When I go grocery shopping alone, I feel like I might as well pour myself a Mai Tai with a tiny umbrella, because it feels like a mini vacation. Why? Because going grocery shopping with small children feels like the Tenth Circle of Hell.
For those who’ve never had the pleasure of going to a grocery store with small kids, it goes a little something like this:
Spend 20 minutes unloading your kids.
Wrangle them into a shopping cart as they fight about who sits where.
Once inside, your toddler tries to knock over everything he can get his sticky hands on.
Scramble from aisle to aisle for only things you absolutely need.
While waiting to check out, at least one kid screams for whatever in your cart contains the most sugar.
When you’re done, spend another 30 minutes loading groceries into the car, getting kids into their car seats, and putting the cart back … somewhere.
As that wasn’t enough, there are some people that make shopping with kids even harder. Case in point:
1. The close-parker. No matter how far away I park, there is always someone with a giant SUV that needs to park in the very spot where I’m unloading my kids. My options are 1) Squeeze in to try to accommodate their ginormous car, only to have to worry about bumping it with the door once they’re parked, or 2) Open the door as wide as possible, making it impossible for them to park so that they have to wait or, ideally, find another spot.
2. The “racecar” cart inventor. Either the racecar cart isn’t available, or, worse – it is. This double-wide monstrosity has the turning radius of a Mack truck. It always veers a little more to the left or the right, and I have to muster all of my strength to keep it from plowing into innocent bystanders.
3. The roll-stopper. On the way into the store, there’s always at least one driver who can’t be inconvenienced with coming to a complete stop. I don’t know if they’re trying to save gas, save time, or are just being a dick. But when I have my kids with me, nothing annoys me more than drivers who roll-stop. Call me crazy, but I try to teach my kids not to cross in front of moving vehicles.
4. The parent of the snacking-as-you-shop kid. I get it, I do. You want your kid to be quiet for as much time as it takes them to inhale that box of Little Debbie snacks. I can totally relate. But the only way to keep my kids semi-behaved is by bribing them – telling them treats can’t be ingested until they’re paid for, in hopes that we’ll make it to the car unscathed. When my kids see your kid, they realize they’ve been duped and proceed to yell, “I WANT A CUPPPPPPCAAAAAAKKKKKE” for the duration of the trip.
5. Whatever asshole decided to put candy in the checkout stand. Patience is not a trait that toddlers possess. You know what makes waiting with them a million times worse? When there are treats within reach (trust me, I have tried to finagle that cart every which way and they’re always in range of even the tiniest arms) that my little sugar addicts can’t have. I can only assume the candy is there because moms like me are so frazzled from shopping, we give in and buy one for our kids and one for ourselves. Thanks a lot, Capitalism.
6. The talkative cashier. It’s not that I don’t like talking to people. If I hated human interaction, I would use those machines I don’t understand how to buy produce from. But some cashiers go a little overboard. I don’t want to have to pretend to be interested in their slightly condescending stories about how their baby was potty trained at 13 months or their niece was reading at two years old. Likewise, I don’t need them asking me questions that take any thought or effort to respond to. Let’s just stick to “yes” or “no” questions and exchanging pleasantries about the weather.
7. The impatient person behind me. If you are the kind of person who taps their feet impatiently, looks everywhere for lines that are moving faster, and/or has the tendency to “sigh” out of exasperation: do us all a favor and don’t get in line behind someone with kids. This person is truly the cherry on top of the shit sundae that is grocery shopping with kids. Trust me, we all want to get out of the store as quickly as humanly possible. There’s no need to be rude. It just makes people crazy. And if there’s one person in the world you don’t want to annoy, it’s a mom who has just survived a shopping trip from Hell.
So what should you do when you see someone shopping with small kids? Smile. Say something kind. Tell us we have “cute kids” even if they’re acting like Rosemary’s babies. Nice words never hurt anyone, and some days we need them more than others.
At the very least, let’s agree to pretend my kid isn’t still howling about that goddamned cupcake.