Grocery shopping with kids, and other small sufferings
July 5, 2016
They only occasionally nap together still. Today I figured, still hopped up on legal fireworks lit well into the 10 o’clock hour last night and an endless infusion of high fructose corn syrup and food dyes, would be a rare quad-nap opportunity. Perhaps the last of an era, with the eldest kindergarten-bound in August.
No such luck.
I’ve threatened to pull the plug on Netflix indefinitely, held out the specter of a week without popsicles, and made various empty threats about skipping the zoo with grandma tomorrow, and still they lurk in the shadows, popping up from the basement to inform me of waking nightmares, spooky noises, uncomfortable Star Wars pillowcases lacking sufficient starch, and a host of other ailments too ridiculous to recount here.
I just disciplined thin air. Head whipping around at the sound of crinkling plastic, I barked at a grocery bag to “get downstairs if it ever wanted to play with Toby across the street again.”
My bad, grocery bag. We’re well into mommy PTSD territory now.
Still, when they do awaken for the 43 time from this “nap,” I will probably load them into the car and head to the library down the road. I will probably not put on makeup before lugging the double stroller out of the trunk and filling it with babies and overdue batman comic books, (and actually, this really great YA fantasy novel from Raymond Arroyo that is guaranteed to scratch a lingering Harry Potter itch if there are any other recovering fans out there in blogland) and we’ll stumble into the air conditioned oasis of learning and distraction and at least one or two mom/nannies will raise eyebrows and give a verbal salute to the insanity of taking multiple children anywhere in public.
And I will smile.
Because they will be right, and because it is hard. So is hitting up the doctor’s office and the pharmacy back to back with octopuses leaning out the cart, swiping foodstuffs from shelves left and right and hoping against reasonable hope that today will be the day mom forks over $5.99 for the lego star wars mad libs in the stationary aisle. Dare to dream, little ones. Dare to dream.
Raising children is a lot of work. It’s worthwhile work, but it’s grueling. I feel like those two things go hand in glove more often than not.
I have no lesson to share. I have no happy ending for today. My kids are a hot mess of needs, and I am a hot mess of frustration and pain from a viral illness I thought only people in nursing homes could contract. I cannot call in a sub, hit time out, or free myself from the next 4 hours of life. At least not responsibly, given that I’m the only adult home.
And I wish I could spin this into some fluffy parable about redemptive suffering and the privilege of being a mother, but while those things are real and true, they’re not always in the forefront of my sucks-at-suffering brain.
Nevertheless, I do have a few gems of experience to polish and throw out onto the internet, in case nobody else has explicitly told you these things before.
First, doing errands with kids probably won’t kill you. It will make everything take longer, but it will also create a magical time-sucking portal in your day whereby you can burn 1, 2 or even 3 hours of prime whine-time real estate out in the wild public square instead of your own backyard. Maybe this is a downside for some? But my kids seem to thrive in public settings. Perhaps because we have done so many things as a family unit, minus daddy, for so many years. They’re 100 times more likely to tantrum at home than abroad, and for whatever reason, the gas station and the grocery store are 100 times more interesting to them than their own playroom. Go figure.
Second, people need to see moms doing stuff with their kids in public. When I walk into Whole Foods with half a preschool class and a dead eye stare on my face smile for anyone to see, I’m sending a very simple message just by existing. It’s something along the lines of, “hi, we’re a biggish family. We come in peace. Where are your sparkle waters and diaper wipes, por favor?” Why, I’ve trained a whole cadre of food service industry professionals in a 5-mile radius to hardly startle at all, at least visibly, when we walk into their establishment.
Third, my life is actually really easy. Maybe yours is too? I can say this with boldness because even with a teething baby in the house, the aforementioned elderly viral illness, and a pair of cracked out 4th of July sugar junkies “sleeping” downstairs, my life is really easy.
I have very little actual suffering to my name thus far. I’ve had the usual share of heartaches, disappointments, wounds, and losses to bear, but in the grand scheme of things, my house is not going to get torched by militants, my children are not going to starve to death, and I’m (probably) not going to die in a terrorist attack. There are so many suffering souls in this troubled world of ours, and it is good for those of us who live privileged lives to embrace the small suffering we do encounter and bear it, if not well, than at least adequately. And yes, it’s pathetic that my suffering involves trips to the dentist and pained attempts at daily Mass spent mostly kneeling in the vestibule angry-whispering, but you’ve got to work with what you have.
Finally, people are really, really good. They are! Deep down most people want to interact with you in a positive way, even if they think the proper foray is a question about your sex life. I can count the truly mean-spirited comments on one hand, and that’s in 6 years of motherhood. I cannot count the positive comments, because they’re well into the hundreds. If you go out in public with your children, I can almost guarantee someone is going to smile and say something so undeservingly good to you that you might choke back tears.
Agree? Disagree? Rather have a root canal than take your kids into the liquor store for a bottle of wine and a handful of suckers? I know at least one of my sisters will read this and shake her head over my gluttony for punishment here, but surely I am not all alone.