Escalators are scary when you’re little. They’re even scarier when you are a mom and have to balance a stroller in one hand and a kid in the other. It’s sort of like dropping your keys in a thunderstorm while wearing high heels a week after giving birth; there’s a good chance you might fall, but you do it anyway because it’s quicker than taking the stairs.
I don’t know what the protocol is for training toddlers to mount a moving stairwell, but my kid wanted no part of it. She was scared shitless and rightly so. I never told her about the girl who got her arm caught in one when I was growing up or the lady in China who fell to her death after saving a little boy because I didn’t want to freak her out, yet somehow, it happened. For years, I have hoisted her up or located an alternative method of transport whenever traveling to higher (or lower) grounds: eight years, 72 pounds, and a whole lotta attitude.
Over the holiday break this year, I decided it was time to prepare my daughter for the future. She was going to learn how to ride an escalator on her own—even if it killed me. I chose Dillard’s as a practice field because the store near our house usually didn’t get busy until later in the day and I didn’t want her to feel pressured or overwhelmed. We showed up when the doors opened at 10:00 am and started slowly with one foot barely skimming the surface. She would tap the metal grate with her faux Ugg boot and then pull it back to safety. “See,” I smiled. “I told you it was nothing.” For the next ten minutes, we stood on the P1 platform and practiced touching the step with one foot. She was beginning to get the hang of it, and once her terrified face eased up, I knew she was ready for more. “You’ve GOT this!” I cheered. “How about keeping your foot ON it this time instead of taking it off.” Still hesitant, she continued to pat her foot on the ascending stair. “But Mommy,” she cried, “I’m scared!” Just then, a three-year-old girl blew past and climbed her way up, backward, toward the shoe department. It was a slap to my daughter’s face and we both froze, laughing at the irony. “It’s time,” I whispered, “Just DO it,” —and she did. She grabbed the railing with two hands and held on for dear life while verbally applauding her success. “Did you see me? I DID IT, MOM! I can’t believe I did it!”
I would like to thank Dillard’s for not kicking us out that day. We spent four hours riding up and down the escalators and didn’t buy a thing. That night, she took her father back to Dillard’s and did the same thing. The next day, she begged me to take her again. She was hooked. She needed a stairwell fix to get her through the day, and no other store would do. I told her we could go on one condition: that we only stay for an hour and bought something while we were there. Though our escalator training camp was a huge success, it didn’t come without a price. My daughter locked in on a pink ruffled dress, and I walked away with a little more pain than I ever thought possible. Who knew that standing still on a moving stairwell could be such a tough workout? Do yourself a favor and don’t wait until your kid’s eighth birthday to teach them. Your body will thank you.