A couple of weeks ago I shared that I only go to the grocery store every two weeks. And maybe you read that and thought, wow, how DOES she do it? Maybe you were in awe of me a little bit, at my ability to plan two weeks of meals and shop for them all in one fell swoop. Or maybe you were worried for me, worried that I wasn’t getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables at the end of my two weeks. But the thing is, people, I have a toddler. A 21-month old little boy, to be more exact. And he is opinionated. Spirited, some might say. And I’ve noticed a change in him over the past few weeks. He used to sit angelically in the grocery cart, head swiveling back and forth as he looked at all the people shopping, all the snacks he wanted but knew I wouldn’t buy. He used to flirt coyly with the checkout girl, giggling when she would tickle his cheek.
But now, everything’s changed. My angel baby has transformed seemingly overnight to The Child Who Will Not Sit Still. He will NOT sit in the cart, the little part or the big part. He will not hold my hand. He will not stay where I can see him if I give up and let him walk around. He will not even remotely listen to any of the words coming out of my mouth unless I steadily feed snacks into his.
Last Thursday I thought I had it all figured out. I had his favorite drink in his favorite sippy cup. I had four different snacks, ranging from very healthy (grapes) to very desserty (fruit snacks and chocolate). And it started off fine. Store one, snack one. We made it down the first aisle and the snack was gone. Panic set in. Sam looked around and started whining. Nothing interesting about the on-sale coffee or the cheap wine. So I gave him snack two. Then I got distracted by a shelf full of hydrangeas. He was already over snack two, and I was buying PLANTS of all things, not toys or Easter eggs or Easter candy, all of which he’d indicated he desperately needed by pointing and yelling and almost falling out of the cart he was so excited when he saw them.
The whining is getting louder, and I notice movement that indicates Sam is ready to get OUT of the CART right NOW. I start to dash through the store, frantically flinging milk and bread into the cart, rushing to check out and trying to keep the screaming at bay. I know I need to save the best snacks for the second store. We’ll be there longer—we have to cover more ground there—and if I don’t I’ll be screwed. So we’re in the checkout line and I let Sam get down. I body-block him so he doesn’t run down the aisle we just came from. This, as you would expect, displeases him.
An old man gets in line behind me. I glance at him and quickly decide I trust him to watch my child. I unload the cart while Sam peruses the display of candy and gum. I peek back every few seconds and he’s still looking, not touching, so I let it happen. Finally I’m paid up and I go to bag my things (we’re at Aldi). The old man finishes checking out, his shredded wheat sticking out of his small, reusable grocery bag. He walks by me and Sam, who is playing with the exit doors, running in front of them and seeing whether or not they’ll open. Good mom that I am, I’m letting this happen too. The old man stops near me. “Is that your little boy?”
“Yes,” I say, trying to look embarrassed about the fact that Sam’s about fifteen feet away from me, interrupting the flow of traffic out of the store.
“I was watching him in the checkout line. He’d put his hand out to grab a pack of gum, and I’d shake my head at him, and he wouldn’t touch it. He’d just look at me and pull his hand away. I didn’t even have to say anything!”
“Oh wow, I didn’t even realize!” I say. I totally didn’t. “Thank you so much for keeping an eye on him.”
“Oh I know how it is. I have three boys of my own.”
“Wow. Well thanks again.”
He gives me a nod and walks off, smiling. Sam stops and watches him go.
In the parking lot I’m loading the groceries into the back of our SUV. I’ve put Sam in the back too, to keep him from running into traffic. I’m muscling my gallons of milk in when a man comes up to me, holding out a quarter. “I saw you had a little one, and I didn’t want you to have to leave him.” I take the quarter and roll my cart toward him, trying to find a way to express how grateful I am for this, this kindness of strangers.
“Thanks,” I say.
“No problem,” he says, and walks into the store.