Rules for Grocery Shopping with Toddlers

Every time I think I get a handle on this parenting thing, something unexpected comes along.  Lately, it’s been an early surprise of the terrible twos.  They are real.  They exist.  And they have manifested themselves in BOTH of my sweet little angels in the past few months.

My parenting skills have not caught up to manage the outbursts and moments of defiance, and despite putting on a brave face with my kids to let them know mama is still in charge, they seem to sense my weakness…and they know when to strike.

Take an ill-fated Friday afternoon shopping trip for example.  If you’ve read my post about 5 Nerdy Things I’m Thankful for as a Mom, you know I prefer to grocery shop alone.  This particular afternoon, though, my girls seemed extra sweet and excited to go to the store, so I decided to go for it.

The girls were particularly into their dolls this day, and for some crazy reason, I allowed them to each bring a doll with us to the store.  I even let them pick out new outfits to dress the dolls in AND let one of the girls bring an extra doll with her.  I clearly wasn’t in my right mind…

Besides toting three dolls along, I decided to try a new parking spot on the back side of the store so we wouldn’t have to walk across the busy part of the parking lot but could wind around the sidewalk to the entrance.  Seems logical, right?

On the way in with the two toddlers and their three dolls, I was actually pretty proud of myself.  The girls looked so innocent and sweet carrying their little dolls, but I noticed about halfway to the door the great new parking area I chose did NOT have a cart corral.

But on a happy, cheerful afternoon when you’re walking in without crossing the busy parking lot and looking at your happy children toting their dolls, a missing cart corral isn’t a problem!  I can carry the few groceries I’m buying out to the car, of course! (Insert ominous music here…duhn, duhn, duhn).

After a decent trip around the store with only a few dolls flying out of the cart (they were getting less cute and sweet by the minute) and minimal hitting and yelling, the checkout is where I made the biggest mistake of all.

I let my girls OUT OF THE CART under the assumption they could walk alongside mama on the safe little sidewalk to the car.  Who does that?  Why didn’t the checker tell me I was an idiot?  Why did I turn down the offer to help me to the car from the teen who sacked the groceries?

The dolls were dropped and scooped up, all three of them, by mama.  I tucked them under my arms so I could hold the grocery sacks…

Can you see it coming?  Some fellow mama or someone with more of a brain should have grabbed me, shaken me hard by the shoulders and yelled some sense into me.  These were NOVICE parenting mistakes I was making, all of which were doomed to lead to a disaster!

As I was lugging the bags of groceries on my arm, squeezing those terrible dolls in my armpits and pleading with my toddlers to keep following me to the car, it happened.

Munchkin 2 froze in her tracks.  You could see the wheels turning in her little mind, calculating the odds and sensing my weakness.  She planted her feet, gave me a naughty little smile and took off running into the very parking lot I was trying to avoid entering with my genius parking place.

I dove. I yelled.  Groceries flew, dolls hit the pavement, and some innocent bystander who happened to see the spectacle held Munchkin 1’s hand on the sidewalk while they watched the ordeal unfold. (Innocent bystander is now my new BFF, by the way).

The running toddler only made it a few steps into a handicapped parking space at the entrance, but between the yelling, her crying and the flying groceries and dolls, we made enough of a spectacle to draw attention from everyone walking in to the store on this doomed Friday afternoon.

Call me crazy, but Friday afternoons in front of King Soopers seem horribly busy.  Busy enough and full of enough people lingering at the entrance that I couldn’t bring myself to add to the humiliation and spectacle and give the little one the spanking I so desperately thought the situation warranted.

The nice lady My BFF who held Munchkin 1’s hand helped me gather up the groceries and dolls and make my way to the car, and who knows what in the world she was thinking about me. I couldn’t really concentrate with Munchkin 2 screaming in my ear as I lugged her along with all of the other junk I was carrying.

Behind the closed doors of my minivan, I sat in the seat and had a moment.  Talk about publicly earning the mother of the year award!

So, after this disastrous afternoon, I now follow these rules without question if I have to take the Munchkins shopping.  If you shop with little ones, take note–if my story can save even one mad dive into a handicapped space in front of a large crowd of shoppers, it will be worth it!

1.  Do NOT allow your children to bring any type of toy that cannot be stuffed into your purse into the store.  Said toys will prove hazardous in the event of a chasing a running toddler.

2.  Do not under any circumstances let your toddler free from the confines of the shopping cart.  No matter how well you think your child minds or how many bribes you are prepared to offer (don’t judge–I’m one of those parents who does something which I claimed I wouldn’t do in my pre-child days), unbuckling a seat belt and allowing your child to walk to the car will likely end in public humiliation.

3.  Friday afternoons are horribly busy and embarrassing days to shop.  The sheer number of people gawking at the front entrance while you chase the aforementioned toddler will be significantly higher than at, say, a nice quiet time like 11:00 at night when the sweet little angels are sleeping peacefully. Does anyone know if the Starbucks is open then?

4.  Leave your bagged groceries in a shopping cart with the securely buckled toddlers.  Even if you only have a few bags and what seems like a short walk to the car, grocery bags swinging from your arm will make chasing and scooping up a runaway child nearly impossible.  The extra toy you have to carry along with the escaped child is yet another reason why grocery bags MUST stay in the cart.

5.  Don’t see a cart corral anywhere near the super-cool new place you chose to park? Forget it! Be that person and leave the cart obnoxiously out in the middle of the lot. A dirty look from the one person who notices your inconsiderate behavior is a thousand million times better than the public humiliation you risk by not keeping the protection offered by the shopping cart with your grocery bags and toddlers securely  in it.

5.  Snugly laced running shoes and clothes made for diving and sprinting are highly recommended.

6.  If someone offers you help or has to step in and help because they see your toddler abandoned on the sidewalk while you chase her sister, do not turn him or her away. When the pity card is all you have left, play it!

7.  Have an understanding and hilarious friend on stand-by to talk you out of crying in your car over your lack of parenting skills and to remind you that even the best mom-ninjas learn the hard way sometimes.


3 thoughts on “Rules for Grocery Shopping with Toddlers

  1. Agree on everything and #7 is priceless and essential!!

  2. […] happy weekend filled with minimal time outs, less snot and germs than the days before AND no one running away from me in a grocery store parking lot, I feel compelled to share this simple prayer of thanksgiving with you. My hope is to be able to […]

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