next time just keep walking
Checking out at Target.
I'm in the semi-fugue state that all mothers reach at some point while shopping with young children. I'm acknowledging any sound that comes out of my children's mouths, making vague affirmative sounds like "Ohhhh!" and "Mmm hmmm," all the while calculating how long until I can get another coffee/having an existential crisis.
Jeremy is ringing us up. Jeremy has a lot of information to offer me on which forms of ID are best for international air travel with children. I did not initiate this conversation. I have no plans to travel internationally with my children. Jeremy just started talking. Jeremy just became dead to me/a third child to me, and I respond to him with the same vacant "mmm" and "oh uh huh" sounds that the kids have been getting for the last two minutes.
Both Jeremy and the children take these sounds to mean they should absolutely continue doing the things they are doing, only louder and with more intensity.
Jeremy: Typically, the standard-issue Washington driver's license has been acceptable for most domestic travel--
Me: Mm hmm...
Chicken: MOM I SEE A DINOSAUR!
Jeremy: -- enhanced driver's licenses are more expensive, sure, but in the long run you have to ask yourself what your time is worth, especially since my uncle told me that they're going to start phasing out state-issued--
Me: Wow. Yeah.
Buster: CAN I HAVE A LOT? MOM CAN I HAVE A LOT OF PRETZELS?
Chicken: I WANT A LOT OF PRETZELS TOO!
Jeremy: -- but the problem with the passport card is of course the cost per use, not to mention it's easier to misplace--
Me: Sure, sure, that makes sense. Oh, I don't need a receipt. Thank you! OK boys, say bye bye!
I start to push the cart away from the checkstand.
Chicken: BYE PENIS!
Buster: BYE PENIS!
Me: (vacantly) Bye penis!
I realize what I just said.
Me: Wait, who are you talking to?
Chicken: To the PENIS!
Buster: YEAH! PENIS!
Both their hands point straight at Jeremy, whose face has turned bright red as he begins to ring up the next person in line.
Me: Oh. Oh no. Hey, listen up guys.
Chicken: YEAH LISTEN UP PENIS!
I put my face really close to their faces. They know the closer I get the more serious I am. Well, Chicken knows. Buster just wants to pick my nose.
Me: Penis is a -- Buster, no thank you -- perfectly great word to use when -- stop it, Buster -- you're talking about your body with someone you know and -- BUSTER, cut it out -- love and trust. But penis is NOT an okay word to use with strangers, or to call somebody.
He waves at Jeremy.
Me: His name is Jeremy. He works here. He deserves our kindness and respect.
Chicken: But... what if he were a penis?
Me: But he IS NOT a penis. He's a person.
Chicken: A person with a penis, though, right?
Me: I don't know and that's none of our business. Penises are private body parts that are not okay to talk about with strangers.
Chicken: Yeah, Buster, strangers are people we don't know.
Me: That's right. And do we know him?
Me: NO! We don't.
Chicken: That's Jeremy. He works here.
Me: OK, yes, we know him a tiny bit, but we don't know him enough to talk about penises with him, and we definitely don't know him well enough to CALL him a penis.
Chicken: Who do we know well enough to call a penis?
Buster: Me! Me! ME ME ME!!!
He shoots his hand straight up in the air and waves it around like a crazed Price is Right contestant.
Chicken: You're penis.
Buster smiles, pats himself on the belly, and says,
Buster: I am penis.
Me: That's totally fine with me.
Katie has no idea how much spaghetti to cook for a family of 4. Like, two boxes?