“Good morning mommy,” Tommy said as he rubbed his eyes.
“Good morning baby.” She replied as she got him out of his crib. She hugged him and sat him down on the changing table. “I sure enjoyed our day yesterday, thanks for hanging out with me,” she said as she unzipped his PJs.
“I had fun too, thanks for taking me.”
She removed his night-time diaper and tossed it into the pail. “We have to go to the store today.” She paused for a moment as she retrieved a fresh one from the diaper stacker. “Which is lucky because you’re almost out of diapers.”
She cleaned and powdered him before setting him down and taping him up. “Try and think if there’s anything you want.”
He was dressed in a pair of blue checkers shorts and a shirt with a simple picture of a sailboat before following her downstairs to the breakfast table. His mommy drank a cup of coffee and ate half a grapefruit while he enjoyed a bowl of strawberry cereal. He peered at the maze on the back of the box. It looked impossible, almost dizzyingly complex. “It must be for big kids,” he thought to himself. He was surprised at himself for not including himself in that category, but it seemed undeniable.
Karen sat down her empty mug. “Almost ready? I’d like to get to the store early.”
He grabbed his bowl and slurped the last of the milk. His mother took one look at him and dunked her napkin in her glass of water. She reached over and wiped a smear of strawberry milk from his mouth. “Keep up like this and I’ll need to get you a bib too.”
“I was going to wipe it off,” he protested.
She patted his head. “I know, I just want to make sure it’s all gone, sweety. Don’t worry about it.” She stood up and grabbed his diaper bag from the counter. “Come on, let’s go.”
As they arrived at the supermarket Tommy noticed several large coin-operated rides outside the entrance. One child was giggling with delight as he rode one shaped like an airplane while his mother watched. He had hold of the pilot’s yolk and was clearly controlling the movement of the ride.
“Wow, that looks fun,” he exclaimed.
“I bet we can find some time for that if you’re a good boy,” she said as she grabbed a cart.
The door slid open and they stepped into the store. A soft chime played over the PA system followed by a cheery voice “Autostockers are active throughout the store. Please ensure that small children are seated inside the shopping cart at all times. Thank your cooperation, and enjoy your shopping experience.”
No sooner were those words out than a golf-cart-sized vehicle sped by before quickly turning and darting down an aisle. A mechanical arm quickly unloaded a few boxes and neatly placed them on the shelf before it sped off. Tommy had little doubt about what was coming next.
Before we could say a word he was plopped down in the front of the cart. “But mommy…” he started.
“You heard what they said. Just let me get what we need and we’ll see about one of those rides outside.”
Tommy watched another Autostocker silently whiz past and realized he was better off not needing to dodge them. “OK mommy” he relented.
“Good boy,” she said as she pushed the cart towards the produce section.
As his mother filled the basket Tommy sat in his perch and observed as people went about their shopping. He became aware of dryness in his throat. “I’m kind of thirsty,” he said as she placed a bag of carrots into the cart.
“There you go baby,” she said as she took a bottle from his diaper bag.
“Thanks, mommy,” he said as she went off in search of more vegetables.
He looked around. The crowd in the store was growing. He saw elementary school-aged children simply walking along behind their parents, free of any shopping cart confines. He watched as one girl left to another part of the store to help her mother find something. An awareness of himself sitting in this cart sucking on his bottle began to dawn on him. Then he looked further down the aisle and saw another boy contentedly enjoying his bottle, obviously unworried by anything around him. With a smile, Tommy went back to nursing.
She returned and began pushing the cart towards the next aisle. She smiled at him“You really were thirsty,” she ruffled his hair.
“This stuff is pretty good I guess,” he said.
“Well I know just the place to get more,” she said as she turned down an aisle stocked with stacks of diapers and other baby products. She took a package from the shelf and sat it in the basket. She looked at him slyly “How about some strawberry flavor for a treat? You seem to like that.”
He shifted around bashfully. “Thanks, mommy.”
“You’re welcome, honey,” she said as she moved down the aisle scanning the bags of diapers. As she started grabbing several bags Tommy heard a small but familiar voice.
“Hi Tommy,” Josh said excitedly.
Tommy looked over at the boy from the pizza place seated in another cart. “Oh, hi,” he replied.
“Stocking up too?” Nicole said as she set a few packages in her cart.
“Oh, hi Nicole. I didn’t see you there.” Karen said in surprise “Yeah, they’re having a sale so I thought I’d grab enough to last a while. These are great, I thought we were going to have a disaster yesterday but they held up.”
Tommy glanced at his shoes.
“The designs are cute, but we haven’t had any luck with them at night” Nicole replied.
“I put Tommy in these at night,” Karen said as she reached for some night-time diapers “He’s soaked in the morning, but no leaks.” She tussled his hair as he blushed.
“Maybe I’ll give them a try,” Nicole said as she grabbed a package “Thanks for the tip.” She started back down the aisle. “Bye. Nice to see you two again.”
Josh waved as he was carted away.
“Bye. Good to see you guys too.” Karen waved.
She turned to her son. “I hope that stuff doesn’t make you too embarrassed, it’s just what mommies talk about.”
Tommy shrugged “It’s OK mommy, I understand.”
She smiled “Good to hear.”
Tommy rode along from aisle to aisle watching people shopping. Somewhere in the middle of the bread aisle, he felt a finger sneak into his waistband.
“Come on, let’s get you changed,” his mother said as she turned the cart around and whisked him to the back of the store. She found a place to park their cart, grabbed the diaper bag, plucked him out of his seat, and carried him into the restroom. She paused and looked around for a bit. “No changing table,” she said as she searched one last time. “Well let’s see what we can do.”
She exited back into the main store and found a woman wearing a name tag emblazoned with the store logo.
“Excuse me,” she said as she gave him a little bounce. “I need a place to change this guy’s diaper.”
Tommy blushed slightly as he hid half his face behind his mother’s shoulder. Still, a shy smile slid across his face.
The woman smiled back warmly “There’s a family restroom over there with a changing table for little cuties like him,” she said pointing to a far corner of the store. “It’s really easy to miss.”
“Thank you,” Karen as she started toting her son in that direction “You’re a real lifesaver.”
“You’re welcome,” she said giving Tommy a little wave as he was carried away.
They entered the spacious brightly-painted room and Karen lowered the changing room from the wall. She laid him out on it and, in an impish moment, fastened the strap across his chest.
“Mommy…” he began to complain.
She put a finger to his lips “I wouldn’t want you to roll off, don’t forget about those rides outside.”
Tommy just rolled his eyes.
She worked quickly but thoroughly, making sure his bottom was clean, dry, and sufficiently powdered. After a few moments, he was back in her arms being carried back to their cart.
They finished their shopping and proceeded to the checkout.
Tommy watched his diapers travel down the conveyor belt before they reached the scanner. The clerk took them and scanned them giving him a little smile before handing them on to the bagger. He found himself returning the smile.
Once their groceries were bagged and paid for they passed back through the sliding door.
“Thank you for being such a good boy about all this,” Karen said as she released him from his seat in the cart and set him on his own feet again. “Still want to try out one of these” she motioned toward the line of rides.
Tommy hesitated for a brief second but smiled “Yes please,” he said excitedly.
“Well go ahead and pick one.”
He looked them over for a moment but he was already nearly decided. He climbed into the airplane ride he’d seen earlier. In front of him was a set of almost realistic-looking controls and gauges beneath a large screen. He heard his mother drop in a coin and suddenly they all lit up and the ride rose beneath him.
The screen displayed a cartoonish scene of a sky and ground below as viewed from the cockpit of an airplane. For the first few moments, he simply flew along. The ride responded to each of his inputs as he glided through the sky. But then a spinning target appeared before him. Instinctively he flew towards it. When he reached it a happy clinging sound rang out. Another target appeared, this one requiring a change of course. He grinned and began to maneuver his way towards it. As he closed in he noticed a timer had appeared. When that target had been hit more appeared. And each one he managed to fly into brought about new more challenging ones. The ride rolled back and forth and side to side as he navigated his way through the course. Eventually, it became too difficult and his game came to an end.
In his excitement he halfway leaped from the ride before his mother caught him and sat him down “Careful sweety,” she said. But he barely noticed as he enthused about the experience.
She smiled “I could tell you were having fun. You were laughing the whole time, just like that little boy when we came in.”
“Really,” he asked in somewhat embarrassed surprise.“I didn’t really notice,” he shrugged. “Thanks, mommy, I had a lot of fun.”
“You’re welcome baby, do you mind getting up for me one more time so we can get to the car?”
“OK, mommy,” he answered.
She hoisted him back up into the cart and started back to the car. Tommy looked up to the clouds gathering in the sky.
“Looks like we made a good call going shopping early, it’s really going to pour.”
“Did you know cause you’re a scientist,” he asked.
She grinned and tussled his hair “Mommies just know these things.”
He smiled up at her. He knew she was joking, but he felt lucky to be cared for by the smartest person he knew.