It was my most harrowing Starbucks visit to date, culminating in being kicked in the leg by an enraged 4-year-old on the way out the door.
Everything was normal, or so I thought. We sat down on comfortable chairs, and had a five minute discussion about what we were drinking. The Boys talked about the merits of smoothies versus hot chocolate, back and forth for a while.
"There's no corn syrup in the smoothie," Lefty declared.
"And there's corn syrup in the whipped cream on the hot chocolate," responded Righty, dolefully.
"But you could just not get the cream," Lefty replied. [Why, oh why did I ever let them watch Food, Inc.?]
Righty chose hot chocolate, minus that evil whipped cream.
Lefty (smugly?) went for the cold drink.
Mr J was adamant: hot chocolate WITH whipped cream. Food, Inc. clearly went in one eye and out the other. Oh, there was a ghastly drawing of a chicken on a conveyer belt. Never mind.
I returned with the drinks and retrieved Coo from her pushchair. She instantly grasped for my hot mug and tried to taste it. Sorry, babes. No double-shot lattes for you yet... You'll have to be content with your stolen teaspoonfuls out of Mummy's coffee at home when she's looking elsewhere.
We all finished our drinks, amidst much straw and wooden stirrer collecting, to take home for later. [Does anyone else's kids do this? Or are mine just shameless hunter gatherers?]
Through the humming of a lunchtime Starbucks, the murmuring of baby Coo, the lengthy discussions of Lefty and Righty, rose the sound of a breaking storm. It came without warning, piercingly petulant:
"I WANTED SMOOTHIE NOT HOT CHOCOLATE!"
I looked over at the storm and made my first mistake. Reasoning with the unreasonable. "I'm quite sure you said hot chocolate, Mr J."
"NO I SAID SMOOTHIE BUT NOBODY LISTENED!"
Lefty and Righty, pillars of logic in the totally illogical world of their brother of four years, affirmed what I said and Lefty added, for diplomatic measure:
"The smoothie was very thin like juice, Mr J. It wasn't like the nice thick ones we make at home."
There was no appeasing, no reasoning, no arguing. HE HAD WANTED SMOOTHIE. Particularly now that his hot chocolate was drained to the last drop, corn syrup sodden cream and all.
I coolly prepared to leave, attempting to remain oblivious to the persistent whining that drifted around the space Mr J was inhabiting.
The pushchair wheels were rolling towards the door when it must have hit him that we were leaving without a smoothie.
"I SAID SMOOTHIE I DID YOU JUST DIDN'T HEAR ME!"
As Lefty and Righty held the door for me and Coo's wheels were traveling through the doorframe, I received the historic kick.
Calm, I told myself. Stay calm. Never mind that everyone in Starbucks is now interested in our drama.
He protested loudly for a long time, as we walked all the way through the town centre. I felt the pitying looks of other mothers, the judgmental stares of some.
When we arrived home, he was fine. I did not say or do anything to address his behaviour apart from arranging a long phone chat with Daddy.
Tonight, after I'd read him six library books and two Bible stories, he rolled around in the pillows on my bed, and looked over at me as I changed Coo.
"I'm sorry, Mum."
"What for, Mr J?"
"For the Starbucks thing. You know, Mum."
Sometimes, forgiveness is just too easy.