My daughter’s energy output can best be measured in units called “tantrums.” Our trip to the store output seven tantrums of energy. If we could figure out a way to power electronics with the energy output of children, I’m sure we’d all be driving Elon Musk’s tantrum-powered Teslas. Tantrums are an amazing renewable resource – you can guarantee at least three from every toddler when you take them out of the house.
As mentioned last week in Part 1, that grocery trip required some recovery time. Here are the rest of the reasons why grocery shopping is more complicated (read: exhausting) now that I have a toddler.
Your only contact with other people is saying “sorry”
In my pre-kid days, I remember going to the store and overhearing a misbehaving child. I was so judgemental. “Why can’t they control their child? Who’s the parent here?” I’d scoff, knowing that I’d definitely be a better parent than that someday. My child would obey and be well-behaved.
Flash forward to my 33-year-old self as I kneel in front of a screaming toddler; I’m standing there with a pacifier in one hand and a slinky in the other, waving them both around like I’m conjuring some weird kid-friendly spirit. It’s at this point I notice other shoppers and their judgmental stares. Oh my god, I think in horror, my child is *that* child. I’m the parent I used to judge.
So what do you do when you have a misbehaving child? Whatever they want. Does the child want to throw a package of M&Ms on the floor? Sure, go ahead. Does she want to knock all the cereal boxes off the shelf? Sure, that’s fine; I’ve already accepted that my shopping trip would be 20% shopping and 80% putting stuff back.
In the midst of all this, I’m either chasing her around or I’m letting her push the cart. In either case, I’m getting in someone’s way. When that happens, I can only say one thing: sorry. As a parent, I no longer greet people like a human being. I acknowledge a stranger’s presence by apologizing and avoiding eye contact. By the end of the shopping trip – when I’m letting Jebecca push the cart out of the store at a snail’s pace – and I say sorry to the line of other shoppers behind me, I realize the only words I’ve muttered this entire time were “sorry” and “shhh.”
You’re very aware of germs everywhere
It’s amazing how quickly you become aware of germs when your shopping companion uses licking as a way to evaluate something’s quality. From the moment I enter the store, I zero in on every object that could potentially carry the plague. The grocery cart handle. The floor. The box of Slim Jims. The change in my pocket. I have a hyper-awareness of everything. I heard a guy sneeze on the other side of the store, and I instinctively threw my body in front of Jebecca like I was taking a bullet from an assassin.
I try to sterilize every surface as much as possible, but there’s only so much in my wife’s little bottle of Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer. Within seconds, I slather everything in the scent of Kumquat Ecstasy (or whatever that sanitizer scent was called). A parent of four kids once told me that the over-sensitivity to germs does fade with each new child. That may be true, but as long as there’s even a remote possibility that my wife would blame me for getting Jebecca sick, I’m going to treat any public place like it’s Chernobyl. But it’s not just the environment that poses a health risk….
You can’t avoid old ladies who love touching babies
I have a theory that every old lady in the world got together and decided that it’s a requirement to touch any baby they see in public. Maybe it’s because they had children, or maybe its because they grew up in an age when medicine had only advanced as far as bloodletting, but either way, their awareness of appropriate behavior is completely gone.
As we were in line to check out, Jebecca smiled at the lady behind me. It was really cute. They were just making faces at each other, which was fine. After all, she was keeping Jebecca entertained. I took my eyes off them for just a second, but that was long enough for the lady see her opening and pinch both of Jebecca’s cheeks. Excuse me? I tried to awkwardly laugh it off and pull Jebecca toward me, but the lady had already engaged. “Oh, she’s so darling,” she said, reaching out her hands to tickle Jebecca’s feet. What the? Listen, lady, I have no idea where you’ve been.
Sure, most of these little old ladies look fragile, but the minute there’s a baby in the vicinity, they become a mix of ninja and linebacker. They can expertly weave between and around most obstacles, and the ones they can’t, they plow straight through. Maybe babies unlock some dormant superpower among the elderly? Has anyone studied that?
The grocery trip doesn’t end when you leave the store
I thought that once I left the store, my job was done. What I didn’t realize was that the shopping trip has a sequel and it’s called “Grocery Shopping 2: The Great Unloading.” Not only do you have to unload the car and put all that crap away, but you have to do it while dealing with a whiny, overtired toddler who only wants what she can’t have. And what can’t she have when I’m unloading groceries? My attention.
As I’m bringing things in, she’s trying to get outside. When I’m putting all the groceries in the refrigerator, Jebecca is trying to climb inside. Yes, she’s trying to climb inside the refrigerator. It’s not physically possible, and it doesn’t look fun at all. It’s just something she can do that gets in my way and forces me to pay attention to her.
It’s during this process that she will inevitably see one of the things I bought for her. If a child sees something they desire, they will not let it go. All those stealthy, misdirection tricks I pulled at the store are worthless once I’m putting away groceries. All it takes is one glance and her scattered little mind clears and focuses on only one thing: Goldfish Crackers. And of course I give in. I’m tired and I’m weak. In this state of mind, she could ask me for a cigarette and I’d probably give it to her.
You’ll eat anything to avoid going back to the grocery store
After expending all your energy on surviving a trip to the store, parents will do absolutely anything to avoid going back. Before kids, we’d make grocery store trips a regular part of our week. After kids, we’ll have a meal of ketchup packets and breath mints if it means we can eat something else on our shelf instead of going back to the store. At a certain point, I think every parent has wondered how much better life would be if they retreated from modern society and raised a farm instead of going to the store. I’m pretty sure the only reason parents end up going back to the store is because food a primary parenting tactic. Once you run out of yogurt pouches, how else will you get your child to keep quiet while you’re on the phone? Food is your only bargaining chip and once you run out, your child has all the leverage.
Parenting is a battle of willpower and our ability to shop for groceries is the only thing that keeps us in the game long enough to survive another day.