Children and Grocery Shopping Don't Mix

Jun 22, 2009

When I was newly married, I used to love grocery shopping. Maybe it was because the concept of buying (or maybe it was affording) food on my own was new to me. Maybe it was because I was having a good time playing housewife to my new husband in our new home. Maybe it was because I was, at that time, crazy about using grocery coupons and, in combination with the deals at the Army Commissary, I was able to buy a lot for very little money. Whatever the reason was, I used to love going to the grocery store. I looked forward to lingering down the aisles, checking prices, reading labels and comparing brands. And then, after I made my purchases, I was always so excited to bring home what I had bought and begin cooking.

Fast forward 13 years . . . I hate grocery shopping. Despise it. It is one of my least favorite activities – next to, perhaps, oral surgery and changing poopy diapers. I don’t know when my feeling towards this necessary weekly (sometimes, it seems, daily) activity changed. I think it was a gradual decline, brought on, initially, by the novelty of cooking wearing off. And then there’s the fact that we no longer shop at the Commissary and our current stores don’t “do” triple coupons. Thus, the thrill of getting great deals diminished. But, what really demolished my grocery shopping joy had to be three small, human beings named Jordan, Bennett and Maclain. Yes, I said it. My children have made grocery shopping a nightmare experience and I do everything and anything in my power to avoid bringing them with me.

Did you ever wonder who those people are who grocery shop at 10 or 11 o’clock at night? Well, let me tell you. It’s me – and a bunch of other moms – and some guy who just got off work at the gas station looking to buy beer. But, because by that time, my husband is home and my kids are in bed, and I am “free” to go to the grocery store and shop alone – in peace. It’s not exactly what I want to do with my evenings. By 7 o’clock, I am already exhausted and ready to get in bed, growing increasingly more irritated that my 2-yr-old will not brush his teeth faster. So, by 10 pm, the thought of walking out the door to look at pancake mix and toilet paper does not excite me. All I have to do, though, is remind myself that if I wait until tomorrow to shop, I’ll have to take one or two or even three kids with me. That realization causes me to get off the couch and hop in the car. After all, on my own, I can get the shopping done in less than an hour. With my children in tow, though, a big grocery trip could take hours upon hours and, honestly, I’m just not up for that.

I have been doing these late night trips for years now and so, I guess it was for that reason that, last week, I momentarily forgot how terrible shopping with my kids can be. It was a Saturday morning and my husband, Rob, was going to have the kids all afternoon because I had somewhere (that now escapes me) to go. So, with the good intentions of giving him a break (and only about 6 or 7 things on my list) I said, “I’ll take all three kids with me.” After all, they’re getting older. How bad can it be?

Horrible. Miserable. Horrendous. That’s how bad. BAD.

Let’s begin by the fact that it is always over 100 degrees here in Austin these days. So, by the time I had loaded the kids in the car and then unloaded them at the store, I was already hot and sweaty and tired. I noticed, though, that near my car at the grocery store was a really cool cart that I thought would work for all my kids. (Carts are always a problem – some stores don’t have two seats in the front of the cart and so my 2-yr-old has to sit in the basket portion. This never goes well because there’s no seatbelt there and so he’s always either trying to stand up when I’m not looking or sitting on the bread I’ve just put in my cart or dumping the blueberries all over the store floor. Yes, that has really happened and my cheeks still turn red at the thought of it.) Anyway, the one near my car looked like a regular cart, with one seat for a small child, but it also had a bench attached to the front of it that two other children could sit and be strapped in. I thought, how wonderful! All of the kids will be contained! And, no one will be arguing over who gets to ride and who has to walk (always an issue with my 6-year-old daughter).

So, I went and grabbed the cart and put the baby in the child’s seat and then told my other two kids to hop on the bench. They did and we strapped them in and were all set to go. I leaned over and started to push the cart. It didn’t move. I tried again a little harder this time. It moved about an inch and stopped. “What is wrong with this cart?”I thought. I checked under the wheels, nothing seemed to be hindering them and since I had rolled the empty cart to our car, I knew they worked. I tried again. Still no luck. I thought, maybe the problem is that I’m on a slight hill, so I told my daughter, Jordan, to jump off – just until we got in the store. She did as I asked and we rolled into the building. She hopped back on again and I started to push the cart through the produce section. Except, the cart wouldn’t move. No matter how hard I tried, I could only get it to jerk and inch or two before it stopped. “What kind of cart is this?” I thought.

And then, it hit me.

All three of my kids, together, weigh more than me.

It’s true

They do.

I think they actually weigh about 15 lbs more than me!

And, as it turns out, I am not capable of pushing my body weight (plus some).

So, I did what I had to do, but even as I said it, I knew I was about to cause a big problem.

“Jordan, you need to get off and walk.”

That is where the series of meltdowns we would experience in the store began.

“Why do I have to walk? Why do they get to ride? It’s not fair!”

“True, it’s not fair, but Mommy is not strong enough to push all of you and so, since Bennett will be ripping things off the shelves, he has to ride and since the baby can’t walk, he has to ride and so that leaves you to walk. I’m sorry!”

And, truly, I was. I was sorry because I knew I would have to listen to her whine until we got home again.

And, another reason I was sorry was because, when Jordan grocery shops with me, she is constantly under foot (or should I say, “under cart.”) I am repeatedly telling her to walk behind me.

“Behind me, Jordan!” I hiss. “Not next to the cart. The aisle isn’t wide enough for you and me and another cart to pass. “

“Can I walk in front of you?”

“No! You don’t know where we need to go and I’ll end up running you over with the cart. Walk behind me.”

And so, she does - for a minute or two (or maybe a second or two – that seems more accurate) and then, once again, she’s next to me and I’m apologizing to the people who can’t pass us in the aisles.

“Behind me, Jordan. Behind me!”

And so, as usual, that’s the way our grocery trip began.

I wish it could say it got better from there.

The next issue was, even though the cart was not as heavy now, it was long and big and bulky and really awkward to push down the aisle. The front end of my cart reached the end of the aisle a good minute before I did and so, I had to slowly ease it past the displays to see if anyone was coming the other way as to avoid a collision. Turns? They were close to impossible seeing as grocery stores are very crowded on weekend mornings and this cart needed the length of a football field in order to make a rotation. We just went straight as much as we could – and I prayed I didn’t forget to grab something down a previous aisle.

And then we came upon a “sample” station. You know . . . those carts that give samples of free food as you shop. No one loves to eat more than my kids and so they all lit up with glee when they saw free food. That is, until the lady, who was actually baking some sort of sandwich, gave the first sample to Jordan but then told Bennett that his sister had just gotten the last one. She was going to have to cook more. “Could you come back in about 10 minutes?” she asked me.

“Are you kidding me, lady?” I wanted to scream (as both Bennett and Maclain - who wanted whatever it was Jordan had - actually began to do so.) “Do you not see I have three children here? Did you actually think it was a good idea to give something to one and not the others and then ask them to patiently wait?”

And so, wait we did. Yes, I could have shopped a little more while we waited and used the time efficiently, but how do you explain to a two-year-old that it’s better to multi-task? Shop while you wait? They haven’t yet covered that in his preschool. So we sat (or should I say the boys sat and I stood and Jordan whined that she still had to walk.) And finally, miraculously, after 10 minutes of everyone staring at my unruly kids as they walked down the aisle, my boys got their baked sandwiches and we were on our way.

By this point, I’m not sure I had actually put anything in my cart. I was going to need to speed things up a bit.

I grabbed the needed items as fast as I could, upsetting the baby who wanted to put every box and can and tube of toothpaste in his mouth. He screeched louder with every item that got thrown into the basket.

I walked and pushed as fast as I could. Maclain continued to cry and Jordan continued to whine about not getting to ride and Bennett yelled because he wanted to buy candy and soda and items that were more fun than the Cheerios I had told him to hold. To entertain himself, he began to yank his brother’s dangling legs, which were too close to him for my comfort.

“Stop touching the baby.” I said. “Stop!”

He continued as we got stuck in a traffic jam at the end of an aisle.

“Don’t touch the baby!” I yelled – or at least, I said it loud enough that a man next to me turned around, startled.

“Not you,” I told him, frustrated and flustered, as I made my way down the aisle.

We were almost home free. I saw the checkout lane in sight. And then, we were derailed from our mission, as my daughter grabbed hold of one of the free balloons they give the kids at our grocery store.

“I want a balloon! I want a balloon!” Bennett began to yell.

“No, Bennett.” I don’t even know why I told him no, other than the fact that I had kept walking and didn’t want to (or, in this case with the tank of a cart, wasn’t able to) turn around to go back.

"No balloon." I said. "Share Jordan's."

Yes, it sounded ridiculous to me even as I said it.

As I pulled up to the register, the bagger called out to me, “Trees or petroleum?”

Was this a quiz?

Did he not see that I had three screaming, growing-increasingly-more hysterical kids with me?

The cashier, clearly witnessing that Mommy was about to have her own meltdown, took pity on me. “Paper or plastic?’

Shoot. I had forgotten my reusable bags in my car and, of course, there was no way I was going back out there to get them.

“Whichever,” I said.

The bagger gave me plastic, or maybe it was paper. Who knows. Who seriously cares. I just wanted to be out of there.

As the cashier handed me my receipt, she said, “Have a great day.”

I paused and looked at her and then, simultaneously, we both began to giggle.

Even she could see that what she had just said was so incredibly ridiculous that the two of us could not stop from bursting into laughter.

A great day? At that moment, I would have taken a good hour. Or, even yet, settled for an okay minute.

“Yeah, sure,” I chuckled, as I walked out the door and my kids continued to break the sound barrier. “I’ll do just that.”


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, Kelly. Everything you described here has happened to me. I will NOT get the special carts anymore, and last time I did get one, I returned it within five minutes and got a regular cart. It was just not worth all the fighting. I have actually been getting up at 6:30 in the morning on Saturday mornings to do the weekly grocery shopping, and I love it! It's quiet in the store, and everyone is still sleeping at my house, so I don't have to worry about taking the kids with me or my husband calling me wondering what's taking so long. I don't even miss sleeping in on Saturdays, it makes such a difference in my week.


Jacqueline said...

Boy I feel for you. Thank goodness for Shop-Rite in my town. They have babysitting!!! That's right, I used to do the same thing like you and go late night, while hubby watched the kids, until the shop rite opened a FREE babysitting. The only problem is the kids had to be 3 years minimum. So it was not too bad for me because James couldn't wait to go. They do projects and play with toys. Anthony just turned 3 this past week and I can't wait to leave them both.
Although, I wonder if they will call my nuber on the loud speaker because the boys will be fighting that could be the only downfall of them both being in there......
Wishing you better shopping days :)

Michan said...

Ha ha! Been there done that with my three. It's really fun when one of them poops in their pants and the other one is threatening to do the same thing if you don't hurry!!!

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