There is nothing that gives me more anxiety, than letting my 4 and 5 year old “walk” through the grocery store-or any store for that matter, rather than letting them ride in the cart. Why, you ask? If you have to ask than you probably don’t have kids. If that’s the case, let me enlighten you.
Imagine pulling into the parking lot with two bright young energetic kiddos in tow. You grab your purse, wallet, or whatever it is that you are taking in the store with you. Shopping with kids is going to be so fun. You’ve clipped your coupons, mapped out the store, and have everything you need organized on a list in alphabetical order, according to aisle. You couldn’t be more ready. You think about how great it will be to have some little “helpers”. You open your car door and get out, shutting it behind you. Unbeknownst to you, one of the children unbuckles themselves at lightning speed and immediately dives for the LOCK button, hitting it just in time as your door closes behind you. Your keys are still inside. You’re dumbfounded. The child, who we’ll call “Flash”, is giggling and climbing into the driver’s seat-eyes set on steering wheel. Panic mode hits you. You can see it in his eyes. He plans on sticking the key into the ignition. Surely, there is no way he could figure it out. He’s only 4. Uh oh. He sees where the key goes. “Stop!! unlock the door NOW!!” you yell in desperation. He looks at you and sticks out his tongue. Sister joins in on the fun. “Flash, all you have to do is put the key right there. Then we can drive to Chuck-E-Cheese!” Desperate times, call for desperate measures. “That’s it!! I’m calling Santa Claus!” You have both children’s attention now. Smirks, turn to looks of horror. Situation is now under control. Both kids are now exiting vehicle and you have received keys in return.
You regain your composure and enter the grocery store. You look for a shopping cart. “I want the race car one!” Flash says. “Me too!” Sister agrees. You look around. You see the coveted cart, being used by another family, but you can’t locate any that are available. “They’re all taken. Sorry kids. We’ll have to use this one.” Surely they’ll understand. There’s nothing you can do. All of them are being used. Suddenly, Sister starts to cry. “I want it! it’s my favorite!!” Flash joins in. “I just wanted to drive my car cart (unrecognizable words while crying)!” Both children are hysterical. Everyone in the store is looking at YOU. What did you do to these poor innocent children?! Those are the unspoken words of the shoppers all around you. Panic mode sets in again. “Hey kids! guess what?? Since we can’t get a race cart (which is what we now call them), you get to walk around and help me!! It’ll be so much fun!” You now have their attention. They’ve stopped crying. Slowly, smiles start to erupt on their little angelic faces.
Whew. Second crisis averted. You pull out your lengthy list. “I want to hold the list!” Says Sister. “No, I do!” Screams Flash. “Ok, since Sister asked first, she gets to hold it.” You say. Surely they appeal to some sort of reason. “She always gets to hold it!!” wails Flash. For a moment you wonder, how many times has Sister actually gotten to hold a list? How many lists have been involved in their young lives that this somehow is an issue?? “Sister gets to hold it for 5 minutes, and then Flash, you get to hold it for the next 5 minutes. Ok?” Sister doesn’t like this. “That’s not fair!!!!! I asked first. He’s always doing this! Flash, you are a Poopy-Head!” Her face is pulsing with rage. You have never seen a child get so angry. This must be that sibling rivalry you’ve always heard about, but never experienced. “Alright, since the two of you are arguing over the list, I will hold it myself.” You’re a bit nervous to assert your authority, but it needs to be done. Things are getting out of hand. “It’s all your fault!” Sister yells at Flash. “No it’s not!!!” Flash defends angrily.
At this point, everyone in the grocery store is more that aware of your boisterous party of three. You start to question if this was the best idea. You are already committed, though. You have to keep going. You already have placed the first few things on your list in the cart. You can do this. You’ve made it down the first two aisles of the grocery store. So far, both kids are taking turns grabbing the items on your list. You start to feel relieved again. It’s been more challenging than you originally thought, but you’ve got this.
The next aisle is the juice aisle. You aren’t prepared for what is about to go down. “I only need pineapple juice, and then on to the next aisle.” You announce to your young followers. “Captain America!!!!!! I’m so thirsty! I need it!” Flash exclaims, as he begins climbing the shelves to retrieve the single cartoon character juice container, he so desperately needs. You see what is happening, but you can’t believe it. Why would he think that climbing shelves is allowed?? “Flash! Get down! You’re going to get hurt!” He turns to look at you, and that’s when he falls. “Owwwwweeeeeee!” (More unrecognizable words muddled with crying). This is the worst moment of your life. Literally. It’s like time has stopped and everyone on the face of the earth is looking at you like you are the worst human being to ever exist. An older lady walks over. “Oh my word. Are you ok Sweetie?” She says to Flash. He just stares at her with an angry look, because that’s what he does. “Poor baby.” She looks at me with concern in her eyes. “Can I help you? I know how hard it can be. I had 7 children.” She is a sweet lady, really. However, you perceive her willingness to help as judgement, so you say, “No thank you.”
You have finally abandoned any hope of getting everything off your list. At this point, it’s survival mode. You start barking things at the kids to grab, hoping you get at least some of the things on the list you took so long to carefully put together. So what if you end up with 5 packages of ground beef and 4 packs of bacon? You are a vegetarian, but at this point, you do not care. The object of the game now, is getting out of the store with your sanity in tact.
You’ve made it to the finish line. All you have to do now is wait…near the candy. “Why the hell do they put candy near the checkout??!!” You silently scream to yourself. “I want some gum!!” Sister says. “CHOCOLATEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” Flash is now jumping up and down. “Dear God, no.” You plead silently to no one.
It’s time to checkout. Your “helpers” are eager and ready. They start to toss things onto the conveyer belt. “Aren’t they cute?” The cashier says. “Yes. Yes they are.” You respond while dodging the hot dogs thrown at your head by Flash.
You have made it through. You feel like you deserve a medal. You sit down in the driver’s seat of the car and Sister says, “This was the best day ever! Thanks Aunt Jess.” She is grinning from ear to ear. The anxiety fades away. You no longer remember the judgmental stares in the grocery store, and you feel accomplished. You did it. These little people love you, and that’s really something.
This is a slight exaggeration of my day today. Slight. I am not “Aunt Jess”. I am Mommy. You just have to laugh. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. You gotta laugh.