Why is it that a simple run to the grocery store with kids in tow is never—simple? You know how grocery stores use “shopper psychology” when they design stores, purposely putting the milk in the far back corner of the store so you’ll have to walk by the Oreos on your way there, or putting the sugar-crack cereal at children’s eye level, knowing that by Aisle 6 the parents have already been worn down and will likely give in to their kids’ begs and pleads? Well, I have a hunch that they also have some special gas that they pump into the air that makes kids go temporarily insane. Seriously. I mean, where is the one place you can always count on your kids throwing themselves down on the floor? Yep, the supermarket. It’s a conspiracy, I’m telling you!
Take for instance my experience today. I only needed a few items and had limited time, so I thought I was relatively safe for a quick stop at Hy-Vee with Boys #2 and #3 before Boy #1 arrived home on the school bus. In and out. Really, how hard could it be?
Well, I’m not kidding when I tell you that it started the moment the kids’ feet crossed the threshold of the automatic door. First, Boy #2 had to “help me” push the cart. (Imagine me doing big sarcastic finger quotation motions when I say “help me.”) Apparently “helping me” push the cart means ducking under my arm, which is attached to the cart handle, and popping up so he’s now in between me and the cart. So now we must try to walk and push the cart in unison, except I have to now walk with my legs about twice as far apart as I normally walk. And I have to walk twice as slow. And my vision is slightly impaired by the nearly 8-year-old who is smack-dab in front of me. And this left Boy #3 just on his own, walking off to the side. This was not necessarily an ideal situation for any of us. Finally I convinced Boy #2 that this really was not working (after taking several deeeeep breaths) and so instead he climbed on the back of the cart, and Boy #3 climbed on the side. And I attempted to push a combined 100-pound lopsided cart.
“Maybe if I give one of them a job,” I thought, “this will be easier.” Thus begans my boys’ introduction to the World of Coupons. It begins with a BOGO coupon for Wholly Salsa, an exciting find as this salsa is really good! I asked Boy #2 if he would like to be in charge of holding the coupons once we find the products. He accepted the challenge, but not before I warned him about how valuable those little clippings were. “If you lose this,” I told him, “it’s like losing $4.” “Whoa,” he said, obviously impressed at my advanced couponing skills. But apparently he wasn’t impressed enough to actually hold on to the coupons as we had to stop and look for one at least three different times before I finally said, “Do you want me to just hold on to the coupons?” and he answered, “Yes.”
In a further attempt to keep my boys halfway sane and also get some “good mom” points (from whom, I’m not sure, though), I incorporated a little math lesson into our jaunt down the cereal aisle. Now, you must understand that cereal is a staple in our house. Further up on the food chain than bread and maybe even milk considering the boys would rather eat their cereal dry than go without cereal just because we’re out of milk. So we spend a lot of time in the cereal aisle both because we buy a lot of boxes AND because unless I bargain-shop for our cereal, we could spend our month’s house payment on Frosted Mini-Wheats. First, I asked Boy #2 to locate the cereal for which we had coupons. To make it a little more difficult, he had to make sure it was the correct size by looking at the number of ounces. Boy #3 had to get in on the action too, which was fine except that he managed to run in front of every other person with a shopping cart while searching out the Apple Jacks with the “Whole Grain” symbol on it. And then he wouldn’t move, so engrossed in his quest, and so we’d create a little aisle traffic jam until I could grab his arm and finally get his attention so he could get out of the way. Boy #2 did enjoy figuring out how much one box of cereal would be when the sign said “5/$10,” which I realized he did when he said, “Mom, if we buy two boxes it’s $4.” And coupons started getting more exciting when he realized that if we bought two boxes of cereal that were 5/$10, and we used a coupon for $2 off two boxes of cereal, “Hey, we’ll get one box free!”
A few aisles later and I was seeing the light at the end of the dairy case tunnel. However, on the way we had to pass one of the boys’ most coveted items—string cheese. They could smell it an aisle away . . . and the whining began. “Please, mom? PLEASE?!” I know, I know, it’s not like they were begging for a 5-pound bag of jelly beans or a case of Twinkies. But dang! String cheese is expensive! Especially when they devour an entire $6.98 package in one evening. (Not to mention what all that cheese does to their digestive system!) But, worn down as I was (Curse you, shopper psychology!), I was convinced to purchase a smaller package of Twisted String Cheese with the promise that they would each only eat ONE piece per day AND they would throw away their wrapper instead of tossing it onto the floor. (I know, I’m so weak!)
Next it was on to the milk aisle where I had to give my prerecorded “We don’t need to buy chocolate milk when we can make our own chocolate milk” speech. By this time, the “insanity gas” must’ve really gotten to them because if it’s possible, I think they actually wriggled all the way to the check-out aisle, arms extended and grabbing anything within arm’s length on the way.
When we pulled into Aisle 9, I saw that the guy in front of me had 4 little kids with him, including a baby, all by himself. I was hoping that would make us, with only 2 kids in tow, look a little bit better. But probably not. Especially considering Boy #3 not only put a economy-sized bag of candy on the conveyor belt and then did the whole “What?” innocent act when I told him to put the candy back. And as I was trying to dole out my coupons and run my debit card through the machine, I had to also keep an eye on each boy with my peripheral vision because Boy #2 was pushing buttons on the debit machine while spinning and flailing his arms, and Boy #3 went from grabbing a whole stack of greeting-card sacks to standing beside the next checker over and acting like he was going to start punching numbers into the cash register to trying to get his fingers stuck in the conveyor belt to pulling out the little check-writing ledge so the next person would run into it.
By the time we got out of there, I was sweating and I’m sure my blood pressure had increased quite dramatically. The boys, however? They were oblivious. Again—the gas? It had to be because as I was giving myself some mental affirmations and taking my calming breaths so I didn’t flip out, the boys were all smiles, like they’d just had the time of their lives.
Oh well. At least I managed to get enough groceries so that I won’t have to go back until, well, tomorrow . . . Ugh.
Image courtesy of x-ray delta one on flickr