Shopping Without Tears

Peace and quiet? Try aisle four.

Feb 06, 2013



Shopping Without Tears

Feb 06, 2013

When my daughter was 3, she wanted me to sing her a song before bed. "Sing me the song about shopping," she asked. I had to stop and think. "Shopping?" Ah ha! She wanted "Hush Little Baby," where the daddy buys mockingbirds and diamond rings. But how could she interpret this song of parental indulgence and steady presence as a song about shopping? It's simple: the grocery store was one of her favorite places.

I love to grocery shop too, because I love to cook. But I have to confess that my delight in shopping for groceries took a steep dive when my children arrived. That is, until I adopted the persona of Guerilla Mom.

Make a Plan — and Stick to It
Guerilla Moms are armed and ready with the mission to complete a shopping trip with as little trouble as possible. It starts with a list and an unflappable attitude. I learned to make a list and write it in large, dark letters. (Mental lists evaporate with the first plea for a bag of chocolate chip cookies.) And I stick to it. Guerilla Moms are ever vigilant, and they know how to "just say no."

Creativity remains your greatest weapon. Keeping your children occupied will distract them from the surrounding temptations. For younger children who can sit in the cart's seat, a frozen bagel or something fun to munch on will keep them calm for an aisle or two. Some children still small enough to sit in the cart often enjoy being "buried" in the items. You can turn shopping into a game. Three year olds might like playing I Spy with recognizable vegetables in the produce aisle, or you can invite them to see how many red fruits they can count.

You can then start to enlist the help of 4 and 5 year olds. Children who have a job have a sense of worth and can be pleasant to shop with. Some "helpers" might like pushing the cart (with your guidance), while others can help you find items on the list. If you have your whole crew with you, create an assembly line: One kid gets the product, passes it to the next, and so on, until it makes it to the cart. At the checkout counter, do the same thing to get items onto the conveyor belt.

Few things are as humiliating as your children having meltdowns in a grocery store, in full view of parents whose children are behaving beautifully. Steel yourself. This has happened to everyone, and the only thing that counts is how you handle yourself in a crisis. Parent your children as if you were alone in your home: firmly, calmly, and with patience.

When my son was 1 year old, the lines at the checkout stretched endlessly because of a forecast of snow. He waited until I'd spent too much time in line to ever consider ditching the cart to let out a truly impressive roar (a woman in the next line dropped her magazine). I bounced him on my hip and desperately did everything I could to stop his display. Then — oh, agony! — I heard two women behind me laughing. One of them hastened to say, "We're not laughing at you! We're laughing because, for once, it's not happening to us!"

Today, you are the one with the embarrassing disaster. Tomorrow, it will be another Guerilla Parent. Have mercy on them, help if you can, and know that you are not alone.

Raising Kids
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3