There we were. A grocery cart half-full of items for the clean eating program my husband and I planned to begin the next day: sprouted bread, nitrate free turkey breast, sugar free almond milk and all the other healthy crap on our list. My head was already spinning from tracking down all the stuff we needed. The baby, buckled snugly in the cart seat, was crying.
“All done!” she screamed in a tone that reminded me of the Exorcist. “Allll donnneeee!!!”
I grabbed a bag of chocolate covered pretzels off the shelf and ripped it open, letting my 20-month-old have at it. Hey, whatever it takes to make it through the grocery store, right?
“VVRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOM!” I heard little voice scream.
“Ready? Set, GOOOOO!” returned another.
Before I could even turn all the way around, I saw two little boys in puffy winter coats barreling their pint-sized shopping carts between the cucumbers and onions. Drag racing.
Then everything went into slow motion. One cart careened on two wheels, tipping onto its side. A head of lettuce shot halfway across the store. A pile of pickles, juice and broken glass oozed onto the tile floor. Other produce casualties lay smashed and bruised beneath the toppled cart.
“You know,” a middle aged male employee hissed at me. “When they didn’t listen the first three times, I probably would have taken the carts away.”
I ignored him and tried desperately to play the part of the caring but firm mother while helping my husband clean up the mess our 3 and 5-year-olds just made.
OK, let’s be real. We were dying… like, biting our tongues and cheeks, eyes watering, not making eye contact with each other, shoulders shaking as we desperately tried not to burst out laughing. We didn't want to blatantly show how much we really didn't care at all about what had just happened.
The kids were bat shit. It was January 3. Cold as hell outside. We had just returned home from a week in Disney. They needed to run a little.
We took away the tiny carts for five minutes and then gave them back to the boys. Somehow, between the eye rolls from employees and sympathetic nods of been-there-done-that moms, we eventually made it out of our first adventure into Fresh Thyme without getting kicked out. It was a close call though.
You know what that shopping trip made me realize? I. Have. Arrived. Somewhere between not giving a damn what anyone else thinks about my parenting style and just plain needing to get shit done, I have become that mother I swore I would never be.
You know who I’m talking about… the mom who lets her children run rampant through the store instead of keeping them restrained within the confines of a grocery cart. The mom who opens large bags of whatever sugar-coated somethings I can find to entertain my kids while I pick out new running pants or try on shoes at Target. Hell, I even let my boys play alone in the toy aisle while I shopped for new pillows for my bedroom… 8 aisles away.
I’m the mom who repeatedly tells my toddlers to leave the freaking freezer doors CLOSED at Aldi (we’re recent Aldi converts, and the newness of it still hasn’t worn off with the kids) while I try to pry the germ infested cart key out of my baby’s mouth.
Then there’s my current obsession with Home Goods. And the struggle to decorate our (almost) finished basement. I’m at that store like three times a week – either returning something that just didn’t work out or checking out the newest merchandise that came in on this week’s delivery truck.
Last Sunday I ran in to get this gorgeous plush blanket I’ve been eyeing for our master bedroom. At only $16.99 (a steal!), it was the perfect shade of grey. I needed it.
My husband was on shift, so I had all 3 kiddos by myself. Piece of cake. I do this all the time.
Boys – go to the toy section and immediately jump on plastic motorcycles I had no intention of buying.
Girl – strapped into the cart, with me.
“I neeeed! I neeeeeed! BAAAAAAYYYYBEEEEEEE!" my daughter screamed at the first fuzzy, stuffed dog toy she saw.
OH. EM. GEE.
Then, of course, I ran into our adorable realtor and showed her pictures on my phone of everything we’ve done to our home in the past five years. She oooed and ahhhhed over my husband’s handiwork…
“Mommy, I have to go potty!” interruped my 3-year-old.
“Can you wait three minutes?” I asked, as he nodded his head up and down then grabbed himself, you know, down there. Disclaimer: He’d just gone before we left home 20 minutes earlier. I knew he’d be fine.
“Do you know where the restroom is?” shouted a store clerk from 4 aisles away.
“Yes, thank you,” I replied with a smile, returning to my conversation with our realtor and her daughter, assuring them my husband could probably make the cute little table they’d seen on Etsy.
“Mooommmmyyyy!” whined my toddler.
Ok, ok. We said our goodbyes and I headed to the bathroom with my gaggle. Of course, we couldn’t leave without my son squatting down and peeking into the next stall over, where he watched a stranger doing her business.
“Mommy, I think she has a vagina like you,” he noted, with every ounce of seriousness in his voice and on his face.
“Oh my God Sawyer, wash your hands and let’s go,” I said, half laughing, half embarrassed as hell. “We don’t ever watch strangers while they go potty. Do you understand?”
That’s what I get for teaching our kids proper anatomy.
Roughly 35 minutes after walking in, we are on our way to the car with my new blanket. I could almost smell the freedom that comes with naptime (OK, not really, since I had a terrible head cold and everything the kids say was amplified by like a million decibels). As I told my boys to climb in and buckle up, I realized I couldn't find my car keys. Damn it.
I know I had them.
I sat my bag on the cold asphalt and tried to shift through my purse one more time. Am I going to have to call my husband at work? What about my in-laws? Oh man, we’re like 30 minutes from nap time. This could get ugly.
I then put the baby down so I could search my coat pockets. She immediately attempted to chase a piece of paper fluttering across the parking lot. I lunged out and grabbed her. A quick check of the boys showed them playing balance beam on some nearby parking blocks.
“Am I on a reality show right now?” I asked out loud. “Alright everyone, back inside the store!”
Luckily, some nice, caring soul had found my keys and turned them in at the register. I turned my shit show around and headed back toward the car, relieved the search ended rather quickly.
I could share dozens of similar stories… the time one of our boys intentionally ripped a page out of hardback book being used as a coffee table prop at a furniture store, or when the other boy's arm got sucked into a sliding glass door at the greenhouse, or the time both of them poked holes in every single package of pork at the grocery store, or the time I just gave up and let them play in the Christmas decorations at the grocery store deli.
I used to tell people we take our kids to the grocery store so they can learn how to behave in public. That's working out well, huh? At this point, I feel like my kids pretty much wreak havoc and draw attention everywhere we go and I’m not sure if it’s a parenting problem, a kid behavioral problem or a little bit of both.
I also don’t spend too much time worrying about it… Or that 20-something staring at me with wide eyes, appalled by the wild beasts who call me ‘mommy’ while vowing to herself that her unborn children will never behave that way in public or otherwise.
Don’t worry, sweetheart.
I was once in your shoes.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...