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It was one of those moments that tests your mothering mettle. I had to pick up one thing at Ikea. Ikea doesn’t make it easy to get just one thing so I decided to take advantage of the time until I had to pick up my oldest from school. I dropped one at the play place after a quick restroom visit and took the other to wander the aisles with me.

The little one turned out to be more of a handful than I had imagined. I’m still adjusting to the new two year-old version of my baby. Before he could handle too many breakable items I filled his hands with a bendy fish ice-cube tray and flattened storage boxes. This bought me approximately 10 minutes (not too shabby) until he abandoned the items to sit on a chair and another chair and another chair and open a cupboard and another cupboard and another cupboard and bounce on a bed and another bed and another bed… you get the idea. After a good 20 minutes of shopping, the buzzer the child care people gave me went off. Oh no, he’s had an accident. “Come on, Jack,” I beckoned to my to my toddler who was busy peeking behind the door of a tall black secretary. He turned and smiled at me and then ran the opposite direction. My heart rate sped up as the buzzer buzzed and beeped and buzzed. It has to be an accident. Or what if he’s scared? What if he got nervous without me and started to cry. He couldn’t be hurt could he? What if there was some freak accident in the ball pit? In two giant steps I overtook Jack and raced to the stairs, down them and around the corner to the play place.

A woman was already at the desk waiting for her child. The girl behind the desk glanced my way and gathered the other child’s things. She called the child. She called and called. She called some more until the woman in front of me shouted, “Jaeden! Get over here now.” They’re seriously going to make my child just sit in his own pee while they bring this other kid to his mom. They’re not even in a hurry. Where is he? Like they can’t do two kids at one time!

And then it was my turn. Still moving in slow motion, the woman who hadn’t checked me in said with a nervous frown-smile, “He’s had an incident.” My thoughts stalled. “Your son was fighting with another child,” she gestured to the previous boy whose mother was tying his shoes. “I think it’s just kind of an off day for him.” She nodded and crinkled her nose. “He was chasing other kids and jumping into the ball pit onto other kids and, well, just not listening very well.” More frown-smile. I was frozen. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t apologize for him immediately the way I normally would in similar situations. Half because I’m trying to quit and half because I was still trying to process what I’d heard.

The ladies rounded up my boy and his things, sent him through the gate and with the appearance of that sly little grin my mind checked back in. I pulled my son, still bouncing with excitement, to a nearby bench where we talked. Do you know what happened? Did you know they had to call mommy? I know you didn’t get hurt but other kids did. How do you think they felt? You know better. Do you want to be able to come back? Do you have something to tell those ladies?

I held his hand as my son willfully approached the counter and waited as I got one employees attention. “He has something he wants to tell you.” True to character he laughed, avoiding eye contact and drawing inward. “What did you want to say.”

“…sorry,” he mumbled.

“What was that,” the girl said, smiling.

“I’m sorry!” And breakthrough! Truly, I didn’t think it would happen.

“I’m sorry,” I echoed, breaking my new rule.

“It’s okay,” the girl reassured me. “It happens a lot. A lot!”

“Well, it’s a first for us,” I replied. And hopefully, a last.

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