Sunday, March 11, 2012

Replacement parts

I think we've met.

We've definitely seen each other's children.

Walking up and down the narrow corridor, mine holds his chin and looks concerned. Toy selection is never an easy task for a child, even when permission has been granted in advance of the mission.

It takes time.

It also takes a combination of talent, strategy and foresight that eludes most adults. There's an infinite number of calculations that must be made -- such as the sum of all cool, moving parts divided by the number of removable attachments, which all might be reduced to shrapnel by the invasion of sharp puppy teeth -- and the window overlooking plaything math is closing.

In a few moments his mother (that's me) will create a spectacle by turning into a toddler.

Oh, yes, of this I am guilty.

He will stroll the aisle, stopping from time to time to look at various boxes and make a few comments to himself before retracing his steps. Stroll. Study. Stroll. Each pass is punctuated by indecision.

In a few minutes he'll zero in on LEGO brand building bricks and will narrow his search to a few shelves. The process isn't over by a long shot, but invariably as he's squinting his eyes at the inventory I will be standing by the shopping cart, slowly going boneless.

“Have you made up your mind?” I ask, sounding sweet and motherly at first. Aware that we are not alone. Then slowly everything around you melts away until it's just you and an cavalcade of toys threatening your grip sanity.

He will maintain silence. He's in the zone. I will become more frantic. I am on the edge.

Will it be the 156-piece ninja fan-wing plane or the 98-piece Superheros set? He knows the size limits if not the price prohibits.

“Have you made up your mind? We have to get going now.”

He's still silent and focused as I ask the same question for the 156th, time, hoping for a different answer. I'm losing composure.

I imagine myself to be any man who has ever accompanied me to a women's clothing store. I feel a never-before-felt compassion remembering their hang-dog looks or their bull-in-china-shop discomfort.

I empathize with the desire to sneak away or to just lay on the ground and pout.

“Please just pick one. I. Want. To. Go. Hoooooooooooooome. I'm soooooooo tiiiiired.”

By the time he committed to one of the boxes he's been juggling, he'll have to mop me up off the floor, where I will have melted into a sticky puddle from all the pleading and begging for mercy on my poor, tired soul.

You've felt this way, too. I know because our eyes have met midfield, just as our kids were charting the zone of battle. I saw the lines of frustration cross your face and your eyes glaze over. It was like looking in a mirror.

I can't help but think of you going home to build a beautifully intricate spy plane with the help of an indecisive shopper, a wordless instruction manual and, perhaps, even a dog that eats LEGOs.

That's when I realized we're destined to see each other again, probably even here, looking for replacement parts.

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