I really, really hate taking my son to the grocery store. As a rule, I try to avoid it. Sometimes people think I hate it because he is unruly or loud. Since he was a toddler, that’s not the problem. The trouble is a little more nuanced. For instance, let’s take this week’s shopping trip.
I waited until we had absolutely no food left in the house. So unless we were going to eat mustard with a side of mustard for supper, we had to go. And we had to go Tuesday. I don’t like going on Tuesday. It’s Senior Day. This means that retirement homes drop off busloads (I am not exaggerating) of old people at the store so they can get 15% off their purchase. I have a talent for finding the cart with the bum wheel. It just somehow magically calls to me. So now it’s me with cart I can barely steer in a building full of people who aren’t particularly agile. I’m not well enough insured for that.
Produce Section: I kind of like the produce section, as a rule. Jackson asks lots of questions about what is what. We talk about how things grow. Since every attempt to grow things in the dirt at home have failed miserably, it’s the best I can do at explaining nature. He can touch food without it being particularly weird. There’s lots of color and it’s interesting. He professes he will eat any number of fruits and vegetables that he flatly refuses once we get home. But while we’re there, it all seems hopeful and possible that maybe this is the week he’ll actually put something with some form of nutrients in his mouth.
Tuesday, two women who clearly need hearing aides are catching up on the neighborhood gossip next to the Granny Smith apples. One of them SHOUTS at the other one, “Now you know that I’m not prejudiced, but…” I did not stick around hear the rest of that sentence. Because really, no sentence that begins that way has ever, in the history of the world, ended well. So I had to shuffle us very quickly out of the one place in the store that we kind of enjoy. Thanks ladies!
Packaged Food Section: Let me just get it out: I’m about to be a huge hypocrite right here. Sometimes the marketing on food to kids just makes me nuts. Now look, I know that I’m the parent. It’s up to me to make good food choices for my son. No one else is responsible for that but me. But for crying out loud, do marketers have to make it so hard? Lawd, they are really good at what they do. And NOTHING that looks attractive to a six-year-old boy is even remotely healthy. You can pretty much be assured, if it has Dora on it, there’s just no nutritional value at all.
So while I’m trying to buy some pasta, rice, beans and cereal, my kid is being hit from every possible angle by boxes, signs, and every other in-store marketing tool to get him to ask me to put something he does not need in the basket. Since he’s been worked by every sight and sound, he works me up and down every aisle. I keep saying things like, “That’s not on the list.” He’s my kid, so he takes the rejection pretty well, he just hits you with some dramatic zinger later. “When I grow up, and I run out of food, I’m going to buy only Sponge Bob food.” or “When I’m the Dad, I’m going to pack my son’s lunch, just like my dad. I’ll put in a banana, a juice box and TWO cookies.” Subtle kid, real subtle.
Of course, when some perfect stranger walks by and hears him, then bursts out laughing, it doesn’t really do much to discourage this. The bigger problem here is that if you’ve been to my house in the past year, you’ve seen Sponge Bob Go-gurt, Lucky Charms cereal and several other poor choices. Sometimes, I’m just too beaten down to resist any more. Sometimes, the marketing geniuses just win. And sometimes, I even use their evil tactics. “Go eat some Phineas and Ferb yogurt. It will make you grow big and strong and smart so you can build things in the yard and annoy the big sister you don’t really have.” What?!
Mom! I have to pee! You know, there might still be one public restroom in a grocery store in Little Rock that we haven’t visited. But I doubt it. Some other day we’ll discuss the growing discomfort for both of us that I’m a boy mom, and he’s still too young to go in the men’s room by himself, and old enough that he doesn’t like being in the ladies’ room.
Checkout We’re standing in line waiting for our turn to check out when an old man announces he has something Jackson might like. I’m not quite sure where we’re going here, so I probably had my WhyAreYouStandingSoCloseToMyKid face on. After he gives my kid something shiny, he says, “If it’s ok with you, Mom.” I looked to see it was a silver cross that had the words “God Loves You” on it. I told him it was just fine if he didn’t mind parting with it. He told me he’d given away THOUSANDS of crosses over the years. “Well, that’s very nice of you. Thanks.”
I thought our business with him was done, but I was wrong. He pulls another cross out of his pocket. “I’ve got a wooden cross that you might like, Mom.” So now this whole thing is starting to get a little strange. I don’t care to be called Mom by people other than my kid. I’m funny that way, I guess. I tried to politely decline. “Oh, that’s ok. You don’t have to give me one too. We can share the one you gave him. Thank you, though.” This was obviously not the right answer. “You know, I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve given away THOUSANDS of crosses to people and you’re only the THIRD person to ever refuse to take a cross. I just don’t understand that. Why wouldn’t you want to be reminded God loves you?”
Now the real answer is, “Look old man, I’m down with Jesus, ok. I don’t need some trinket to remind me I am loved by God. I’m not super happy that you’re giving my kid stuff because I DON’T KNOW YOU! But if you had any idea the amount of crap in my house that I really don’t need or want and am trying valiantly to clean out because my husband is border hoarder, then you would stop trying to give me one more piece of MADE IN CHINA junk.”
But I felt a little trapped. I didn’t think I should unload on him, but I also don’t think I owe a stranger in the store an explanation why I don’t want his stuff. So I said the dumbest thing I think I’ve ever said out loud, “Oh, well we’re frugal. But thanks anyway.”
We’re frugal? That’s the best I could do? To be fair, I had been under constant assault since entering the store by six-year-old questions and demands. I was also trying to control a buggy that was all but possessed. And this man wants to talk about my thoughts on God? Now? Sorry, but… we’re frugal.
So now I’m worried that I might be going to Hell. And I forgot the chicken nuggets. When Charlie pointed out to me that we have only four nuggets left in the house, which is a situation that approaches nuclear emergency panic, I exploded, “This is why I hate taking him to the grocery store with me!”