To Catch A Toddler

The task at hand filled me with dread. Although most would consider it a simple shopping errand, I knew it would require all of my energy. I needed to go to Bass Pro Shops and procure a small list of items for an upcoming fishing excursion.

A friend who was going on the trip provided the list since he actually knows how to fish.

This would tax my mental faculties. What exactly is a jig as it pertains to fishing?I thought. Surely one does not catch fish using a lively dance routine.

Of course, the list and getting the items was not the arduous part. Rather, my two-year-old son was in tow as my wife was busy spending our life savings at a yarn store sale. As soon as we entered the store, he immediately yelled “I SEE FISH!” and started running as fast as his small legs could carry him.

For those of you who have never been to a Bass Pro Shops, it is a fairly unique type of big box store. For one, the entryway is carefully decorated to look like a rustic hunting lodge. If you are dressed normally and not in something camouflage, hunters’ orange, or some sort of XXL fashion faux pas, you will feel immediately out of place. Then, one must pass through a seemingly useless turn style that does not take tokens, Metro Cards, or even keep count of anything as far as I can discern. What it does do, however, is allow a speeding toddler to gain a further lead after he ducks under the turn style while you struggle to squeeze through.

Arriving at the massive aquarium in the back of the store, my son stood before the glass in awe as catfish and other fish his size swam back and forth gracefully. It was cute to watch – for about five minutes. Then, it was time to go and buy plastic shrimp and “jigs” to catch fish.

“Let’s go over here,” I whispered in my son’s ear.

“No.”

“It will only take a minute. Dada’s got to get some things and then we can come back.”

“No! My want to look at fish!” he screamed. I stopped my entreaties. I knew from experience that if I tried to reason and cajole him to coming with me any more, it would cause a tantrum. In his two short years on Earth, my son has mastered the skills of throwing an epic public tantrum sure to bring about embarrassment and judgment from all those in the store.

The fishing section of the store was perhaps fifty feet from where we stood. I noticed a selection of rather large pole nets stocked and thought briefly about running over and grabbing one, scooping up my son, and carrying him throughout the store. Surely if the nets are designed to handle writhing fish scooped out of the water, they could handle a two-year-old having a meltdown.

I took a few steps toward the nets and stopped myself.  Would this be effective? Possibly. Would I have to explain to my wife later why there was a viral video of me on social media carrying our son in a fishing net and talking to Child Protective Services? Probably. The risks outweighed the benefits.

I watched my son watching the fish for a few more minutes and then I had a stroke of genius. What was I in the store to do? I was in the store to prepare for a fishing trip. I may as well practice catching “the big one” before the trip in addition to purchasing the necessary gear.

I pulled out my iPhone and opened the Emergency Tantrum Relief and Toddler Pacification app. Most of you know this as “Netflix.” Within seconds, I had Cars3loaded and ready to go. The hook was baited.

“Hey,” I called to my son. “Do you want to watch Cars?” The line was cast.

“Yeah!” my son said. Caught him.

I pushed play. My son’s concentration with the aquarium was broken and he began walking over toward me while Cars 3began. As I reeled him in closer, I turned my back to him and rested the phone against the small of my back with its screen facing my son.

I began walking away and my son followed, now transfixed by my phone’s screen. As we got further way I turned to make sure he was still following me and noticed at least two other children who were around the aquarium starting to drift away toward Cars 3.I had turned into some sort of twenty first century Pied Piper.  I momentarily turned the screen away from the children and shot the ones who were not mine a look that said, “Back off.” My child was annoyed and said, “Hey! My watch Cars!

During our journey through the store, I noticed sales associates and store patrons staring at me. Although most of their looks seemed judgmental on the outside, I knew on the inside they were likely extremely jealous of my ingenuity and its effectiveness. Eventually, I arrived at the cash register with my son in tow and still focused on Cars.

I laid my plastic shrimp and the fancy hooks with a little metal fish heads on them (that’s a jig, apparently) upon the counter and was satisfied that our chore was accomplished. The cashier then told me my total and my satisfaction dissipated as I realized I spent more on the (slim) possibility of catching a fish than if I had just bought one at the supermarket.

At least I got out of here without my son causing me embarrassment, I thought.

“Hey,” my son said looking up at the cashier. “My pooped.”

Never mind.

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