The other day I saw a mother (about my age) peacefully milling about a local department store, her three children (about my kids' ages) obediently in tow like little ducklings.First I was jealous.

Then I wondered what she drugged them with. And where can I get some?

Her shopping in picture perfect bliss made me reflect in horror, mind you, on recent shopping excursions with my kids. Someone commented not so long ago on how well-behaved my kids are. And to that I'd have to say, well.... sometimes they are. Other times, not so much.


Our most recent shopping trips have been utter chaos. It seems like when only one child accompanies me, that child is an angel. When it's the older one and one of the younger ones, they're still pretty good. But when the younger two are together or I have all 3, it turns into an onslaught of fighting, running, chasing, yelling, and me hissing a slew of threats that I really really intend to fulfill--just as soon as we're out of the public eye.

I mean, you can't spank your kids in public anymore. It's become completely unacceptable.

So what do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a crowded store besieged by your own badly behaved children?  Run away? The thought has crossed my mind. Shoplift something so the cops will cart me away and I can get three squares a day that I don't have to cook and 6 by 8 cell I don't have to clean? Too bad I don't look good in orange. Cry? I have. Curse? Been there, done that. Threaten to call the dad? Yep. Actually call the dad? Oh yeah. But none of those are particularly helpful options.

I read an advice column once that suggested parents should just abandon their would-be purchases and take their children home to face the consequences. I did that once. I found myself :45 minutes into a very long grocery list, growing weary of constantly saying, "stop," "don't," "quit," and so I just gave up. I waved the white flag and walked away from my basketful of groceries.  All I could think on the way out was how I couldn't believe how much time I was wasting because I'd just have to come back later and do it all again.

But here's the thing... As I grabbed the little buggers by their wrists and escorted them out of the store like the little criminals they were for stealing my sanity in that moment, I noticed something. The look on their faces was priceless. You could tell they couldn't believe I had actually done it. I'd threatened to lots of times. But they didn't expect me to actually do it. They're smart enough to know I'm far too frazzled to just throw away :45 minutes of grocery shopping only to have to come back and do it all again. Usually... But that day, I was either just feeling bold or I had finally cracked up. Either way, it worked.

They were terrifed. We drove home in complete silence. No one dared utter a word. And when we arrived home, they marched quietly to their rooms. And the next few times we went shopping they were like robots. Very helpful and quiet little robots.

The lesson I learned that day is, I'm just not tough enough. I'm a wimp at punishment. And the thing about punishment is, it all comes down to the follow through. I am so bad about making threats I can't keep. Sometimes, I make threats I don't even intend to keep. And now they're on to me.

Perhaps I should reflect on my terrible lack of commitment to solid punishments with a time out. In Tahiti.