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A Tale of Two Grocery Shopping Trips :: Going Solo Versus With My Preschooler

The weekly ritual

Grocery shopping can be such a dreaded mom chore. It requires so much more than just going to the grocery store. You take inventory of the fridge and cabinets and clear out what’s gone bad. There’s meal planning and list making and categorizing. And finally, there’s the important question that must be answered: Will I be grocery shopping solo, or will my child(ren) be joining me?

I do have a husband who does his fair share of childcare, so I often get to hit Hannaford all by myself. There are times, though, when a solitary trip is not in the cards. Most moms are well aware that a grocery trip alone is VERY different from a grocery trip with a tiny tornado in tow. For those who may not be in the know, here is a comparison of two very different grocery experiences. 

All by myyyyyself (sung in my best Celine Dion voice)

I kiss my son and husband goodbye and stroll out the door with just my purse, keys, and cell phone. Time elapsed: 2 minutes.

Next comes the drive to the store. The sunroof is open and the country rock, 90s jams, or sappy 80s ballads are blaring from the radio. My mom mobile quickly becomes my private karaoke bar. I get some weird looks, but I’m feeling myself and my tunes. The car performance continues for those in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. My iced coffee order is placed. In no time, I am holding my caffeinated gloriousness. Time elapsed: 8 minutes.

Now, I pull into the Hannaford parking lot and head in to brave the Sunday crowd. I move as quickly or slowly as I want to. I can speed through the produce and deli section, then linger at the butcher area. I take my time to decide on meals for the week, and I savor every sip of my coffee while I shop. When I make my way to the cashier, I place my goods on the belt according to their location in my kitchen. Debit card is approved, and I’m on my way. I only spoke to two people, and when I heard a child cry, I breathed easy knowing it wasn’t mine melting down over my refusal to buy three different kinds of candy. Time elapsed: 40 minutes

Prepping to leave with the tiny tornado

We start off by playing a fun game. He pretends he can’t hear me ask him to get his shoes. I manage to end the “fun” after four shoe-retrieval requests. All it takes is for me to whip out his first and middle name paired with the threat of losing a beloved toy. He makes his way to his shoes, head hanging in dramatic shame. But it’s OK, he’s laughing again as he tosses his sneakers into the air. They might land near me. They might not. It’s a guessing game no parent wants to play!

I ask him four or five more times to say goodbye to his father and leave. His “walk” to the door entails running to the door, jumping across the landing, and completely skipping the two steps onto the walkway. He then gets distracted by the plants and stone wall outside our house that he sees EVERY day. So I have to “race” him to my car, because what 3-year-old doesn’t love healthy mock competition? He insists on climbing into his seat all by himself, but only after he’s inspected every item on the floor of my car. Elapsed time: 12 minutes.

The ride

Next, we drive to the store with the radio on at a moderate volume as to protect my son’s ears and ensure I can hear every single solitary word he says. Yes, buddy, I did notice the “merica” flag on the house we drive by every day. No, buddy, I don’t think the grocery store sells dinosaurs.   

Obviously, the drive-thru line is seven cars deep. While we wait, he declares at least 12 times that he would like donies (donuts). By the time we get to the speaker to order, he is yelling his donut request at almost full volume. I have to yell louder than him, so the poor employee has to struggle to make out my words. Our order is handed to me, and I start to suck down coffee like it might be ripped from my hand any second. Time elapsed: 17 minutes.

Just get the kid some American cheese, and no one gets hurt

grocery shopping - Boston Moms BlogOnce at the store, I have to determine which chariot his highness would like to ride in today. Regular cart? Tractor cart? Oh, he wants the car carts the store no longer has. After careful negotiations, he guesses he’ll settle for a tractor cart. 

This trip is attempted at a frenzied pace — through each section as quickly as possible, giving the kid as little time as possible to spot potential items he’ll insist we buy. I am hit with a constant barrage of questions and statements, at a machine gun pace. “Mama, what are those? Oh, they’re for Dada? I like those. I don’t like those… they’re super yucky. Are we done, Mama? Mama, who’s that guy? Mama, can I get (Cheez-Its, fruit snacks, candy, chips, anything with a Minion on it)?”

If he’s not asking questions, he’s singing. Loudly. Bingo, Old McDonald, some made-up gibberish song about pizza. Some people glare, others laugh openly at my little performer. I can keep him quiet for a couple minutes with deli cheese. Thank you, deli workers! Soon, though, the cheese is gone and he’s back in action. He’s telling strangers in the pasta aisle about our two dogs. Strangers in the cereal aisle know he “wuvs” cookie cereal.

At the checkout line, I throw the food on as quickly as possible, because the candy display is sooo close to the belt, and his arms just keep getting longer. Debit card approved, and we are out the door and back at the car. Time elapsed: I’m not sure. I lost track after the second “Mama, are we done?” while we were still in the first aisle.

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