Grocery shopping with kids is always an adventure–sometimes amusing and other times downright traumatic, like the time I sat the children in front of a television in the food court, grabbed three slices of pizza, and returned to find my kids openmouthed and watching a man commit suicide in a Tarantino film. (Apparently someone had changed the channel despite store policy. We received balloons and free cookies that day which made everything better. Well, not really.)
As a divorced, working mom I simply do not have the freedom to shop alone. The task is daunting enough with the twins demanding everything in sight and the baby struggling to free himself from the shopping cart. However, the reception we get from fellow shoppers, compounded by physical challenges we face as a family in the store, makes the task even more unpleasant.
After witnessing a woman (and a true heroine) pushing a double stroller through an aisle while towing another kid in a cart full of food today, I have decided that I will no longer apologize. We have every right to be in the grocery store. If the children make a mess of the candy at the checkout line because we are forced to stand in the ridiculously constricted area while we wait to pay for our items, I will not take the blame. How about lining the checkout space with vegetables to ensure my children do not touch the items? Maybe the store could also make the space wider to accommodate the shopping carts with attached racing cars instead of limiting us to the special needs register where the wait is even longer? And while we are on the subject… instead of the celebrity magazines at the counter (I no longer even recognize the stars on the covers–am I old or just oblivious to pop culture?) why not put some kids’ books on the shelves to keep them occupied?
Sure, there are shoppers who are completely unfazed by us. The rest seem to fall somewhere on the scale of loathing us to loving us. After a few years of encountering all types of shoppers, I’ve devised a handy classification system. It’s my hope that by trying to understand the motivations of these various grocery store species, I can better equip myself to deal with their reactions to my brood and me.
Here it goes:
1. The Eye-Rollers
The eye-rollers and sighers are generally women in expensive yoga pants with fresh manicures who lead a drastically different life than I do (and yes, I am envious sometimes). Or, the eye-rollers are older women who have apparently forgotten how difficult this phase of life can be. They see us in an aisle and they refuse to move their carts for us to pass, or they make little noises under their breath to let me know that we are inconveniencing them.
2. The Busybodies
The busybodies are often well-intentioned, typically older people eager to speak with us. They inquire if the children are all mine and if I plan to try for a girl next time. (I only have three children. It is not like I could be confused with a reality television show). I generally smile, give a chuckle, and say, “No, I think I am done,” and then I walk away amazed that complete strangers think it is acceptable to ask about my reproductive aspirations. The busybodies remind me often that it gets easier over time and that I will miss these days. I am sure they are right, but in the meantime I am just focused on surviving the day.
3. The Insensitives
Speaking of compassion (or lack thereof), the insensitives are the worst on my list. They are mostly men (but not always) who have zero patience and are obviously disgusted by us. As I inch my cart of food and children to the closest check out line, the insensitive steps in front of us, nearly knocking a kid over with no remorse. These are also the individuals who see me risking life and limb to climb on a shelf for an item they could easily reach if they were capable of doing something nice for someone else.
4. The Blessers
As I stumble through the store with my tribe in tow, they smile and say, “God bless you.” I was not always fond of the blessers and I would often smile and awkwardly thank them, as I never knew just how to respond. It was not until my divorce and the drastic change in my lifestyle that I came to appreciate unsolicited blessings bestowed by strangers. Nowadays I too am a blesser and I am grateful to receive as much help from above as I can. (Sprinkle me in fairy dust if you think it might benefit me… I will not object.)
5. The Mensches
And then there are the mensches, or helpful strangers. These are the special individuals who chase me down in the parking lot to give me the bag of groceries I left behind at the register. (I have never forgotten a child, in my defense.) They also pick up the matchbox cars the toddler inevitably throws from the cart and they point in the direction of the kid who has strayed just as I start to feel the panic rising.
To the mensches I say: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. A little compassion sure is appreciated. Grocery shopping with children is hard.
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