I really dislike grocery shopping. There’s just something about going to a store, loading up my cart with a bunch of food, paying shocking amounts for this food, and then next week going back to the store and buying the same food again. I mean, something about this feels like insanity. Why does this food have to be “used up”? Why, oh why, must I go buy it again in just a few days?
Everything about grocery shopping makes me feel like I should grow my own food. Oh! I have such fond ideas of gardening! So peaceful, just me and the lovely greens basking in the sunlight, growing to sustain my family with wholesome goodness. Until I am face to face with the dirt. There is one thing worse than grocery shopping, and that is feeling dirt getting under my nails. And the thought that there might be bugs in that dirt where my hands are going.
So, I’m back at the grocery store. Today, as with most weeks, I had all three kids with me. Elena is strapped to my body because this leaves one less child who will attempt a cartwheel in the aisle. My usual go-to strategy is to pack enough snacks to stuff my older kids’ faces so they have less time to see all the beautiful packaging of the junk I never let them buy. This cuts down my “No, we will not buy that” repetition to about half. Even still, they’re getting smarter as they get older and know what kinds of things I’m a sucker for.
“Mom, can we buy more tea so we can have a tea party with you when we get home?” A tea party! They played the tea party card! So we buy more tea.
Today was an exceptionally long trip, despite my enthusiastic encouragement of “Let’s make this the shortest shopping day ever!” Not only have they completely rearranged the store so that I am totally lost, I have to endure the half smiles of the re-stockers who have seen me eight times in the span of four minutes.
“We must be really lost in this store, Mom. Aren’t we lost? Oh! Samples! Wait. We already got those samples a couple times. Nevermind.”
I’m thankful that my older kids have learned well the rules of shopping, which go something like this: If you throw a fit, we go home. If you run away or do karate at the cereal or a person, you’re confined to the cart. Eat your snack.
Elena hasn’t learned these rules yet, which is mostly ok because she can’t really walk or talk anyway. Except that today she decided she wouldn’t use her baby sign anymore and that screaming at me for more snack is a way better choice. I didn’t really agree with her, and unfortunately for the other lady in the baking aisle, we parked by the flour and Elena and I had to get down to business. An 11 month old is not an easy contender, but I am happy to report that she miraculously remembered her baby sign after several minutes of not being able to reach the puffs herself. (This isn’t the first time Elena and I have parked in this store. Last time we spent about fifteen minutes next to the chips while I bounced up and down and sang her to sleep. I get a lot of looks when I’m shopping.)
In any case, despite being slow and circular, our shopping trip was pretty uneventful until we reached the coffee. To my utter delight, there was a sale on my coffee, and to my great despair, they were out of it! Is there any crueler fate? After all this work to go shopping in the first place, to return without coffee is like a punch in the gut. After much agitated looking for someone who worked there (“Quick, Mom! There’s someone who works here! Run after her!”), we had to wait almost 30 minutes for them to discover if they had more in the back. But wait we did because, um, coffee.
As we stood there, it was all I could do to keep my patience. I was hot and hungry, extremely done with shopping, and frustrated at how long they were taking. Norah put her head on my hand and said, “I am so so so tired of this.” Micah started singing a song very loudly about eating blueberries in a shed, followed by even louder yawns and equally loud declarations of all the tricks he would play on me to get me to make coffee for him, should we ever be able to get coffee again. And I realized that with all the frustration I was feeling, my poor kids must be feeling it more. I’m a grown up, after all, and have had many opportunities to wait through frustration. And while I don’t always have the best attitude, I have a little more experience to deal. But looking back over the day, I recognize the good that moments of frustration like this one add to our day. It wasn’t fun (and I confess to sending text messages to my mom along the lines of “I HATE GROCERY SHOPPING.”), but it made us practice our patience. It gave me the opportunity to share with Norah that no, she may not pull her brother’s hair because she’s bored, because Jesus wants us to be kind even if we are bored. It carved space into my day to listen undividedly to Micah’s excruciatingly long dream about Mario. It gave me time to caress Elena’s hair while she slept on me. All in all, today gave me moments that I otherwise would not have taken advantage of. It gave me a chance to remember that my kids are people too, and to treat them like people who matter, not just gloss over them in the midst of my frustration.
When we finally got the coffee, Micah hugged it and declared he would drink the whole bag when we got home, and I silently declared the same. And I might have also made chocolate crepes to go with our tea party because, um, grocery shopping day.