5 Tips for Surviving a Trip to the Grocery Store With Small Children

One of the biggest challenges with being at home with my kids all summer was -- and I want to preface this by stating up front that I know what I'm about to say sounds stupid and petty and like I need a giant heaping serving of perspective, maybe by visiting a starving third-world country or something -- grocery shopping.

It's just that I've been dragging my two kids with me whenever I need to get something from the store, all summer long, and I'm here to put forth the admittedly-paranoid but TOTALLY REALISTIC theory that grocery chains pump some sort of behavioral stimulant into their air circulation units because the instant we pass through the automatic doors, my normally decently-behaved children morph into crack-addled, rabies-infested, brain-damaged rhesus monkeys.

There have been a lot of shopping trips that have ended in tears and time-outs, is what I'm saying. The kids have gotten in trouble, too. *rimshot*


Anyway, since this is a subject that's been on my mind lately, I thought we could share some tips for keeping the peace during a shopping trip. Here are a few things I've learned:

Make at least one kid ride in the cart. My 4-year-old, who will be 5 in February, is WAY too big to be riding in the front of the cart like a baby, but guess what, as long as he thinks it's fun to be in there, I will continue to rupture my spine lifting his heavy ass into the seat because it's a damn sight easier than chasing down TWO deranged humans as they careen off the precariously-balanced pyramid of green beans.

Don't write checks your butt can't cash. You can't just constantly hiss a stream of empty threats at a kid because eventually they're going to learn that you're full of shit. You know how you sometimes see a harried mom snapping at Junior that if he does that one more time, she'll mumblemumble and then he does it one more time and her brain visibly bulges out of her eyesockets but she doesn't do anything because whatever dire thing she promised, she's not actually willing to make it happen in public? Yeah, that doesn't work. You've got to use the threats you're prepared to act on, like confiscating toys (I don't know about your kids, but my kids always have something squirreled away in their pockets, and I am not above taking that something and making a great show of jailing it in my purse), not buying their favorite Corn Blammos, or whipping out your cellphone and pretending to call Santa.

Talk to the sane one. My children feed off each other, which is why taking both of them is such a pain. Separately, they are angels. Together, they are chaos theory personified: unpredictable, disorderly, and prone to creating strange gravitational interactions. I find that zeroing in on the one who seems slightly less maniacal than the other -- the 7-year-old, usually -- and telling him I'm counting on him to be a model citizen has a soporific effect on them both.

Give them a job. This sometimes backfires, as a fight inevitably breaks out over who gets the thrilling task of holding Mommy's shopping list (IT'S A PIECE OF PAPER OH MY ACHING GOD HERE I WILL TEAR IT IN HALF) (But my half is smaaaaaaaaaaller!), but telling them I need help finding the select-a-size paper towels or whatever usually dials down The Crazy and helps them focus their fruit-fly attention spans on something other than the dog food packaging that has a DOG on it, DID YOU SEE THAT DOG IT HAD SPOTS!!!!

Have them put one hand on the cart on the way back to the car. This is the best trick I've found for managing easily-distracted children in a busy parking lot.

Look, I know this is kind of a silly subject, but I can't be the only one who finds shopping with kids to be insanely exhausting. Tell me, how do you make it easier? Other than leaving them at home, of course, because that's obviously the preferable course of action.

Image via Linda Sharps

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