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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grocery shopping as a parent -- Guest post

Ever hear that saying, "don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry"? There's an even more important saying. "Don't go shopping with kids when you're hungry."

It's not just that you'll make poor choices, nutritionally and financially speaking. It's that shopping with kids is a soul-draining exercise, and you need to be prepared mentally and physically.

Think I'm joking? You've never been shopping with my kids.

(As I write, I am reminded of how hard it used to be. The best shopping trip then is equivalent to the worst one now. When the twins were two, and my eldest was being home-schooled for a year, I would often arrive home from shopping, park in the driveway, and sob for several minutes, from sheer exhaustion. Sometimes I don't know how I survived. One time I did the shopping, carried all the bags upstairs, put everything away, went outside to hang up the never-ending laundry, and came back inside to discover that they had squished an entire packet of tomatoes across the kitchen floor. With a rocking horse.)

Earlier this week I made an emergency post-school-pickup stop for eggs. The twins are exhausted after school, so I try to avoid it if at all possible. My boy twin attempted to kick me the entire way around the supermarket, and when I held his arm to make him walk without my shins being battered, he took to wailing "You're hurting me! You always hurt me so much!" He lay on the floor at the checkout, kicking the floor and repeatedly screeching in tones so irritating as to be beyond description. The check-out operator gave me a wide-eyed stare of sympathy. Or maybe it was accusation. I'm not sure; I was too busy unhelpfully hissing "You're too big for this. Get UP!"

My girl twin is nurturing, sweet and thoughtful, except when she's a rampaging shriek-fiend from Tantyville. Complete with foot-stomps. When the Beast comes out, there is little that will appease it.

One of the things that brings out the Beast is when her big brother gets to go on "missions" at the supermarket. This is usually something like "dagnabbit, I forgot the rice bubbles. Go get some, please?" He's twice her age, so while I am comfortable with him popping back an aisle, it's not an option for her. Oh, the fury. Oh, the injustice.

Unfortunately, while willing to please, my eldest is cerebral, often to the point of forgetting to look out for other people. I spend as much time apologising for his dreamy clumsiness as I do for his little brother, who careens through the crowds with gusto and glee.

Perhaps most frustrating, however, is my eldest's habit of needing to explain, in explicitly painful detail, his latest Minecraft creation. His timing is impeccable; "blah blah desert temple ocean monument redstone blah blah" always comes at the peak of my muttered mantra of "stay close, stay quiet, pointing not touching", as I become increasingly overwhelmed with the multiple stimuli of the commercial environment, and the twins' exuberant behaviour.

It's all too much for me.

Add a dose of hangry to the mix, and it doesn't end well. I will be snapping and grumping, and internally despairing of my children ever being fit to be in public.

Though it used to be worse, it can still be very difficult. A recent shopping trip with the entire family ended with fuming silences, and no screen time for ten whole days. Hubby and I shared meaningful glances that said "There better be gin at the end of this day, or there will be trouble."

And thus we discovered another important truth.

Going to the liquor store after grocery shopping with kids, is like going to the grocery store after not eating for a week. Everything looks good.


Donnelle Belanger-Taylor is a mother and writer living in New Zealand.


  1. Oh Donnelle, I feel for you! I only had one ("Never let them outnumber you" was one of my father's sayings... but he had 4, ... perhaps that's why we were all at boarding schools very early?) I do remember starting at the Deli section and buying luncheon or ham - a full mouth improved the shopping experience no end. But I also used to do mine at 10pm. It was waaaayyy faster that way.

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