99 Problems

Published on March 20th, 2024 | by Raya Yarbrough


A Great Parenting Day

We entered the store to the refrain of “Don’t put pants on your heaaaaaaad! Don’t put pants on your heaaaaaad!”

It’s amazing the way memories will upcycle through song when your companion is a two-year-old person. You constantly hear yourself quoted, as if past threats and requests were segments from a musical you saw when you were high. A vapor of recollection at best, but your little friend remembers.

Everyone is a perfect parent, the way everyone is a perfect spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend. Which is to say everyone is a filthy liar. Everyone has looked down their noses at the hot mess of somebody else’s toddler meltdown, thinking “That’s not how WE operate.”

Yes, you do. And it will be you tomorrow, just like it was me today. Yeah, you, old dude who raised his eyebrow. Either you don’t remember what it was like, or you were never cut out for it to begin with.

Back to the story. We entered the store to the refrain of “Don’t put pants on your heaaaaaaaad!” but fortunately Teeny has an airy soprano at this point, so the performance resonated under most of the public radar.

We made it through the produce department with only one incident of excessive apple-putting-in-a-bag, the plastic stretched vulgar with multiple bosoms of fruit. Only one violent rejection of a particular banana, which needed to immediately be switched for three of its comrades. Only one jar of white truffle oil, caught within an inch of its life from the linoleum. Only one store-opened chia snack, half-eaten and ejected from the cart with the flair of a limp-wristed aristocrat.

We were halfway through the shopping list when we became THOSE PEOPLE.

Teeny had started to malfunction ten minutes before into wide-eyed chaos. With passionate immediacy, she wriggled and whinnied her way out of the cart. This was the downturn of the blood-sugar crest, the last flash of dopamine, the bungee cord swing between despair and joy, trailing behind my cart in a grapevine of size-four tap tap tap tap tap SKID tap tap tap tap taps.

She evaded product displays like a quarterback.

We got to the yogurt cabinet, and I gathered a few cups in my hands. Then, somehow, in a moment of quantum flux, she was across the entire section. She had just been on my heels, and now she was 20 feet away.


Suddenly, she was in the midst of two random families. Why was she with these people? How? She turned to look at me through a crack in the crowd.

“NO!” she amplified at me.


The families swiveled their heads back to me, like they were watching a ghastly familial tennis match.

Teeny bounced towards me and stopped right in the middle of a family of five, as if she belonged there. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

She screamed. Just stood there and released air through her underdeveloped vocal folds with a warlike thunder that would intimidate Thor.


I looked up and caught the eye of an old dude, who gave a half-smirk with an eyebrow that suggested either Teeny or I should’ve received the belt at some point before this.

I was about to physically pick her up when one of the yogurt cups in my hands slipped, fell, and smashed gooey, blue, parental shame all over the shiny, shiny floor.

Gramps’ eyebrow remained raised.

The mom of the family of five offered, so insightfully, “You should get someone to clean that up.”

I gathered Teeny like a large stuffed animal under my arm and found help.

Nothing else happened before we left. Except, oh yeah, while my small human was doing laps in the check-out line, I, swan-like, cast asunder a container of raspberries into the line behind me. Because who DOESN’T want to walk in red plant blood and track that home?

Thank God it started raining on my way out. And I’d parked far away.

Cover photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

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About the Author

Raya Yarbrough is a writer and singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. Her creative nonfiction has been published or is forthcoming in Frazzled and Mixed Mag. Her poetry has been featured in Writers Resist and won first prize in One Page Poetry’s 2023 contest and an honorable mention in Poetry of the Sacred’s 2023 contest. Raya has written and produced three albums of eclectic music, and her voice and original music have been featured in many TV series, including Battlestar Galactica and Outlander. She is currently finishing a humorous memoir about being a parent in a multiracial family while also being a working artist. rayayarbrough.com/

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