For the parents reading this- lean in. You need a hug. Like one of those long, slow, rub-your-back-a-few-times hugs that eventually makes us sway back and forth but then we stop because we’re strangers and that just got weird.
Grocery store shopping with children has the potential to be… well.. frankly, a catastrophe. The kind of experience where you made a list (but why?) and people are staring at your kids (go away) and you hope your children can extract all of the appropriate vitamins and nutrition from the eight Chips Ahoy bags they tossed into the cart (ugh).
Some people can take their kids to the store and somehow create this entire Family Field Trip. They manage to promote language and literacy development, further social skills, and develop mathematical understanding, all while staying in the budget and leave energized. As a former teacher, let me be the first to commend these parents for incorporating such outstanding educational concepts into their errand-running. (So serious- y’all are amazing)
If we’re being honest though, most of us are team-huddling at the store entrance like, “Gather ’round offspring. We are about to enter a public place known as a STORE. If you run away from the cart, I WILL FIND YOU and I will break your spirit with a permanent hand hold. If you sweep Reese’s eggs into the cart when I’m not looking, Mommy will pay for all of them with your allowance and put them in her Easter basket. And just to be clear, if I see you licking any produce, I will disown you immediately and call your father. Ready? Break!”
It all started when your kids insisted on riding in the Party Bus Grocery Cart. You know, the one that’s triple the size of a regular cart and nearly impossible to put on a swivel onto Aisle 4. Inevitably there are also some sort of novelty race car stripes along the plastic side. Plus a jankity wheel. Don’t get me started…
A grocery trip shopping solo would have allowed you to get oriented with your list, the layout, the store’s temperature, the coupons, the sales, and then begin. That day, your first step into the store was accompanied by your precious little inmates- who, God bless them, could not manage any chill because they caught a glimpse of the 25 cent tattoo machines on the way in. You were barely in the store thinking, “IT’S NOT GONNA GO DOWN LIKE THIS”, so you promised the three year old he could get the tattoo of a skull wearing sunglasses after check-out to keep the peace.
As you made your way around the store, you mentally catalogued all the ways your children have abused the shopping cart in recent trips.
1. Standing up in the basket to “surf”
2. Toddlers trying to do full circle spins in the front seat
3. Kid standing on the side and literally flipping the cart over while toddler sibling is in the front seat
4. Sitting on the inside edge of the basket teetering backward toward a concussion
5. Child “helping” parent push the cart which is definitely code for shoving the cart into shelving units and walls
6. Kid laying flat along the bottom and paddling along the oh-so-clean floor with their hands
You tried to make the shopping fun. Like, playing “Hunters and Gatherers” and sending your oldest back and forth to get items from the list. This was fun until it was not fun. More specifically- when he gathered someone else’s cell phone from their purse. Later, it was like “Hey guys! Look how interesting it is to learn new words on the cereal boxes!” And those inquisitive early readers yelled, “MOM DOES THAT SAY CORN POOPS” and that’s when Fun Shopping abruptly and permanently died.
There’s no way to predict which products or food items will make kids beg and plead. This is March Madness, you guys. Expect the unexpected. Your toddler tantrummed over a bag of edamame. And you might’ve even bought it if she ACTUALLY liked it. But no, we’ve entered the Twilight Zone where hungry, tired children start campaigning for products based solely on the packaging colors, and she only wanted it because it’s green. If you bought edamame for the crying toddler, this is what dinnertime would end up like: “I would not like them here or there/ I would not like them anywhere/ I do not like green edamame/ I do not like them (unless we’re in the grocery store and you won’t buy me nothin else in which case toddler logic says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth over that green bag of soybeans)”
To many, March Madness is filling out a basketball bracket. To a parent in a grocery store, March Madness is a child with no Act-Right, filling out a bracket to see which forbidden products can secretly gain entry to the cart…
The real fun started at the check-out. At that point, Mom discovered piles of contraband that would’ve tripled the grocery bill and immediately guaranteed Type 2 Diabetes. Your feral crew of lovelies traded whining for begging once they spotted the ride-on machine at the exit. One child was trying to scan the items for the cashier. Another wanted his skull tattoo. You forgot to grab juice but there was no freakin way you were leaving that check out lane.
A simple smile and shrug was exchanged with the parent in the check-out lane next to you, because they’ve been there and know you’re an amazing parent with really great kids. They remember how crazy March Madness can get, along with all the other grocery-shopping months- May Mayhem, Just-Eat-Out July, Self-Destruct September, to name a few. As that parent passed by you on her way out, she handed you the brochure for Curbside Pick-Up and gave a friendly wink as if to say, “Hang in there..you got this.”