Perhaps working full time was easier....

I have always respected and defended women who choose to be stay at home Moms. It is a full time occupation, and certainly worthwhile-particularly when you look at the number of dysfunctional young people in our society. Unfortunately, our family finances have never actually lended themselves to that option. My husband has always worked in some sort of commission only endeavor, and while he works hard and faithfully.....well, there are good times and there are lean times. We refer to it as the Aldi weeks versus going to the regular grocery store. With me being out of work, this imbalance in the family finances has been more acutely felt. Now we have the "do we really need anything from the grocery store this week" moments. Fortunately, my kids are fond of things like macaroni and cheese, homemade chicken and dumplings, and tuna. But I digress completely.

Today, I experienced the full joy of being "at home". My daughter woke up complaining of aches, pains, being over warm, and a sore throat. Just what every Mom wants to hear at any time, the universal sick whine. I let her lounge around on the couch for awhile while I caught up on the daily perusal of the job want ads. Then I suggested a trip to Kohl's for the exchange of well intentioned, but "Oh so wrong" clothing gift choices......(Living with the junior version of Stacy London is never easy, but when somebody makes a fashion faux pas in her direction.....) That stimulated a bit of interest and she actually moved from the couch to the bathroom for the pre-teen version of getting ready to leave the house. I think that hair brushing featured in the time spent in the bathroom, but I didnt' want to enquire too closely for fear of scaring her right back onto the couch and under the blanket. She presented herself, after quite some time in which I wondered if she had perhaps gone down the drain, and was wearing the same ratty sweat pants as yesterday, the same scroungy T-shirt, but with fresh makeup....While I believe that the brush actually did touch her hair, it is kind of hard to tell lately. But with the ticket fully punched on the hormonal roller coaster, one has to tread very carefully with any observations concerning appearance in order to avoid the deluge of tears. Besides, Kohl's is not Saks Fifth or Neiman Marcus, so I guess she was appropriately attired, but I found myself praying that she had bothered to at least change underwear. (What can I say? I am a Mom, and Moms are supposed to think of these things, because obviously it is not obvious to kids.) After the fifteenth trip to the backyard to insure that all the necessary potty issues were taken care of (remember we have a new baby dog in the house, who has the general idea of what we want, but coupled with the bladder which is probably smaller than a pistachio.) Everyone went to their neutral corners, puppy to the crate, and we gathered up the returned items. We piled in the car and headed off to Kohl's. On the way, I felt obligated to remind my daughter to focus on how nice it was that people thought enough of her to go out of their way to shop and try to choose something as a gift...a little guilt and obligation. Thank you notes are still required, even if the gift is being returned. And for heaven's sake, don't tell anyone that you hated the item, but rather it wasn't the right size exactly or perhaps you hoped for a different color to go with things that you already had. Thus I fulfilled the parental portion of the outing, and we could now go about bonding, enjoying the shopping experience.

Arriving at Kohl's, we were confronted with an array of signs leading us to the customer service counter in the back. Unfortunately, a whole lot of other folks had found the yellow brick road before us and were anxiously standing in line awaiting their audience with the Great Oz. My daughter was busy making scathing comments about having to wait around, and I made sure that she knew that this was not the way I had envisioned my day either. The line actually moved fairly quickly, in that I don't think we spent more than 45 minutes waiting, getting acquainted with our neighbors in the line, exchanging the social pleasantries, observing the other Christmas present rejects. Finally, it is our turn, and no.....I don't have a gift receipt. I don't have a receipt. I didn't buy it! We wouldn't be standing here if I did, because I would have brought my daughter with to try everything on and be able to ascertain from the expression on her face, if she would ever consent to be seen in public in said items. The clerk tells me that if we just want to exchange for the same items in other sizes, or even other colors, (match the retail price on the tags and the brand name) we can just find the items that we want and go to a regular check out to execute the direct exchange process. Essentially, forty-five minutes in line with a whiny pre-teen, only to be told that we were in the wrong line anyway.......Off to the junior department to hunt up the equivalents to exchange....Tally Ho!

My daughter rapidly discovered that the items she wanted to exchange, while having original price tags well over $35, were now on the clearance racks at 75-80% off. I was beginning to have a really bad feeling about this. Had visions of an entire bag of clothing maybe bringing enough credit to buy one item. But doesn't Kohl's advertise the whole "no hassle" return thing? And my daughter is more than willing to use the credit for other items in the same store, and the same department, and even the same company.....as long as we can find color and pattern that does not annoy her. So, the hunt continues, and we manage to make one to one correspondence with the items in our return pile with acceptable substitutes which only took another hour and a half. I insisted on trying items on before final decisions being made, but I figured prolonging the agony now might save return trip in future. Having organized our returns and new choices carefully, we moved on to the check out stands and waited approximately 20 minutes for a checker to be available....This whole thing is getting better and better by the minute. So much for "no hassle" returns. I began to suspect that I would locate the Holy Grail, or the Arc of the Covenant long before the substitutes for the offending items.

Our turn at check out arrived. The young lady was most pleasant and polite, but when the first item wouldn't exchange, I knew that my worst fears were being confirmed. She couldn't exchange an item that had gone to the clearance rack for one that had not....everything had to be exactly the same to use the check out lane....If anyone pays attention to how many "lowest price of the season" sales that Kohl's runs, how many fliers, how many Early Bird and Night Owl specials...well, lets face it, you could buy an item at 10:00 AM in the morning, and by noon of the same day, it would be a different price......So, the pleasant young lady tells me to take myself back to customer service where they can look up each item and the bar code will tell them when it was purchase and what the purchase price was....Yippee!!!!! Back to the return lines! At least they went a bit more quickly this time, as I presume that everyone was back from lunch break and nobody had yet left for dinner break.

A pleasant young man started scanning the items and indicated that when they had been purchased, (really creepy, as he could even tell me what date. Big Brother is watching, even in the junior department at Kohl's) the purchases had been awarded Kohl's bonus bucks, and as the bonus bucks had already been redeemed, he would have to adjust the store credit to reflect the difference.....Fine, at this point anything is good as long as it gets us moving in the general direction of the door and parking lot. I have had enough of teenage attitude. I have had enough of standing in line. It is hot and stuffy in the store. I am fully tired of being the resident pack mule and waiting endlessly outside the fitting room. I am tired of explaining why I don't have receipts, gift receipts, and at least 15 forms of identification. My daughter wasn't feeling well in the first place, so she is more touchy, cranky, picky, and generally snarky about everything. If Mom likes it, then she is certain to hate it, and so it goes.....Finally, we have the store credit, with which we take the replacement selections back to the check out counter.....Can't wait to see how long we wait.

Lo and behold, we got taken right away, by the same perky, pleasant cashier. Ringing up the purchases, we were about $10 over the credit, and at this point, I probably would have paid three times that just to get out of the store.....Keep the Kohl's bucks....just let me out of here, now! Get out the credit card, poor beaten up credit card. Pray that I don't have a balance that will put me over the limit, where the silly thing will be declined. Ten bucks is probably not going to make a difference between bankruptcy or not, so let me just pay and go on my way. Prayers are a good thing at most times, but essential when patience is at low ebb.

Hopefully, my daughter was happy, as happy as any hormonal, almost teenager can be. Judging from the lack of disgusted sighs and rolling eyes, I figure that I am pretty safe for the moment and that she has found reasonable contentment in her choices. It was great to hear about how she couldn't buy this item, because somebody else at school, whom she is not overly fond of, already has it. I also enjoyed the comments of "lame", "so last year", "sad", and a host of other slang terms for raunchy that I completely lost track of. In fact, I think we passed the entire afternoon without the hint of smile or giggle to let me know that we were at least on the same planet. But, I didn't bank on the hunger monster striking, and the only cure for the hunger monster was a hamburger. I simply cannot deal with the pre-digested fair at places like McDonald's, so grasping at straws, I recommend Steak "n" Shake-at least the fast food comes on a real plate with silver ware and ketchup in a bottle instead of a squeeze packet that always squirts all over my clothing instead of the fries. At first, my daughter is excited....happy hour....two for one price milk shakes! But just as suddenly, her enthusiasm fades. We are already obsessing about being thinner or fatter than other girls at school, in cheerleading, etc. We are already finding the ficticious flab, the dreaded "muffin top", dimples where dimples aren't supposed to be.....Oh yes, the ticket has been punched on the hormone roller coaster! It would be great to pass on to these kids that most of us adults would kill to be as imperfect as they perceive themselves to be. I remembered a day when I could happily shop in the junior department, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. And to think that I thought I was fat and dumpy then. Wow......I have looked at extra large items that probably wouldn't get much above my calf....I simply don't remember junior sizes being this small. Admittedly, my daughter is more petite than a lot of her peers...slow to grow, the one that they always want to throw up in the air or put on top of the pyramid in cheer leading. I am used to her clothing looking like postage stamps, but to scan the racks and see that the XL is basically only the size of two postage stamps instead of one....well, I started getting pretty depressed about the state of my waistline. So, by mutual consent...even though it was Happy Hour...we agreed to forego the milk shakes and content ourselves with burgers and fries...I guess I should have bypassed the fries too, but I feel that after this afternoon, I have earned them psychologically, if not physically. What I really wanted was a Black Russian-make it a double....but then, I am designated driver for this expedition.

While we were eating, I pointed out to my daughter that we were low on some staple items at home, needing milk and salad fixing and yogourt. The grocery store is directly on the way home. Suddenly, my daughter is dying again, her throat is sore, and she wants to go home and sleep. Translation: She is done shopping and has been away from the computer and I-Pod for more than 4 hours now. She is going through social network withdrawal having been unable to face time her assorted posse for more than a few minutes. (This I-Pod thing is worse than anything my parents ever went through with the phone) Well, as I am driving, you, my dear child, are stuck going with me. Instantaneous return of the grim face and disgusted sighs, return of the whine, and complete departure of civility and basic respect. (And we have approximately 6 more years of this) My Mom was totally spot on. They are not human between the ages of 10-16, and after 16, you have to tread with caution, because the glimpses of courtesy and responsibility are motivated by purely self serving motives. They want to borrow the car, borrow money, have permission to do something, go somewhere.....they want to con you into believing how mature that they are.
Having been down this road previously with my son, (although his trip was not this dramatic), this is somewhat of a re-run and it isn't unexpected and doesn't catch me off guard. I tend to just let it wash over me unless it is blatantly disrespectful. So the grocery trip is not going to be a sterling example of mother/daughter togetherness, we still need the darn milk.

Arriving at the grocery store, we have yet another mood swing. Suddenly, my daughter wants to know if I will buy some ginger ale for the upset stomach (which she has pretty much not mentioned since getting off the couch about 5 hours ago), and if I will buy some orange juice ("Please" actually accompanied that request, although it was extremely whiny.) She was dashing down the aisles, finding this and that, until my one or two necessary items are filling half the cart.....Here's hoping that there is enough money in the checking account for my gallon of milk. But reasonable good humor rides along with us on the way home, so all is not lost. But Jekyll and Hyde have at least one more transition as we pull into the driveway. The illness has returned full force and everything hurts. My daughter is complaining of the chills, and heads off to the house, leaving me to schlepp the grocery bags.....And of course, I have to let the dogs out, and I have to put groceries away. Then of course, there is getting dog dinners ready, keeping the puppy stuff separate, because the big guys don't need the extra calories. Once dogs are fed, everyone has to go out again, so the littlest fur ball can make another attempt to get the wet and squishy stuff out in the yard rather than my kitchen floor. Once the call of nature is answered, I am confronted by "What's for dinner" as I enter the door behind the four legged children. My husband was supposed to be picking up pizza on his way home from work as a special treat, so I suggest that having a yogourt would be a good snack.....a suggestion greeted with the full force of adolescent derision. Like it or lump it, as I am not cooking if Dad is bringing deep dish pizza.

Enthroned on the couch with blanket and I-Pod, my daughter is already catching up with all her assorted comrades, sending pictures of all the things "she found" at Kohl's. Mom wasn't there. Mom didn't help negotiate the intricacies of "no hassle" returns. Miss Independence did this all on her own. Yep, we really connected today. And now, I get to referee the dogs as they are making too much noise for her to hear her friends on face time. At this point, the dogs are better company anyway, and at least they are happy to see me. They remember who feeds them. I am feeling quite exhausted, and still have dishes left over from breakfast in the sink, and at least two loads of wash to run through. I am sure that I will be mopping the kitchen floor at least once this evening, and..... and ......Yes, indeed, working full time was easier-not necessarily more fulfilling, but definitely easier.

Filed under: Musings

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