Tag Archives: kids

Spider-Man Shoes

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The family walked the trail early in the day. They were leaving when I arrived for my shift.

The man of the family was carrying a toddler. The boy was wearing only one shoe, a sandal decorated in a Spide-Man motif. The man removed the shoe from the boy’s foot and walked over to the garbage can. While I watched, he lifted the lid and deposited the shoe in the trash.

I must have given him an inquisitive look because the man shrugged and said the kid had lost his other shoe somewhere on the trail. I suppose it was easier for the dad to toss the remaining shoe than to retrace his steps on the trail to look for the lost one. Presumably, the child had more shoes at home or the family could afford to buy him a new pair.

How does a person (even a tiny person) lose only one shoe? Maybe he’d kicked off the shoe while a parent was carrying him, but why had he kept the other one? Life is mysterious.

Later that day, a large extended family came off the trail. A small family (mom, dad, toddler) was part of the big family. The dad was holding a sandal decorated in a Spider-Man motif.

They’d found this shoe on the trail the man said. Did we have a lost and found?

I explained how the shoe had been lost earlier in the day and its mate had been left in our garbage can.

The man said he thought the sandal would fit his son. He asked if I minded if he dug the discarded shoe out of the trash.

I love dumpster diving and otherwise acquiring perfectly good cast-off items. I didn’t see anything strange or gross or wrong with rescuing the shoe from the trash. I told the man to be my guest.

He poked around in the garbage can and found the sandal close to the top. It had been a slow trash day, and the shoe hadn’t gotten dirty.

The toddler was excited about his new Spider-Man sandals. I guess one kid’s Spider-Man shoes trash is another kid’s Spider-Man shoes treasure.

Candy Man

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When I returned from my ten-minute break, there were more people in the mercantile than I’d seen in the yurt all morning.

The store manager was trying to give directions to a young couple looking for the nearby Boy Scout camp, but she didn’t really know the area. She looked at me for help, so I pulled out a map and showed them two routes that would get them to their destination. Their thank yous said, they left, and I remained behind the counter.

A tiny child holding a red box of peanut butter M&Ms stepped up to the counter and looked at me slyly.

M & M's Chocolate Candies, Peanut Butter, 1.63 oz, 24-Count (Pack of 2)
He placed the box on the counter and continued to look at me with big brown eyes.

I looked around the store. While there were adults browsing, it wasn’t clear what family the kid might belong to. There were certainly no adults in his immediate vicinity.

That will cost $2.50, I said—not unkindly—to the boy. Do you have any money?

The kid never said a word, just took the box of candy from the counter and headed for the door. When he had one foot on the deck and the other still in the mercantile, I called out to him—again, not unkindly—Hey! Please don’t take that outside without paying for it.

This got his family’s attention. An older woman (Mom? Grandma?) and a younger woman (Mom? Sister?) both started hollering at the kid from across the store where they were looking at t-shirts.

George! Get back in here!

George! Put that back!

George turned around, returned the box of M&Ms to its place among the other candy boxes, then went over to stand with the women.

Sorry about that! one of the women called across the store.

No problem, I said. I handled the situation.

 

Mamma’s Got Her Hands Full

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It was Saturday afternoon, and in about an hour, The Man and I would close the mercantile for the day.

Members of an extended family came in together. Three or four young kids were running around, and two women of the age to be their mothers were looking at magnets.  An older woman—probably the grandma—was looking at other items for sale. The men of the family were in and out of the yurt—off to the restroom, taking turns supervising the dog on the porch, offering the ladies souvenir suggestions.

The two smallest kids seemed to be the offspring of one of the women looking at magnets. The girl was maybe three, with long, dark hair that fell past her shoulders. The boy was five or six, wearing one of those floppy cloth hats popular with people going fishing.

The woman and her son had some sort of disagreement in front of the shelves of snacks. The disagreement seemed to be about the theater style boxes of candy. The woman dragged the boy over in front of the register while lecturing him on sharing and who knows what else. Anger was all over the boy’s face, and I could tell he was trying not to cry. The woman was not whispering, and everyone in the store witnessed the lecture. The main body of the lecture was in English, then the woman asked loudly, Capiche? When the boy didn’t respond, the woman demanded, Entiendes? (Do you understand?) The boy gave an indication that he did, indeed, understand. It was maybe the only parental lecture I’ve ever witnessed spanning three languages.

I’m all for parents disciplining kids, setting limits and sticking to them. I see too many kids who seem to be running their families, and I was glad to see this lady taking a stand. However, her little speech seemed all too public. It sure made me uncomfortable, and I could see how the kid might feel humiliated. I would have taken my (theoretical) kid outside or to a quiet area of the store and spoken in a low voice, but I don’t know how this family’s day had gone. Maybe the mom was at the end of her rope.

The conflict was over Whoppers, the delightful malted milk balls I myself do love so much. The boy wanted a box of his own. The mom wanted him to share with his sister.

Once the woman released the boy’s arm and returned to perusing magnets, he and his sister converged on the candy boxes. They each took a box of Whoppers from the shelf and placed them on the counter near the cash register among the bottles of water another family member planned to buy.

When the mother had chosen her magnet, she brought it up to the counter and placed it next to a box of Whoppers. I’ll take the magnet, she said to me, and one of these, indicating the Whoppers. The children began squalling about wanting a box of his/her own. The woman held her ground. They could share, she told her children, or they’d have no candy.

The woman said she didn’t need a bag, so once I rang up the box of Whoppers, I handed it directly to her. The still whining children followed the box with their eyes, and the boy tried to intercept the box as it passed into the woman’s hands.

This is my candy, the woman told him. He wasn’t getting any until he was willing to share.

The woman paid with a credit card. When it came time for her to sign the store copy of the credit card ticket, she only had a free hand to hold the pen.

Let me help you with that, I said as I pinned down the ticket so it wouldn’t slide around the counter while she signed. You have your hands full.

She looked me right in the eye and said seriously, I sure do!

As they walked toward the door, the children agreed to share, and their mom told them how she would divvy up the candy so they’d each have their own portion.

I also have a story where it’s the child who has his hands full.

 

Meltdown

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While the boys were obsessing over pocket knives, Little Sister was trying to pick out a souvenir of her own.

Pinecone earrings and bracelets sold in the mercantile.

To her credit, Bun Mom walked around the store with the girl and made suggestions. How about this cute pinecone necklace? How about the pinecone earrings or bracelet?

The girl picked up a $35 bobcat hand puppet. How about this? she asked her mother.

Bun Mom reminded Little Sister how they’d already discussed this souvenir shopping trip and how she’d explained each kid could pick out something small. The bobcat puppet, Bun Mom told Little Sister was not in her budget.

How about these dragonfly earrings? Bun Mom asked Little Sister. At $10.95, they were in the budget, and Little Sister could get her birthstone.

The mercantile sells these dragonfly earrings.

Little Sister spent a long time looking at the dragonfly earrings and the other items on the jewelry carousel, but did not reach a decision.

At one point, the girl was picking up and putting down and picking up again bear and bobcat bobble heads. These are only $6! These are only $6! she exclaimed over the $5.95 items.

You could get one of those, her mother told her, but the girl still hadn’t decided.

As the other family completed their transaction, Bun Mom told Little Sister to make her decision because she was about to pay. Little Sister ran around the store growing increasingly distressed.

I rang up Bun Mom’s t-shirt and Brother’s whistle and the Christmas tree ornament Little Sister had helped pick out for the family tree.

Anything else? I asked Bun Mom.

I’m paying, she called out to her daughter. Pick something.

By this point Little Sister was howling and whining and crying and stomping her feet. She didn’t seem to want something her mother said she couldn’t have. Her frustration seemed to be coming from not being able to make a decision.

She ran out onto the porch and her mother said she’d choose something for her.

I’m getting the pinecone bracelet, Bun Mom told her through the thin walls of the yurt.

No!  Little Sister howled. Not that, she wailed. Anything but that!

She came back into the store, and ended up picking out a pinecone necklace. I don’t know why she liked the pinecone on the necklace but hated it on the bracelet.

She continued to cry and ran back out onto the porch.

Bun Mom told me the girl had trouble making decisions and was overwhelmed by all the choices in the store. I would call “overwhelmed” an understatement. I think the girl was having a full blown meltdown.

We closed the store soon after Little Sister and her family and friends left.

The Man went outside to close the yurt’s window. When he came back in, he said, That little girl is still crying. He’d seen her run up to the store, look at the sign saying “Sorry, we’re closed,” and take off running while sobbing. She had probably wanted to exchange her pinecone necklace for something she’d decided was better.

I don’t think she’s enjoying her human experience, The Man said, and I had to agree with him there.

I took the photos in this post.

Knives

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The two women and four kids came in ten minutes before the mercantile closed.

The women looked so young to me, although they were probably in their early 30s and were obviously the mothers of the children.

The first woman who came in had her hair pulled back into a tight bun. She wore those hiking tights so popular with athletic (and not so athletic) women these days. Her scoop-neck t-shirt dipped just enough in the back to show the tattoo of a lotus at the base of her neck. Her son was maybe nine, her daughter around six.

The second woman had loose dark hair and glasses with square black frames. Her shorts were quite short, and she wore white almost-to-her-knee socks with her boots. She had a sarong or a large scarf or an East Indian tapestry draped over her shoulders with a side hanging over each breast. At first I thought she was topless under the sarong/scarf/tapestry, but when she turned, I saw her black bikini top. She had two boys with her, one about five, the other probably ten.

They were on a souvenir buying expedition. The children were turned loose in the store while the women looked at magnets and t-shirts and Christmas tree ornaments.

I have twenty bucks! the littlest boy exclaimed, to which the boy who wasn’t his brother said, Who cares? (It soon became apparent to me that this boy had just about had it with the younger kid.)

The little boy’s mom said, That’s not cool to the older boy, but the grin on her face told me she thought it was all pretty funny.

It turned out that while the little boy was clutching a $20 bill, he had to share it with his brother. Each of the four kids had a $10 souvenir budget.

They circled the store eliminating possibilities. The walking sticks were too expensive. The t-shirts weren’t enticing (and probably too expensive anyway), and none of the kids were interested in stuffed animals.

The mercantile sells these wooden whistles carved to look like forest animals.

The boy who didn’t care about the little kid’s twenty bucks was the first to find his souvenir: a wooden whistle carved to look like a bear. He tried to get the other kids interested in the whistles too, but he was the only taker.

(How do you know it’s a whistle? his little sister asked.

Let her blow it, his mom said.

No! said the boy with concern on his face. She can’t blow it! We haven’t paid for it!)

The older of the brothers tried to convince the little one to pool their money and buy something they could share. He showed the little boy a breakable “I Love California” bank, and the little boy about had a fit. He screamed his negative feeling about the bank until—finally—his mother told him to chill out. I was beginning to think the little boy controlled the whole family.

Then the older of the two brothers saw the pocket knives.

We keep the pocket knives in the glass display case. People can’t touch them unless a worker hands them over.

How much are the pocket knives? the bigger boy asked.

I told him they were $6.95 plus tax.

Can I see one? he asked.

I didn’t really want to hand one over to the kid and have to take responsibility for whatever might happen, so I said, We’ll have to see if it’s ok with your grown up. The boy rolled his eyes behind his Buddy Holly glasses.

Bikini Mom was across the store. Grown up? I called to her. Oh, grownup?

She looked at me, blinking, as if I were an intruder in her secret dream world.

Can he look at a pocket knife? I asked her.

She said he could. She didn’t even walk over to supervise.

The mercantile sells these “razor sharp” pocket knives. We keep them in the display case until someone asks about them.

I pulled out the cardboard knife display and set it on the counter. The boy grabbed a knife and examined it.  His little brother watched with great interest.

I’ll get this, the big boy declared.

I want one too! I want one too! the little brother hollered.

You have to get your parent’s permission, I told them. No way would I have given that angry little brother a knife. I’m not sure the big boy was really ready for one either.

The older boy rolled his eyes at me again. Can I get a pocket knife? he called out to his mother.

I want one too! I want one too! the little brother hollered some more.

Bikini Mom said sure, they could get knives. She hadn’t even come over to take a look.

I turned to her and said, You know the box says they’re razor sharp, right? Of course, she didn’t know anything about the knives because she hadn’t come close enough to gather any information. However at the words “razor sharp,” she did walk over.

The little brother was still hollering, I want one too! I want one too!

The boy from the other family was very interested in the knives. He also wanted one. Bun Mom told him he was NOT getting a knife. He said he’d had a knife before…And it broke! his mother said, and you’re not getting one! Her tone of voice left no room for argument, and the kid dropped the subject.

Meanwhile, Bikini Mom and her oldest boy examined the knife. They couldn’t figure out how to close it. I showed them. Both moms started talking about safety and being very careful and this is not a toy. The little bother kept hollering about how he wanted one too, and I thought the big boy might roll his eyes right out of his head.

Bun Mom told her friend this knife thing might not be a good idea. Maybe she should consult with the boys’ father, Bun Mom said.

Emboldened by her friend’s caution, Bikini Mom told her boys they could not have knives. I was relieved and put the knives back in the display case.

The older boy followed his mother around the store, hassling her.

She must have said she didn’t want the little boy to have a knife, because I heard the big boy say, Then just tell him no! I could tell he was completely exasperated. I suspect the little boy was hardly ever told no.

The big boy finally wore his mother down, and she told him to go ask his father. Presumably, the father was on a campsite nearby because the boy wasn’t gone three minutes.

He said yes, the boy told his mom.

Even for your little brother? Bikini Mom asked.

Yep, the boy said. I wondered if he’d used the words “razor sharp” when he described the knives to his father.

The boys used their $20 to each get a knife, plus a box of candy and a pack of cheap plastic finger lights. The big boy immediately opened his knife.

How do you close this again? Bikini Mom asked.

I told her The Man would show her, and he did, but neither the mother nor son could do it.

If he can’t even close the knife, he shouldn’t have it, The Man whispered to me.

Can I carve with this? the older boy asked.

Absolutely NOT!  The Man told him. He told the boy the knife wasn’t made for carving. It would be dangerous to carve with that knife, he said. The Man tried to scare some sense into the moms by telling them about times he’s sliced into his own hand while carving and how now he wears a special protective glove.

You can only use this when you’re with your father, Bikini Mom told her boys.

Someone’s going to bleed tonight, I whispered to The Man.

He just shook his head and told me quietly that no one under 13 should have a knife.

I took the photos in this post.

Get a Job

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Children in the parking lot love to sit in my chair.

If it were only kids coming off the trail who wanted to sit in my chair, I’d speculate they were tired and/or their legs hurt. However, kids who are just getting out of cars also want to plop their butts in my chair. Is the novelty of a seat they’ve never sat in more than they can resist? Are kids these days simply so lazy they can’t stand for five minutes?

If there is a crowd at the front of the parking lot and I have to be a few steps from my chair, I’ve learned to keep an eye on it. If I look away from it for too long, I’m bound to find some child relaxing in it when I look back.

One Saturday morning, an extended family arrived in the parking lot in six vehicles. When everyone finally tumbled out of the minivans and SUVs, there must have been twenty little kids milling about. Haven’t these people heard of birth control? I muttered to my co-worker. I had to stand for some reason, them step away from my chair. Sure enough, when I looked back, some tween was relaxing in my seat.

I walked up to the kid and said, Excuse me. That’s not your chair.

The kid looked at me like What? Isn’t every chair my chair? (I hate people with a sense of entitlement, especially when those people are too young to be entitled to much.) But he moved his ass.

I went on with whatever I had been doing. When I glanced back, a different kid from the same family was in my chair!

I walked over and said (loudly), Excuse me! That’s not your chair!

Again, the child moved, but didn’t exhibit one bit of embarrassment or remorse. Apparently, every empty chair is for a kid to sit in.

In no instance when a child has plopped down in my chair has an adult responsible for the kid said, What are you doing? or Don’t sit in the lady’s chair. or That chair doesn’t belong to you. or We don’t sit in chairs that don’t belong to us. Nothing. I’m convinced the majority of parents and adult guardians will allow the children in their care to do anything if it garners them a moment’s peace.

One morning as I walked across the roadway to pick up a piece of trash, a young woman approached my co-worker to pay her parking fee. A little boy (about eight years old) was with her. The kid was running around, and the young woman (his mother? his sister? his babysitter?) was paying absolutely no attention to him.

I saw the kid eyeing my chair, so I hustled over and sat my butt down in it.

As I sat, I heard the boy say, something, something, chair!

This is my chair, I said,

The boy said, I would like to have a chair like that.

You better get a job, I told him. (Oh, how my co-worker burst out laughing when I recounted this part of the story.)

The kid physically recoiled from me. Who could blame him? I don’t want a job either. But to get a nice chair like mine, he’s going to need money, and to get money, he’s going to need a job. (Of course, I got my chair from a free pile, but I wasn’t going to give the kid that information and get his hopes up. To read about the free pile where I got my chair, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/01/25/the-free-pile-at-the-rtr/.)

I took this photo of the chair kids love to sit in.

I took this photo of the chair kids love to sit in.

Family

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Sometimes a whole family is a mess.

It was the first Saturday in August, and the parking lot was a bit slower than it had been throughout July. Sure, the lot was crowded, and we were busy, but the sense of chaos wasn’t quite so intense.

My interaction with the family started with the grandmother, who wanted to park with the other two vehicles in her party. She tried to park beside some trees (instead of nose-in, between trees, like most people park), but that didn’t quite work out, even with a young man standing behind her car, waving his arms and giving directions. Grandma gave up on this potential parking place rather quickly and drove off deeper into the parking lot to find an easier spot.

My next interaction with the family came when Dad (the young man who’d tried to direct Grandma in parking) approached me and asked about the location of the water slides. I pulled out a map, pointed to we are here, then pointed to the waterslides are there. The man exhibited no glimmer or recognition. Nothing. The lights were on, and yet, nobody seemed to be home.

Can we get there from here? Dad asked me.

Why yes! I wanted to say. This is a map. What a map does is show how to get there from here. Instead I pointed out the two roads he could take.

Dad walked away, skeptical, until his brother-in-law said he had directions.

Then Grandma joined the rest of the family in my vicinity.

I left my purse in the tent, she announced. I have to go back. I’m worried. I left my purse in the tent.

Her daughter thought she had left her purse in the car, until Grandma made her understand by saying, I left my purse in the tent at the campground.

Something in the word campground made the daughter’s brain click that tent and car are two different places, and the old lady’s purse was not a short walk away.

Grandma was insistent that she had to go back to the campground because she was worried about her purse in the tent. Her daughter said they were going to walk the trail before they went back to the campground, which didn’t seem to be nearby.

By this point, most of the members of the extended family that had arrived in three vehicles were clustered near where my co-worker and I stand at the front of the parking lot. Grandma was joined by her two daughters and at least ten children ranging in age from 3 to 14. I don’t know why they were all standing there—probably waiting for folks to return from the restroom, get water out of the cooler, or otherwise get their shit together.

The two smallest children were milling about fully in the parking lot’s roadway.

You probably want to get out of the street, folks, I said to the crowd. People drive into this parking lot fast sometimes. (Which is true.)

The first small child moved closer to the other children, but the littlest girl remained where she was.

Lyla, come here, one of the adult sisters said to the girl standing in the roadway.

Lyla turned her head away from the woman and ignored her command.

Lyla, come here now, the woman said again sternly.

Lyla had apparently lost the ability to hear, for she took no heed of the woman’s words and didn’t move a muscle.

Dee-lye-la! the woman shouted. Get over here NOW! This is a street!

A miracle! Lyla could hear again. She languidly turned her head toward the woman with a look of Oh? Are you talking to me? on her tiny face. Then she slowly left the middle of the roadway and joined the clot of kinfolk.

About that time, I looked to my left and over my shoulder and saw Junior, approximately age nine, sprawled in the middle of the roadway, messing around with his shoes. He’d managed to remove his red flip flops and put on his white socks. He hadn’t yet put on his sneakers. He was just sitting on the pavement, shoes strewn around him.

I should have just let him sit there, slowly figure out what shoes are for, how they relate to feet, how to go about the next steps in his task, but I imagined disaster and jumped up.

Sweetheart, I said, you don’t want to sit in the middle of the road to do that.

The grandma and the two adult sisters sprang into verbal action. That’s a street! they admonished the boy.

Junior shuffled around in his stocking feet, holding his sneakers and his flip flops, looking for a place to sit to put on his shoes. Apparently standing while putting on shoes was beyond his capabilities. None of the women could come up with a place for him to sit until Grandma honed in on my chair, which I had abandoned when I jumped up in astonishment at seeing an unsupervised little boy sitting in the middle of a place where drivers pull in too fast, where drivers often claim not to see me (and I’m a not insubstantial adult standing and waving my arm).

I should have let the kid sit in the road and go about his oh-so-slow business of putting on his sneakers. Maybe one of his parents would have noticed him and had him move. If a car had come in, I could have jumped to the rescue. But I’d had to open my big mouth and get involved, and worse, move my butt from my chair. Now Grandma was asking if the boy could possibly, just maybe, only for a moment sit in my chair while he put on his shoes.

I said yes. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t have an alternative to suggest, and I knew this family was not going anywhere until Junior had his shoes on.

So Junior sat in my chair and slow-as-getting-out-of-a-warm-bed-on-a-cold-Monday-morning, he put on his sneakers. His mother never told him to hurry up or bent down to humiliated him into getting his ass into gear by “helping” him. Everybody just stood there and waited.

I looked over and saw a second tiny girl. This one had her foot propped up on my chair. I realized she had her foot on my chair’s attached folding table, the table who’s top I’d collaged. She had her foot up on the folded down table, rocking it back and forth on its hinge. If any of the adults had noticed her activity, no one had told her to cease and desist.

This was all I could take. I rushed over to that side of the chair and said, Sweetheart! (in a tone of voice that really meant, Hey you snot nose brat!)

Don’t put your foot on my chair! You’re going to get it dirty!

To her credit, the child immediately removed her foot from my collaged surface. She actually looked repentant. (I probably looked like a rabid ape lady.)

This photo I took shows the collaged surface of the folding table the girl child had her foot on.

This photo I took shows the collaged surface of the folding table the girl child had her foot on.

Her mother directed the child to Say you’re sorry!

The girl child looked up at me with big cow eyes and whispered, I’m sorry; I almost felt bad.

I couldn’t take one moment more of this genetic pool, so I hid behind the information board until they all went away.