Toddler Tales Vol. 3: The Grocery Store

There may be no task in the world that I loathe more than grocery shopping. I’m not 100% sure why it is I’d rather fold laundry, vacuum, or have things jammed under my fingernails than handle the weekly food shopping for my family. Maybe it’s because it sucks up a large chunk of my Saturday every single week. Maybe it’s because I can’t cook at all so I find literally no joy in the tediousness of it all. Maybe it’s because no matter how attentive I am to the list I always make I still somehow seem to forget enough items that it becomes necessary to go back to the grocery store, usually the very next day. Or maybe, just maybe, it could be that every time I grocery shop I have to drag at least two of four children along for the ride.

In reality my disdain for grocery shopping probably stems from all of the above. Throw in that my turn to grocery shop also happens to fall on the busiest day of the week for every grocery store in the area and you have, at least in my mind, a recipe for disaster. Now throw in a toddler who maybe woke up a little too early or just really doesn’t want to be there either, along with some varying combination of three grumpy, older siblings and we’re in a Code Red, potential nuclear meltdown situation. Have you ever seen a small child writhing on the floor of a grocery store in mid-tantrum? Their little arms and legs flailing, body flopping around like a fish that’s just been brought onto the boat. The screams are louder because all grocery stores seem to have nice high ceilings that serve no purpose except to exacerbate every sound that anyone or thing emanates. If you are lucky enough to get them to calm down (as opposed to being that parent who is wheeling your screaming child through the automated doors, half hanging out of the grocery cart) they are now covered in snot, tears, whatever dust and food particles were all over the floor, and probably still asking for whatever item it was that sent them over the edge in the first place. My little guy doesn’t make it a habit to pitch wild fits in public. He’s pretty even-keeled as far as toddlers go. But when he does break down in public on my watch it is almost always at the godforsaken grocery store. And there I stand, produce in hand, looking up to the heavens like a man asking to have his bananas blessed, only instead I’m wondering ‘why?’ Why can’t we just make it through this tidal wave of people and prepackaged foods without crashing on the rocks?

Right around the corner are the creepy twins from The Shining.
Right around the corner are the creepy twins from The Shining.

I try very hard not to project my hatred for grocery shopping onto my children. This is, of course, a necessary evil at the end of the day. So I try to make it as entertaining as possible – lots of talk about what we are going to do with the rest of our weekend, lollipops all around when they find the hidden, stuffed husky at Trader Joe’s, the occasional lunch from the prepared foods section at Whole Foods, etc., etc. But they know. They all know how much I hate it, and we are all well aware of the bribery dynamic that is happening with everything from lollipops to sushi rolls on any given Saturday. There’s this constant give and take with the older children that probably sounds like the haggling you would hear in an open air market in some exotic locale.

Dad, can we get lunch at Whole Foods
No.
Why?
Too expensive.
Why?
Because it is.
How about just falafels? 
No.
Why?
Because that’s not lunch.
So then let’s get lunch.
No.
Why?
Too expensive.
O.k., then how about just a bag of cookies
No.
Why?
Because I’m not buying you junk food.
Alright then let’s get a nice, healthy lunch!

But they really started to catch on with how much I wanted out of there when I pitched to them something I’ve dubbed “Power Shopping.” This is when I take the grocery list and I divvy it up among the 16, 12, and 9 year old. It works something like this: I handle the produce because a) the first job I ever worked was in my uncles’ produce store and I’m now fanatical about my produce being fresh and undamaged (Seriously, how does my otherwise lovely, wonderful, amazing wife constantly bring home more bruised apples than farmers use to feed their livestock?) and b) I don’t trust that the children would get exactly what I need. (No, we need golden potatoes, not Russets…) While I’m handling produce I call out various other items from the grocery list like a drill sergeant (Olives! Salsa! Peanut butter! Go! Go! Go!) and the three of them, sometimes with their youngest sibling in tow, scatter to the four corners of the store. When they return, we do it again until the list has been dwindled down to only specialty items that I need to grab. The unspoken bond here is something like this: ‘Listen, you guys know I hate this and I know you guys don’t want to be here either. So let’s power through this, and get it done as fast as humanely possible without forgetting anything that I actually wrote down because we all know I forgot to write something down and your mother will have to come back here tomorrow.’ Or something along those lines.

I feel like I’ll never not have to grocery shop. The one grocery store that has a home delivery service really just isn’t feasible for a family of six that also happens to have multiple food allergies. It’s a somewhat soul-crushing realization that at least once a week for the foreseeable future I’ll be thrown into this almost Mad Max like venture, walking the thin line between sanity and a toddler tantrum in the frozen aisle. Therefore the song we are tying to this article is “No Hope In Sight” from Paradise Lost. Pray for me good people. Pray for me…

 

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