Over the weekend, I went to Target with my oldest daughter. As soon as we walked in, I heard it - a baby crying. Wait, crying isn't really the correct descriptor - that conjures up a plaintive, sad, "I need comfort" image. A pathetic little small one, with a lonely tear sliding down a pink cheek.
This baby was HOWLING. This baby was PISSED.
As we passed the check out line, I looked for the unhappy baby, and immediately saw myself ten years ago.
The mom in question was holding the baby and trying desperately to calm her down - for it was a tiny little girl with a fantastic set of lungs - while unloading her grocery cart. I saw that she had a double stroller, in which lay the unhappy baby's twin - also unhappy herself - and two older children, a boy and girl about 3 and 5.
Man, do I remember that time of my life. The time in which I felt I would NEVER be able to go to the store alone, never be able to shop without having to stuff a baby in a sling and her sister in the cart, time the trip between nap time and afternoon freak out, grab a box of goldfish from the shelf and let all the kids snack just in hopes of making it to the register.
Also called The Shopping Trip From Hell.
I can't tell you the number of sippy cups and pacifiers I bought in stores because it would allow me to just get the trip OVER. My husband used to get so pissed at me when I'd come home from the grocery with yet ANOTHER set of pacifiers, but in my defense, although I *could* and *did* nurse babies while wearing them in a sling and pulling a shopping cart full of food and more kids - well, there's only so much of that a girl can do.
I went over to the mom, who was holding it together FAR better than I would have, and offered my help. I think, maybe, she thought I wanted to take her baby, and I quickly reassured her, "Um, I have six kids. I've been right where you are. You hold the baby (I don't have any desire to hold crying babies, thanks all the same!) and I'll unload the cart for you. You make your babies happy."
It took about a minute - she had done most of the work - but in that time, she was able to get the babies to stop crying. She thanked me and made mention of the fact that it was, thank goodness, nap time, and we laughed about that. And then I went on with my shopping, while I thought about the difference in my grocery shopping from ten years ago. My daughter asked me, "Did you ever have to take all of us shopping?" Only every time I went, daughter. Your dad worked a lot - still does - and although I was super lucky that my mom lives close by - you can't always have a baby sitter when you need it, and you might need to save that babysitting time for something else. Something less prosaic than schlepping in the food AGAIN.
She was properly horrified at the thought of how hard that must have been, to shop with all of them. I don't remember that it was, but I probably have Stockholm Syndrome.
I do know this.
Ten years ago, I never thought I'd be out of the trenches. Thought I'd be carrying babies in slings and separating squabbling sisters by pacifying with goldfish and a desperate plea to Please just let Mommy finish this row forever and ever and ever, Amen.
Now there are no more pacifiers/sippy cups/diapers/cute dishes/fun rompers magically finding themselves into the shopping cart. Now the cart contains boxes (multiple plural) of protein bars, a case of Ensure Pluses (for those who hate to eat and have drastically low weight, which would *not* be me), twelve different bottles of shampoo and conditioner, both girly and manly deodorant, socks in bulk because no one can keep track of them, dozens of pieces of poster board, index cards by the gross, and five gallons of milk every week. There are chips and popcorn, sodas and flavored teas, ten different ice creams, 5 boxes of Chocolate Mini Wheats to give us a fighting chance at lasting one week without someone crying because she only!got!one!bowl!
One of the fun things about shopping with older kids is the chance to enjoy it - after all, with littles, it's more a slash and burn type deal - get in, grab what you need and get out before they've realized that you are in the store. With big people, you can (try, at any rate) install some life lessons in their brains - why would one purchase this brand over the next, what would a good bargain look like, what makes a balanced meal, why would a product that contains fewer ingredients be preferred over a more processed brand?
And, then, sometimes, you use bring them for their ability to participate in the heavy lifting part of the grocery store - even if he persists in pushing that shopping cart backwards, all the way around the entire store. So what? You didn't have to push it.
And you have someone to talk to. It's one of those forced conversational gambits that the tv personalities who think they know *everything* about *everything* encourage you to participate in with your kids.
Even if there *is* something to be said for shopping by yourself with headphones and a coffee.
Soon enough, I won't need two carts for groceries.