Her days as a pack mule are over


I was quite the hauler when our sons were young. I toted diaper bags and lugged toddlers wherever I went. I carried teething rings, baby bottles and a fully stocked layette. Oftentimes I’d find myself carrying a dinosaur and at least one football with no recollection of agreeing to take them on.

My back was strong, my arms were burly, and due to the chaos that surrounded me, I was out of my mind.

These days with our sons all towering over me, one would think that my hauling days would be over. With broad shoulders and strong backs, they should be able to carry their own wares and haul purchases like it’s their job.

Why is it then that whenever I take those kids shopping, I find myself in the middle of a shopping facility dragging two bags full of recent purchases and some sort of electronic device that’s sure to keep them on the cutting edge of technology?

It’s not just the shopping. No sir, every now and then I notice that my purse weighs more than an overfed baby. Just last week I gazed inside it and noticed that I had three of their wallets, one iPod and the latest edition of Sports Illustrated.

“What am I,” I called out to no one in particular, “a pack mule?”

Our recent family vacation was a prime example of just this. There we were in the heart of the city when Vernon (who looks like he could haul a fully stocked duffel bag up a mountain without a Sherpa) announced that he’d spied the coolest flip-flops ever.

On a side note, turns out we no longer call them thongs.

Having walked for the better part of the day with several hours of trekking still looming on the horizon, I said to him, “Buy them if you must, but I won’t haul them.”

“Oh please, Mother,” Vernon said with an emphatic eye roll, “I can carry my own stuff.”

I don’t think he minded lugging his new flip-flops for the

first mile or two. He did OK as we rounded corners and maneuvered our way among pedestrians. Why, he didn’t even complain when he had to run two blocks back to the hamburger stand to retrieve the forgotten bag from under a stool.

But as any baby-toting mother will tell you, all things get heavy in time.

As we stood in an hour-long line for Chicago’s best pizza, I caught Vernon staring intently at my purse.

“What?” I asked as I pulled my bag in close.

“You got room in that thing,” he said more than asked.

“Absolutely not!” I replied as I clutched my satchel to my side.

“Oh come on!” he protested. “This bag is annoying!” I didn’t say I told him so, but we all knew I told him so. Next thing I knew, Vernon was eyeballing his younger brother (whom he can talk into anything) and his Adidas slides with Velcro straps.

“Charlie,” he said in the sweetest tone, “wanna wear my new flip-flops?”

“Not really,” Charlie responded, and although he said it, it did him no good, and the next thing you knew, Charlie was wearing his brother’s shoes and Vernon was eyeballing my purse once again as he held Charlie’s slides.

“I won’t,” I responded once again with a firm jaw.

Then Vernon turned to look at his father and began to eyeball his garb. Sadly enough for Vernon, his dad was accessorized with neither a pocket pouch nor a man purse.

“What are you looking at?” Pat asked with ignorance. Poor soul lacked the experience of playing pack mule with the pack.

Before dear old dad knew it, he had a Velcro slide attached to a belt loop on both sides of his hindquarters. While Vernon enjoyed his free hands, Pat looked from behind like he was carrying a big-footed baby on the front.

Through the city we went. Up streets and down them, into historic buildings and back out — looking like any other touring family with a father who accessorizes with extra shoes. Why, we even did well with witty answers when the locals would inquire, “What did you eat?” as they took in the sliders that adorned Pat’s hindquarters.

I think on our next family outing I’ll ditch those kids of ours with as much product as they can carry. Wouldn’t that be a great idea?

Let them walk a mile in our shoes.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at