United States
March 07
Mother/Writer/Lover of Life
Isn't life a bit like walking through a briar patch made of taffy on a summer day at noon? Thanks for stopping in, Stephanie


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MARCH 11, 2010 8:47AM

Welcome to Hell: or The Grocery Store and Toddlers

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Most days are spent in the earnest attempt to enjoy time with my children while expanding their horizons, other days are for errands, those are the days I dread. My children, like all others, have no patience for the grocery store. The place is filled with “We’re not getting that”, “Please don’t touch”, and “No running or there’ll be no park later”.  

“Let’s get dressed.”

Thud…..thud…..thud…..thud…..all the way down the stairs.

“Lola wants that one Mama.” For some inexplicable reason my daughter refers to herself in the third person.

“Which one?”

“Purple.” She grabs her skirt, which is actually a tutu, it’s purple...and sparkly.

“The purple skirt?”

“Yes.” She squeals with delight.

“Me too.” Kai chimes in.

“Well honey, the purple skirt is Lola’s.”

“Yeah, Charlie.” Somewhere in the last two years, my daughter has renamed my son because of the cartoon Charlie and Lola.

“I want purple toooooo…..” He starts to cry. Kai wants to be exactly like his sister and has now decided that purple is his favorite color too.

“I’m sorry, there’s only one purple skirt.”

“Nooooo…..” He wails.

“How about this, if you wear your clothes, but put on the purple crown?”

“O….o….(sniffle)….kay.” Melt down averted.

“That one Mama.” Lola points to an orange shirt.

“That one?” I don’t usually match myself, but this is taking it to extremes, “that one’s so…bright.”

“Lola wants THAT ONE.” She yells face scrunching up, about to cry.

“Okay, okay, okay, that one is good.” Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets. Taste is relative.

We’re finally ready to leave the house, Lola in her purple, sparkly skirt, striped tights, orange shirt and hot pink cowboy boots; Kai in his jeans, t-shirt, sandals...and purple crown. To the store we go, a one family circus.

Our grocery store has carts that have a car attached to the front; there are two-seater cars and one. This is fantastic except for the fact that the two-seater car has been out of commission for a month or so, making this little excursion a lot more challenging than it would be if there were no car at all.

“Mama, can I have a car puhhhleeeze...” Kai begs.

“We’ll see if any are available.” I silently pray that they are all out of sight, knowing the two-seater is broken and wanting to avoid the argument of who gets to ride first.

“I want a car too Mama.”

“Well Lola, I don’t see the car carts anywhere so I don’t think anyone will be riding in the car.”

“Right there!” She squeals and points at the coveted cart by the door, it’s a one-seater.

“Okay, Kai asked first, so he gets the first half of the store. Kai...” He’s already run to the car cart and jumped in, “…these are the rules for riding in the car, you switch with Lola at frozen food,” the freezers are right smack in the middle, “and no matter what happens, nokickingnobitingnoscreamingnofightingnomoaningorgroaningnowhiningnobeggingnopleadingnocrying…..and under no circumstances will there be any grabbing of ANYTHING, or there will be no car for you.” I said this all in one breath, “Do you understand me?” He bobs his head in automatic response not having heard a word I said. With the ground rules set my menagerie and I embark on the store.  

Just inside the door is a security camera, the average person would never take notice, but the parent of a toddler understands the severe ramifications of a security camera with visible monitor in the entrance to any public building.

“Look Mama, I’m on T.V.!” Kai shouts waving madly at himself on the tiny screen. Lola begins a dance that looks like some kind of ritualistic, tribal convulsion.

“Very cool guys, but let’s keep it moving please.”

The entrance is more narrow than usual, lined with cases of soda and it is backing up because of us; fortunately the delayed shoppers think my little monkeys are cute. I nervously look back at them knowing the cute factor wears off after about 15 seconds. Lola happily moves on with me, but Kai has hopped back out and dances in the door. I leave the behemoth cart where it stands and dart back to grab my wayward entertainer. Children’s flexibility will never cease to amaze me. When you are trying to grab a child that is acting out, they squirm like greased pigs and are nearly impossible to hold onto.

I always begin in produce, there is no logic to it really, fresh, ripe fruit and vegetables in the bottom of the cart just waiting to get smushed, and the temptation always proves too much for my daughter.

“Lola?” I don’t even have to look.


“Please don’t bite the fruit.”

“Okay.” She says mouth full of mango.

Lola loves fruit, she really loves fruit and bites her way through produce, by the time we hit meat there is a pile of fruit with one, small bite out of each and every one in the far corner of the basket. I think the grocery store ought to implement a system of weighing my children when we come in then weighing them again at checkout, I could simply pay for each additional ounce.

I want to meet the person who decides how to stack the shelves. We all already know it’s deliberate the way all of the crap is strategically placed at pint size eye level, I want to meet this person... and beat them. What could be a quick, benign excursion inevitably turns into a nightmarish, trip to hell and back. Before I had children I wondered why parents didn’t just explain to junior that they are being manipulated by pathetic marketing ploys and to just ignore it all and go merrily on their way. I don’t think I need to expound upon my own ignorance.

The halfway point of the grocery store is frozen food, in front of the ice cream to be exact, but knowing full well the issues that would ensue if I spent any length of time in front of the ice cream I make them switch who’s in the car at the waffles.

“Okay Kai, up and out, it’s Lola’s turn.”

“It’s Lola’s turn.” She quietly repeats.


“Enough Kai, get out please.”

“Out Charlie.” Lola, barely audible .

“I said no, no….NO.” He’s now raised his voice.

“Kai, it’s Lola’s turn, and I want you out NOW.” I say just raising my voice enough so he takes me seriously, but not enough to get angry glares from the shoppers who are empty nesters who think he’s adorable, and clearly have a lot of time between today and the three-year-old they raised. He hasn’t budged and is now gripping the steering wheel of the little car, face set in a determined frown, staring straight ahead.That’s it.

“One…” I lower my voice, which is much scarier to a three-year-old, because once you lower your voice they know you’re serious, “two…” I’m fuming.

“STOP!” He yells, voice carrying over the giant freezers, rolling through the store that somehow has the most incredible acoustics. Fellow shoppers who don’t have children politely avert their eyes, other mothers give me a sympathetic and knowing look, and from about five feet away I hear laughter. My face begins to burn. I turn, my eyes blazing at the thought of anyone encouraging this kind of behavior. My eyes fall upon a clerk of no more than 20 stocking the Hagen Daaz.

“He’s funny.” This boy-man says pointing to my son. My eyes lock into his and narrow to mere slits, slowly the goofy grin melts from his face and he quietly turns back to his project. My eyes whip back, without a word I point to Kai, snap and point at the floor in front of me. His eyes narrow and his lips purse, judging how far to push it. He decides against any further rebellion and slinks out of the car. Lola happily hops in. I squat down to buckle her in and hear…..whomp…..whomp…..whomp… son running away from me and around the corner as fast as his little legs will carry him. From one aisle over I hear shrill laughter. Now I’m ticked.

If you’ve ever seen the grocery carts with the cars attached to the front, they’re about the size of an ocean liner and as easy to maneuver as a sedated hippopotamus, and they always have one, wanky wheel. Being right smack in the middle of the aisle it’s easier to go forward than back. With as much speed as I can muster, I fly down the frozen foods and pull the tightest turn possible, plowing into a chip display, thankful it’s not salsa in glass jars. Lola squeals with pure joy, and I see my son just turning the other corner, purple crown flying. No way I can catch up to him and he’s too young to realize he’s running right to me, I stop and wait just around the bend. He screams and laughs when he sees me and I grab not letting go. The sound of his laughter always makes me want to laugh, but despite the laughter, I can’t let him think this is okay, and I kind of want to throttle him.

 “Mama got Charlie, Mama got Charlie!” Lola claps and sings. Kai howls with laughter.

“Kai, look at me.” He tilts his head and gives me the sweetest smile, “This behavior is not okay and I’m upset right now.”

“You angry?” He asks genuinely not understanding why this game isn’t as fun for me as it is for him.

I do sometimes forget he’s three and not trying to make my life hell, just looking for a little fun, even at the grocery store. It’s just that some days I’m exhausted and all the wrangling, discipline, and teaching feels like too much, but even on those days, I don’t have a choice, this is my job.

“I’m not angry, but I’m not happy either. This is a store, not the playground. If you run away from me again, you immediately go into timeout.” He nods his head and looks at me very seriously while I speak, then he gives me the biggest grin and throws his arms around my neck.

“Okay, okay, okay Mama. I’m happy see?” He grins, nose to nose with me, “Are you happy?” This really is his biggest concern. He wants to know that Mama is happy and he didn’t do anything to make her angry.

“I’m happy.” I say smiling. We hug and kiss.

“Lola’s happy Mama.” Lola says from the car in front. I give her a hug and kiss and we finish our shopping without further incident. 

Preschool starts soon, and I swear to myself that once it does my children will not darken the door of another grocery store until they are living on their own.

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LOL! Love your latest post!!! One time my son put a $15 wedge of cheese in the cart which I wouldn't have minded getting except for the fact it was no bigger than my little pinkie. Thank goodness I caught it before we got to checkout! You are such a talented writer....I always look forward to reading your posts! :)

I love that we're all in this together...makes it easier the days I want to scream!


Yes, that's what I hear, my best friend has children older than mine and I get to see and learn through her...although her children are freakishly obedient, well mannered, and polite (I'm not biased at all).

Thanks for reading and responding!

Thank you Gullmommy, I look forward to reading your work.

I so enjoyed this. You bring back so many memories (my kids are now 36 to 27). When I got to go grocery shopping without my kids, I felt I was on an exotic vacation.
I loved this. I miss my little kids! (They're 18 and 20 now.)
That reminds me of the following: The string bag and octopus guide to parenting (sorry , it's a bit British-y, so you may have to change the names of cars and breakfast cereals etc, but the context will make it all clear).

Preparation for parenthood is not just a matter of reading Sheila Kitzinger and decorating the nursery. Here are eleven simple tests for expectant parents to take to prepare themselves for the real life experience of being a mother or father

1. Women: Put on a dressing gown and stick a bean bag down the front. Leave it there for nine months. After nine months take out 10% of the beans. Men: go to the chemist, tip the contents of your wallet on the counter and invite the pharmacist to help himself, then go to the supermarket and arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home pick up the paper and read it for the last time.

2. Before you go ahead and have children find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run riot. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behaviour. Enjoy it - it will be the last time you have all the answers.

3. To discover how the nights will feel walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing about 8 - l0 lbs. At 10pm put the bag down, set the alarm clock for midnight and go to sleep. Get up at 12am and walk around with the bag again until 1am. Set the alarm for 3am. As you can't get back to sleep get up at 2am and make a drink. Go to bed at 2 45am. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off. Sing songs in the dark until 4am. Set the alarm for 5am. Get up at 5am and make the breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

4. Can you stand the mess children make? To find out smear marmite on the sofa and jam on the curtains. Hide a fish finger behind the stereo and leave it there throughout the Summer. Stick your fingers in the flower bed - then wipe them clean on the wall paper. Cover the stairs with crayons. How does that look?

5. Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems. First buy an octopus and a string bag. Attempt to put the octopus in the bag, so that none of its arms stick out. Time allowed for this - all morning.

6. Take an egg carton, Using a pair of scissors and a pot of paint turn it into an alligator. Now take a toilet roll tube. Using only Copydex and a piece of foil make a Christmas cracker. Last take a milk container, ping-pong ball and an empty packet of Cocoa Pops then make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. Congratulations you have just qualified for a place on the Playgroup Committee.

7. Forget the Peugeot 205 and buy a Sierra. And don't think you can leave it on the driveway spotless and shining, family cars don't look like that. Take a choc-ice and put it in the glove compartment and leave it there. Get a 20p piece, stick it in the cassette player. Take a family sized pack of chocolate biscuits, mash them down the back seat. Take a garden rake - run it along both sides of the car. There - perfect.

8. Get ready to go out. Wait outside the loo for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come back in again, go out, come back in again, go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for five minutes. Stop to inspect every cigarette end, piece of chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect on the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you have had just about as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out to stare at you. Give up and go back home again. Do it all over again. You are now just about ready to take a small child for a walk.

9. Go to your local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child - a fully grown goat is ideal. If you intend to have more than one child then take more than one goat. Buy your groceries without letting the goats out of' your sight. Pay for everything the goats eat or destroy. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even consider having children.

10. Hollow out a melon, make a small hole in the side, suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Now take a bowl of soggy Weetabix and try to spoon it into the swaying melon whilst pretending to be an aeroplane. Continue until half the Weetabix has gone, tip the rest in your lap making sure that a lot of it ends up on the floor. You are now ready to feed a 12 month old baby.

11. Learn the names of every character from the Care Bears, Postman Pat, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When you find yourself singing "I wanna be a Care Bear" at work, you finally qualify as a parent.
@ Grandma: Ah yes, the exotic vacay via lone shopping the summer, I wear flip flops, sunglasses, and pretend it's Cabo : ), I even top the trip with a fruit smoothie enjoyed in peace and quiet.

@Not Yet: Don't miss! I'll send you mine and Grandma and I will go on a real vacation!

@GeeBee: I lived in London for a few months, so I am familiar with Weetabix...I actually LOVE them! Thank you for the laugh!!

One of the reasons I shop late at night.
What time (and day of the week) do you go shopping? The United States is a big place and unless you can narrow it down to a place that isn't Florida, I'd like to know. ;) Fun and funny post!
@ O'Really? Don't worry, we're in Georgia...there's a little space between us ;-), but this was written in California three years ago. They are almost six now and they're in school all day...YAY!

@ Elisa, thank you!! I was so excited I screamed all the way down the hall...Kai and Lola and I jumped up and down, then they stopped and asked, "Why are we jumping up and down?"

So funny and oh so true. I have a 3- and a 5-year-old, so I can relate. Loved this.
I remember these days...and then there's going out to dinner with toddlers, yet another version of hell.

But they're so darn cute at that age, aren't they?

congrats on the EP. loved this and remembered it all. Well, I remember it from last week when I took my Parker (2 soyr old grandson)to Winn-Dixie last week. But, I do have two sets of twins (27 and 17) and two is definitely stress squared.
This was so great!! It's like deja vu! I did it with my kids. Congrats on the EP/Cover. This is one that really deserves to be there.
@ Leepin, smart, smart, smart!

@Lisa, well I'm told it gets easier...although I've been told that since the day they were born and I'm still waiting... ; -) , glad we're in it together!

@ Eden...people take toddlers out to dinner? I watched waaaay too much Super Nanny to do that. I was terrified, I have NEVER been in control and did not venture into restaurants with my kids until they were on the older side of 4...I'm a big ole chicken.

@Scanner, wow. I have only been here for a few days, but I am such a big fan. You, Donna, Elisa, Colleen...there are a few people I've been reading and following who I JUST DIG! Anyway Scanner, thank you...and when I saw you commented I got really excited, so thanks again for commenting and sharing your work with us, I've really enjoyed it.

Thank you all for your support!!
LuluandPhoebe!! Another one I've been reading and love.

Well, you say I should enjoy it...I'm thinking summer vacation with Lulu and Phoebe so I can start appreciating the good old days now...whatcha think? Or even better, I'll send the kids there, you send the doggies here...romping on the beach (we'd hit Hilton Head), rawhides (for them, not me), and chasing balls (tennis for them, male for me) Think about it it would be like a cultural exchange!

Thanks for reading!

I love this! And I love those kids. The song, "Whatever Lola Wants..." was the sound track in my head while reading this. Congratulations on the EP! _r
Amazing how kids every reach adult-hood really :o)
@ Joan, Thank you!! Yes, that song often plays in my head when she goes all diva on me...I fear the teenage years ;-) . BTW Joan, I am a HUGE fan of yours!

@ Lorna, I know! What I fear most is that hex my mother put on me, the "I hope you have one just like you someday"...I think it stuck.
And where's the so called joy of parenthood in this picture? Lock the brats in a closet and spare us the noise.
There are times that I don't think it was a good idea to wait nearly 5 years between children and then again . . . I actually manage to have similar days now even though they are 5 and 10. Thanks for sharing - hilarious!
I remember my daughter pulling out the crucial package - always the keystone - in a grocery display and bringing the whole thing crashing down. Strawberries, melons, anyone? You learn to just walk away. What, my child? She's an angel. And look how smart: before she turned three, she could point to a jar of peanut butter on the shelf and read "NO Cholesterol" within earshot of the one grandmother in the store you would treat her as the brilliant young saviour of the world she was destined to become.

And then there was my son, so gifted at sneaking toddler boys' clothing into the cart at the local megamart, then pulling them out in pure delight in the parking lot. Money? What's that for? You mean they weren't just giving these T-shirts away? But look! It's my size! and my favorite superhero is on the front!

This aspect of raising children does get better. But be prepared: things get different. You might as well get ready now for middle school and adolescence. You'll need a head start, trust me. And it's worth at least a trial run at the veneration of Saints Margarita and Cosmopolitan.

Thanks for the funny and oh-so-true article.
Brilliant recap, I love this story, and can't wait to see more like this; you're the kind of mom I'm hoping to be some day. When you said "I do sometimes forget he’s three and not trying to make my life hell, just looking for a little fun, even at the grocery store. It’s just that some days I’m exhausted and all the wrangling, discipline, and teaching feels like too much, but even on those days, I don’t have a choice, this is my job," you won me over forever.
Ah yes it brought back so many memories, thanks for reminding us that grocery shopping IS boring and I frequesntly feel like running through the aisles like Harpo Marx on a tear. .My partner & I would alternate sometimes but he could not deal with trying to inset our daughter in the cart as she would not sit down and had legs made of carbonized steel . Of curse the next time I shopped she refused to go in the cart and she could run like the wind and hide like a ninja. I took to fastening jingle bells to her shoes , clothes and hair and came upon her in the middle of the store once , dancing like bojangles and surrounded by a crowd of admiring shoppers. she spotted me and let out a horrible shriek "No don't let her get me!" yeah. ...
You names your kid after a cheap PIECE OF SH*T JAP IMPORT!

And, yes, welcome to hell...thanks to people like you that bring the ill mannered, out of control rug rats to the's funny how people don't see that THEY ARE THE PROBLEM...LEAVE YOUR RUG RATS IN THE CAR...IN THE TRUNK...I DON'T CARE!
FURTHERMORE, there are too many brain dead adults in the stores too!
They take up an entire aisle with their cart and stupid, self centered oblivious fat asses...just standing there...blocking the whole aisle...blindly staring at junk food...salivating...while some of us just want get a few items and get the fcuk out of there! They can't die of obesity quick enough for me!
Thank you for reminding me to give my husband a huge kiss and a thank you! My babies are now 26 and 29 and I'm STILL grateful that I rarely had to take them grocery shopping.

Either my husband did the shopping or he stayed with the kids while I went. It was heaven!

I think I'll go kiss him right now!!
Oh, this was great. I actually made me almost cry missing my little monkeys in the grocery store at younger ages. I HATE those car things, but even worse are the little carts that they can actually push themselves. Clearly, a mom did not design them. They are too short for you to push comfortably once the little one tires of it, and if you have two kids and two mini-carts, well....You really capture the joy and the frustrations of being a stay-home mommy. I really miss it a lot of the time!
@Boymom, I doubt it makes a difference if there are five minutes or five years...children are children and that's what makes them so great! Thans for the response : )

@Ladyslipper, lol! I don't drink, but I'm thinking LOTS of spa days, so I need to start saving now!

@ RavingBits, thank you! I look forward to reading your work.

@ jane...sigh...I've heard stories about people who shop with only one child...sigh...I have dreams like that...

@ AG, your insult might actually have an effect if you knew the difference between Kia and Kai...Kia is a car, Kai is not.

@ Ruby, you are a lucky woman!!

@ Blue, I have NOT seen those little carts! Ugh, who would DO that?? I would probably just cry at the sight of them. LOL!

Thank you for reading and responding everyone, yes, even the angry people, they remind me why I am SO lucky and SO grateful today!

Oh, I saw this yesterday and so glad I remembered to come and read it. So many of us have been there with you ! When my son was 2, he was sitting in the seat of a very full grocery cart while I turned for a second to reach something off a high shelf. When I turned back around, he was sucking on a bottle of dish soap like it was his baby bottle...and, he had managed to wedge the spout open so he actually drank soap. It only took a second before vomit was flying the cart, on the floor, on me and him. I stood there helplessly until a sweet older lady came rushing out from the bakery with a roll of paper towels. My son, now 11, loves me to tell that story. Funny to him - because he didn't have to clean it up! Good luck Stephanie, your heart's in the right place.
I saw an advertisement that won an award in Europe. A father and son were in a grocery store, and son wanted a bag of candy that father kept putting back on the shelf. Son threw a full blown temper tantrum right there, knocking whole shelves of cans onto the floor, screaming and kicking, the whole nine yards. The rest of the shoppers gave father nasty, reproving looks while father just had to repress it all.

The ad was for condoms.