oldest child and lifting her into the car nanoseconds before she gets outside-of-car dust all over her (hopefully) clean clothes, buckling oldest child in while cheerfully answering all her questions about where we are going (no, we're not going to MeMe's, baby, I'm sorry, no we're not going to the park this time, just the store, yes the STOOOOORE, and we're going to get milk yes and we're not going to get candy no, and no Daddy's not going this time because he's writing his book and Bubba's going and Baby's going and no we're not going to MeMe's afterwards we're just coming home and there you go you're buckled in now I'm going to go get Bubba yes I'm going to go get Bubba I love you too), going and finding middle child (around the side of the house picking dandelions), preparing to hurl remonstrances at him for wandering off, seeing him turn around with a huge grin and say "Mamma, frowers!", find self unable to yell in the face of the cuteness, scoop up middle child and put him in carseat, bang his head on the car on the way in, feel terrible, kiss head, apologize, buckle in middle child, get him the toy on the floor he's crying for, wipe tears, agree with him that he has frowers and that they're bootiful, tell oldest child that no she can't have any of Bubba's frowers, replace youngest child's shoe that has come off, put purse in passenger seat, climb into driver's seat, remember that I didn't bring sippy cups, debate going back inside for sippy cups or not, decide not, turn ignition, put car in reverse, and pull out of the driveway just as middle child says, "Mamma, I want a dwink!"
So anyway, I got into the car and drove off, unaccompanied by any whining whatsoever, and by the time I pulled into the Wally World parking lot there were basically angels singing. I put the car in park, turned off the ignition, unbuckled my seatbelt, opened the door, got out, closed the door, beeped the clicker, and walked into the store. Just like that. I was only one person, and if you've never had small children you have no clue how amazing it is to just be one person. I was invincible. Nothing could stop me. I was going to grown-up the s*** out of this shopping trip. There would be no trail of de-shelved grocery store goods in my wake. There would be no stream of threats about what was going to happen the next time anybody put a hand out of the cart and grabbed anything. There would be no screaming fests to stop. There would be no worrying about whether anybody else thought I was a terrible parent based on how my kids were acting. There would be just me, my cart, and my grocery list.
Oh, yeah, the grocery list. I dug in my bag for it and a couple of diapers fell out. Hopefully nobody noticed that. Nobody here knows I have 3 kids. They don't see an exhausted mom with frizzy hair pushing 3 ragazzi around the store (we really need a good word in English for ragazzi). They just see a ... woman ... with frizzy hair ... alone. Just me. And really, there are all sorts of excuses for having frizzy hair. Perfectly valid excuses that don't have anything to do with 3 kids. I smiled broadly and made eye contact with people. Well, I made eye contact, but everybody else looked away. Because people don't actually make eye contact or smile broadly in the grocery store. That wasn't going to stop me, though. I was a human being, and only one of those at that, and I was going to make the most of it.
I got a box of ginger ale. I got a gallon of milk. I got a jug of olive oil. I got a box of crackers. I checked things off my list and didn't have to pick up a single thing off the floor. My smile kept getting brighter and my step got springier. I got in line and put my purchases on the conveyor belt without having to take a single candy bar back out of small hands. I told the cashier I was doing GREAT and asked him how he was doing. He told me he was tired and I sympathized, though perhaps he didn't believe it because of how damn cheerful I was. And then he looked up at me.
And I followed his confused gaze.
To the white crusty line of snot that extended from shoulder to chest of my purple shirt.