Thursday, February 20, 2020

For Those About to Shop, We Salute You

These people are too happy and the Internet is a lie.
Something that truly amazes me about parenting is our capacity to forget.

As soon as you leave a particularly challenging stage, mom-nesia wipes your memory clean like it never even happened.

This is helpful when you're considering giving birth a second time, but not, for instance, a few Saturdays ago.

Now that 3 of my 6 kids are old enough to babysit, I rarely take a gaggle of tiny humans grocery shopping anymore.

But for some reason I can't quite remember (again with the mom-nesia,) I loaded up the 3 youngest kids in the minivan one fine Saturday to do just that.

By the time we were finished, I was ready to drive the cart off a cliff.

It all starts the moment the automatic double doors swoosh open. First, no one wants to sit in the shopping cart; then everyone does. After intense negotiations, I situate the 3-year-old in the seat and the 5-year-old in the basket of the cart, and we roll to the dairy aisle with my 8-year-old skipping alongside.

The 3-year-old yanks on the seat belt in the cart, becoming visibly upset. "This seat belt is too small!"

"You don't need it," I explain, beginning to wonder if it's too late to abandon the cart and just go home to live on half a stale English muffin and five ounces of milk. "That's for babies. You're a big boy and besides, you're wearing a big coat."

"I want my coat off!"


The 8-year-old, meanwhile, flits around me like a hummingbird. "Where's your list? I'll read the list!"

She rummages through my pockets and purse while I remove the 3-year-olds' coat and buckle the seat belt for him, which he immediately begins trying to unbuckle.

I find the shopping list and hand it to her, reminding the 5-year-old to sit down when the cart is moving or he'll fall out. He remains unconvinced.

"I can't read your handwriting!" the 8-year-old complains, turning my list this way and that like Gaston looking at Belle's book in Beauty and the Beast. "You have really bad writing, Mommy."

"I can't un-BUUUUUCKLE it!" the 3-year-old yowls like a wounded animal.

I look around in despair, realizing that we will literally never leave this grocery store, or even this aisle, without divine intervention.

The 8-year-old, having abandoned the idea of reading my chicken scratch grocery list, is sitting on the rack at the bottom of the cart, directly under the 3-year-old, who is kicking her in the head. "Hey!" she yells. "Stop kicking me!"

"There's nowhere else for his feet to go," I say, exasperated.

We stop for a pep talk in the bacon aisle. "Look, guys: we are never going to leave here if you don't help Mommy. No buckling seat belts, no kicking anyone in the head. Do you want to stay here for the rest of your lives?"

They don't, and so we move on.

For about 20 seconds.

"He's kicking me!" the 8-year-old protests, as if she wasn't part of the conference next to the processed meats thirty seconds ago.

"Hey! I want to sit down there!" the 5-year-old pipes up from the basket of the cart.

"No! No one is sitting down there. Everyone is staying right where they are."

But it's too late. Now that the idea of leaving their assigned seats has occurred to both the 3-year-old and the 5-year-old, resistance is futile.

The 5-year-old goes to join his sister who is spinning in the middle of the aisle, while the 3-year-old heads right for the closest package festooned with Disney characters and asks "Can I have this?"

I look at the Frozen II string cheese he's clutching to his heart and wonder  How can string cheese be character-themed? That doesn't even make sense.

"If you can tell me what that is," I bluff, looking him straight in the eye, "then yes, I will get it for you."

Of course, he has no idea.

Things calm down for a little while. My kids are generally well-behaved, but I quickly realize that even when they're being good, three kids take up a lot of space.

No matter where they go they're in someone's way, so while I'm trying to comparison shop for pickles (Sandwich Cut! Chips! Whole Baby! Sweet Gherkin!) I'm also reaching behind me grabbing kids who I hope are mine and pulling them out of the path of speeding shopping carts.

No one  and I repeat: no one  is more oblivious than a kid in a grocery store.

Absolutely zero awareness that people are trying to get around them. No concept that darting in front of an old lady could end in a coronary episode.

And as luck would have it, today happens to be the Saturday before the Superbowl so the store is packed. When I turn around I see an actual line of shoppers rage-waiting behind my 5-year-old for their chips and dip while he stands smack in the middle of the aisle going like this:

Another thing I notice: if I take the 3-year-old shopping while his siblings are in school, he asks for frosted animal crackers, I say no, and that's that. But now he has cohorts to pick up the whine train when he leaves off, and frankly it's too early in the morning for that.

Now they're fighting over who gets to "help" drive the cart (spoiler alert: they're all terrible drivers.) They're clotheslining pyramid-like displays of Roma tomatoes. They're chucking apples in the produce bag like baseballs. I think I see one of them lick a green pepper.

The produce department is kind of a blur.

Finally, we arrive at the checkout with a mountain of food spilling out of the cart and three children hanging off the sides like a merry band of pirates.

While I'm settling an argument about who gets to put the cheese on the conveyor belt, the 8-year-old waves around a carton of eggs like she's going for the gold in Olympic ribbon dancing.

I make a token attempt to tell the kids to stop manhandling all the candy bars, but my 5-year-old could start playing with live explosives right now and I'd probably let it slide. I can see the exit from here.

So close, and yet so far. 

As we cross the parking lot, I'm in the middle of warning the 3-year-old not to stand on the front of the cart or he could get run over when (drumroll, please) I drive over his foot.

Bump bump! like running over a badger on the side of the highway. There are literal wheel tracks on his shoe.

He's fine, although it takes a while for him to calm down and we're blocking traffic. I scoop him up in my arms and push the cart to the van with my pinky finger as the 8-year-old announces "Make way! World's Best Mom coming through!"

At least I think that's what she's saying. I can't hear because the 3-year-old is crying in my ear.

Somehow we get everyone in their car seats. Somehow we make it home. Another week's shopping completed.

And that, dear children, is why five or ten years from now, when you're strong enough to carry a gallon of milk into the house, you'll help unload the groceries. When you whine, "Do I haaaaaave to?" the answer will always be yes. 

Yes, you do. You owe me.

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Diana Dye said...

Forwarding this to my husband so he understands why I shop at 10 o'clock at night.

Does your store have mini carts for your kids to push? My store must hate my ankles.

Terra Heck said...

Girl, I feel ya! It's an all-out adventure when you go grocery shopping with young'uns.

Ellen said...

Argh! I have three kids right now and I do anything to avoid taking them all.

Emily Gibbons said...

Huh. I had honestly fogotten how bad it could be. Your writing is spot on and also hilarious.

PurpleSlob said...

Those mini carts are a life saver!! Plus, I assign her a "list", 1 box cereal, 1 piece cheese, whatever. And also tell her the price cant go over 5, or whatever, helps when they know their numbers! lol