Grocery shopping basically sucks, right? The lines, the cost, the never-ending shopping list. Then, two days after you unpack all those bags of food, there is nothing to eat in the house and you have to do it all over again. It's the worst.
Still, grocery shopping is my favorite part of the week. It used to be my morning to myself. Alone. I would kiss my two small boys and my husband good bye and leave the laundry piles, the messy house and temper tantrums behind. Walking out that door was sweet freedom to me – my chance to recharge. I would either crank my inappropriate music in the car or turn it completely off and listen to nothing. Just silence. It's a precious commodity when you have small children and I soaked it in.
Sunday mornings are the worst time for grocery shopping, but I didn't care. On Sunday mornings, the grocery store is packed, the lines are long and the carts are overflowing with squirmy kids. But, not mine. List in one hand, Starbucks in the other, I would weave between the carts, exchanging sympathetic mom-looks with the other women. I'd chuckle to myself at the toddler on the floor having a tantrum. After all, nobody can appreciate a good tantrum like a mom whose child is not having one.
I'd look at all the fruits and veggies and linger in the organic isle, fantasizing about my kids munching on kale chips and quinoa granola bars. Of course, they would love spinach and black bean brownies! The grocery store I went to had toys, but I never stopped to look at them. Not even for 1 minute.
I would naturally have to stop at Target on the way home. Why not? Target is also insane on Sundays, but when you're alone, who cares? I'd go through the whole store, find the item I came in for and also $100 of random things and then head home. I'd walk in the door relaxed and ready to pick up the reins of parenting. A perfect morning.
Then, one Sunday, the inevitable happened. My 4-year-old son asked if he could come with me. Nooo! I tried to discourage him by telling him how boring it was, but he wouldn't hear of it. So, I packed up all his things – a snack, a little shopping list, something to keep him occupied in the cart, his stuffed animal and water. Off we went. We rolled through the store, chattering and goofing around and checking things off our lists. Much to my surprise, it wasn't so bad. It turned out to be lot of fun getting my boy all to myself without any distractions. Also, it turns out that he also really likes Target.
Then, he wanted to come every week. As we went up and down the isles, we would make up games and talk about trains and boogers and all the other things that were important to him. Once, when we were in a never-ending check out line, he saw a pregnant woman and asked me how the baby got in her tummy. Mommy, did she eat it? That was fun.
The local firefighters shop at the same time as us and they drive their firetruck to the store. My son was delighted by this and grocery shopping became a scavenger hunt of “find the firemen”. We would follow those poor guys around the whole store. At first I felt bad about stalking them, but honestly I feel like if you roll up to the grocery store in a fire truck and then walk around in your uniforms, you can expect a little attention. They were actually really nice about it. Before bringing him with me, I don't know that I ever even noticed the big red fire truck in the parking lot.
My oldest son is 10 now and he still comes with me almost every week. What used to be my weekly retreat has turned into our alone time. We still goof around, but we also talk. If we didn't go grocery shopping together, I probably wouldn't know which girl he likes at school or what happened when his best friend was mad at him. I wouldn't know why he protested like crazy to not be in the adult class at taekwondo or the story of how he built his Minecraft mansion. It would never have occurred to me to use a banana as a telephone and I wouldn't study the Oreo section of the isle like I was going to be tested on it. Well, I might still do that.
A while ago, I was feeling the passing of time and I was sad because my boys are growing up. They don't do those “little boy” things anymore and it's happening way too fast. My oldest son who used to think about trucks and trains nonstop now likes to have his face buried in a video game. He “Whatevers” me and occasionally rolls his eyes because I can be super embarrassing. I sometimes miss that little guy who would hold my hand in the parking lot.
Anyway, on the way to the store, my son was telling me a story about a video game and I was only half listening. We pulled into the grocery store parking lot and the big, red, fire truck was there. He saw it and his face lit up. “Mom. Look. Let's find the firemen!” I almost started crying. I didn't. I held it together because I'm cool, but I definitely could have thrown my arms around him and started crying. Because I knew. No matter how big he gets, that sweet little boy who loved fire trucks will always be in there somewhere. He might sometimes be buried underneath attitude and video games, but he'll always be in there. If I never took him grocery shopping, I might not know that.