How My Child's Question In The Grocery Store Changed The Way I Parent

by Em ArVee
Originally Published: 

We went to the grocery store.

One of those “hurry up, lets get in and out” kind of trips to the store. The hurried trips that seem be occurring more often. No time to stop and give an explanation for the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk asking for food. No time to pick up the dirty sticker, the one that doesn’t even stick anymore because the two year old has been carrying it around and sticking it to everything the past few days, that just fell on the ground in the parking lot.

There was no reason to rush. No other thing that we have planned or appointment we need to get to. We were just in a hurry because that’s what life has become. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

We get into the store and I’m looking at deli meats. It’s important stuff, you know. Ham, turkey, salami……..why won’t these kids stop talking so I can think about my selection? I can hear them “mom, mom, moooommm,” but I’m going to act preoccupied with the meat for now. They are probably just going to ask me for something. There’s never a trip to the store without them getting all the crap they want. They can wait.

Finally they win. I can’t concentrate. I can’t ignore them.

WHAT?! It comes out mean. It comes out hurtful. But that’s how I meant it, right? My thoughts, my agenda, my life is most important right now. Right? How dare they interfere. Right?

No one answers. So I say again, “What is so important?”

The four year old finds his voice, “Can we smell the roses?”

I think to myself “you want to smell the freaking roses right now? I’ve got a list full of shit I need to buy. Then I’m going to have to go home and put all that shit away and then inevitably cook dinner with all the shit I just bought and put away!”

“You want to smell the roses?” I asked.

“Yeah, they are right over there,” the four-year-old stated, pointing his little finger toward all the flowers just steps from where we were standing at the deli.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to say something really mean. I wanted to find a way to make him realize why what I was doing was way more important than smelling a rose. But (thankfully) the only word I could find was “Why?”

Had I known.

Had I known his answer was going to be so amazing, so simple, so heartbreaking, so true, I might have looked him in the eye. I might have actually been paying complete attention. I might have looked away from the damn deli meats. I might have searched his face to find the answer to how a four-year-old could be so incredibly in love with life.

But I was too busy with my own life and from behind me I heard him say, “Because I’ve never smelled a rose before.”

Sometimes we are too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed to realize that the every day things we see and do may be something brand new to our children.

With that in mind, I immediately jumped into “mom of the year” mode. Using this situation as a learning experience, taking grocery store flower arrangements and turning them into life lessons. I promised the toddler we’d pick up her sticker when we got out to the parking lot (because she was still mumbling about her princess “sicker”) and we headed to the flowers so that we could all smell the roses.

Afterwards we went back to the deli and bought a small selection of meats, cheese, and buns to take to the homeless man that was sitting outside on the sidewalk. I took the time to explain that some people don’t have homes or food to eat and we need to be grateful for what we have and try to take the time to help others when we get the chance.

The thing about life is that we never really know when we are going to have a moment that takes our breath away. A moment where we get to learn or teach something. A chance to do something for the first time. A chance to do something that is so menial to you but could mean so much to someone else. A chance to change someones life.

Leaving that store I felt really good about myself. I took the time to teach my kids something. I took the time to understand that, to my toddler, that sticker was something important. I took the time to let my kids do something they had never done before.

But as we walked out the door, a car drove by and I saw that little princess “sicker” (yes, the one that was “too dirty” to stick to anything anymore) stick right to it’s tire as it drove away and the homeless man was already gone.

As we walked to the car my four-year-old said, “Now that man won’t get to eat tonight.” And suddenly my agenda, my deli meat selection, my thoughts, my life weren’t the most important things. And I realized that maybe, just maybe there is nothing is so important, so urgent, so time sensitive that we all can’t just take a moment to stop and smell the roses, whether you’ve never smelled a rose or smelled a thousand roses, because you never know when that opportunity will come along again.

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