I took Henry to a large destination-type sporting goods store, which (in case you were wondering) is a big place that sells sweat pants and team jerseys next to an indoor Ferris wheel.
Jack came along for the ride and was enjoying himself immensely...until he wasn't. One minute he was scampering around gleefully watching two preteens jumping and stomping on the squares of a dance video game, and the next he was bellowing and slamming into me. It got loud and intense fast.
I could see the anxiety on Henry's face. He knew that Jack's behavior meant we would have to leave before he decided what he wanted to buy with his earnings. This is the sort of sibling dilemma which happens in our family more than I care to admit. Four children with vastly different abilities living in the same family; two parents trying (in vain, much of the time) to meet the needs of each kid.
I instructed Henry to go back to browsing--to take his time and make a good decision. He knew to leave his purchases with the cashier and come get me from the car where I would be sitting with Jack.
Ultimately, everything worked out, which isn't to say it was like butter. Pretty much every person in that giant store watched us make a very loud, flailing, unhappy exit. Ditto with everyone in the parking lot. But here are the good parts:
A) While people glanced our way, nobody stared. (Thank you, people riding the Ferris wheel and shopping for hoodies, for just being cool).
B) Three different people smiled and spoke kindly to us, in spite of the screaming and the lunging. It takes a special sort of person to not simply give us a wide berth, but to actually engage us with sweetness and concern in the midst of a meltdown.
C) Henry was a champ about shopping independently, switching places with me to watch Jack in the car so I could go back inside and pay, and not letting it ruin his day. Eldest boy deserves a gold star.
I decided I'm proud of my hometown for staying classy when we were a hot mess.