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Tantrum in Aisle 10: Harrowing Tales of Grocery Shopping with Kids

Shopping with children changes everything.

Before , grocery shopping was not something to which I gave much thought. It was simple – I needed food, so I would go out and get it. The day of the week and time of day was pretty trivial. 

But now, attempting a weekly shopping trip for groceries with my two little ones in tow has the ability to make me break out into a cold sweat. It usually goes a little something like this:

While making my shopping list at home, I pretend I am really organized. I start with my pad I keep on the fridge meant to be marked whenever a necessity runs out.

Typically the list is blank because no one remembered to do that so, I work from memory on our needs and try to cross reference the sale circular and coupons. (No, I am not a crazy coupon lady, though I wish I could figure out how to be one. And yet I don’t understand how anyone needs 327 bottles of mustard.)

At some point, the careful, organized-by-aisle list-making comes to a halt as I am interrupted by the need for diaper changing, butt wiping or time-outs. I forget about the list, throw some snacks and drinks in a bag and just get on with it.

In the parking lot, a debate begins between Lily and Jack regarding who will sit in the front of the cart or the back of the cart. If we are lucky enough to score one of the super colossal fire-engine/grocery cart combo deals, I load them both in the front and hype up the fact that they get to drive us all around on our mission.

By the time we’ve reached the produce section, someone is whining to get out of the monster cart, which means the other one will want out too. So, I stop, recoup, and put them both in the front of the cart facing me.

Giving them both “jobs” keeps them occupied for five more minutes. Lily becomes my “list holder” and Jack, “the apple helper.” I don’t usually time it, but I am pretty sure that at that five-minute mark, a little bell rings in their heads signaling the end of cooperative behavior time. At this very moment, the list is lost, torn, or crumpled and the apples become bruised, used as projectiles or fall to the ground.

Luckily, next up is the deli counter where a slice of cheese typically delays their devilish tactics for a few more moments. On this occasion, Lily can’t decide if she wants her cheese or not. As I hand it to her brother, she suddenly wants it quite badly but whines it is too much. Just as I tear it into three pieces, she changes her mind again and starts sobbing that she “wants it big again!”

I assert the old adage, “We get what we get and we don’t get upset!” which, for some reason, does not work at all with my kids. They do, in fact, get quite upset regardless.

Fortunately for me, the grocery store is filled with hundreds of distractions.

“Oh look, balloons! Let’s go say ‘hi’ to Tinkerbell and Elmo who live at the grocery store and therefore can’t come home with us.”

As we maneuver our way through the aisles, I try to keep them entertained, asking questions, letting them pick one of two mom-approved options.

And when they start getting cranky or whiney again, that simply means it’s time for a snack. I have been known to break into a box of cereal or crackers we are purchasing just to keep them appeased for a little longer if I forget to pack something.

Lily is now at the age where she can spot a Disney character from a mile away so shopping trips are usually filled with exclamations of shock and awe at any character endorsed product lining the shelves. She is also keen on grabbing things off the shelves and tossing them into the cart on her own if it strikes her fancy.

At some point, Lily begs out of the cart and Jack wants to follow. But the two of them unleashed, where I am simultaneously preventing them from climbing on things or getting run over, slows us down so considerably that I prefer to take my chances with the tears that will ensue instead.

I paste a blank smile on my face and chant, “La la la la la!!!!” in my head to get through the rest. If desperate, games on my phone may suppress their cries but quickly lead to scuffles over who can hold the phone.

The numbers on the checkout aisle flash like a beacon that is around the corner.

Just as the contents of our cart are loaded onto the conveyor belt, I panic because I can’t find my wallet in my bag. Sadly, this would not be the first time this has happened. Struggling between an intense desire to either hide or cry, I discover it shoved in a deep pocket under a case of wipes and let out a huge sigh of relief.

I vow that next week I will go shopping after they are in bed. Perhaps it will feel like a little .

Christine Smith September 20, 2011 at 04:50 PM
You captured this very well Vanessa. It brought back memories!

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