Costco, Spring 1997
Stefan hangs from the side of the cart and Ben runs down the cereal aisle ahead of us. Wailing erupts from baby Hans as his pacifier becomes dislodged and falls to the ground. I’m not much of a germaphobe but the floor is sticky and unswept. Wearily, I rub the pacifier on my jeans, pull Hans out of his infant seat and call Ben back to the cart.
Bouncing little Hans on my hip I stoop to grab a supersize box of Cheerios. It’s light but unwieldy, so it takes me three tries to balance the box in one hand and place it in my overflowing cart.
“Three boys?” a passing woman asks.
“Yes.” I reply.
“if you think it’s hard now. Just wait until they are all teenagers!” she predicted ruefully.
I wanted to kick her in the shins.
Every young mother hears that warning countless times. Goodness, I still hear it when I’m out with just Gabe and Mary.
Yes, life with teenagers means packed schedules and hormones, stupid arguments and problems with friends and girls and school. I lie awake with worries that I couldn’t have imagined when my babies were young. But I’m not nursing, I’m not changing diapers and most people in my house make it to the toilet before they throw up these days.
Now, my trips to Costco go something like this. Mary and Gabe stay home– Ben is my built-in babysitter. Hungry for samples, the three middle boys come along for the ride. Stefan grabs a cart and we saunter toward the produce section; Hans and Xander making wisecracks along the way. I point to the things we need and the boys load the cart with 6 gallons of milk, apples, cottage cheese, several boxes of cereal, double packs of Nutella. They run to each sample and advise me on future purchases. At the checkout stand they unload the cart as I fumble through my purse. I walk lazily behind the boys as the push the cart to the car, break open a pack of granola bars, laugh and eat as they load the groceries into the back.
And today, sweet Hans turns 13– an official teenager. I’m scanning the parking lot for one of the prophetesses of doom to cry, “Look! They’re teenagers and they’re fantastic!”
Happy birthday darling, cheerful, brilliant, funny Hans. Don’t believe the naysayers.