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An Imperfect Mother’s Five Rules of Grocery Shopping

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As a mother of two small children, I’ve developed five rules for taking them to the grocery store. These rules are not about good parenting; they are about survival.


If you do not yet have children, I don’t recommend reading on. You’ll just end up thinking I would never do those things. If you are the mother of a newborn who can’t yet move (or talk back), do not read this. You too will think I would never do those things. And if you are a perfect mother, or even a nearly perfect mother, for God’s sake, don’t read my list. You’ll think I would never do those things and you will actually be right.


But for the rest of you imperfect moms out there, please read on—and if you have any more rules to contribute, post them in the comments section.


Rule 1
Anything with Dora the Explorer on the package tastes better. Sure, I used to be outraged by the commercialization of childhood too, but those days are gone. Dora makes shopping—and eating—fun. “Look Chloe, Dora yogurt drinks! How yummy! What’s that? You see more Dora? Oh, yes, Spaghettios! How awesome. Let’s have that for lunch!”


Rule 2
It is never a bad time for a cookie. We usually shop at Publix, where kids get a free cookie at the bakery in the back left corner of the store. By the time you hit the counter, you are about 90 percent done. This means you can use the cookie as a bribe for most of your shopping time—“Boys and girls who throw tomatoes don’t get cookies!”—and it means the cookies will keep them entertained for that final stretch. I once overheard a mother telling the man at the bakery counter, “I don’t usually let her have treats this close to lunch, but just this once I thought it would be okay.” Yeah right, Lady. Whatever.


Rule 3
When babies suck on the side of grocery carts, it is not that bad for them. In fact it probably builds up their immune systems. (And yes, before you even say it, I do know about the cloth things you can put in the cart to keep your kids germ-free. I even have one—in the top of the closet in the bag it came in.)


Rule 4
It is not annoying to other people when you give into your children’s request (i.e. loud whining, begging, and crying) to ride in one of those enormous carts with a racecar attached to the front. Those carts are so big and cumbersome that it takes several back and forths just to turn down a new aisle and it is absolutely impossible to pass the old lady lingering forever in front of canned vegetables. I choose to believe that the old lady really doesn’t mind when you jam a cart into her hip. She probably thinks toddlers are cute.


Rule 5
If you follow rules one through four and generally embrace being an imperfect mother, taking the kids to the grocery store can be fun (or relatively close to it). My daughter takes her job of holding the shopping list very seriously. Every so often she will hold it up so I can read it. She’ll ask, “What’s next Mommy?” If I tell her avocados, and she spots them first, she is thrilled. And when I do give into the racecar cart, I look down to see her “steering” with her left hand while tossing her right arm absentmindedly over her baby brother’s shoulder. I gotta admit it makes me smile.

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