My worst enemy…

by mssinglemama on October 27, 2008

The grocery store.

Forget the skyrocketing grocery prices that make me clench my jaw and actually tighten my grip on the shopping cart handle- the grocery store is my enemy anyway. It’s the ultimate test of my will and my skills as a single mother. It’s such an odd place too. All of these people, all needing the same thing, something we would die without.

Usually any mention of the store invokes a barrage of protests from Benjamin. Poor kid. He always has to go. No dad to stay home with. But tonight, after 2.8 years of going to the store together, something amazing happened.

“We have to go to the store, Benjamin – to get food!” I always say it enthusiastically, trying to get him excited. The total mommy fake out covers up the dread. But my kid can read me like a book and he usually never buys the act. Usually.

Tonight instead of throwing a preliminary grocery store tantrum I heard, “Okay Mommy, let go to tha stouh fo food.”

So on we went – Mommy with the highest hopes and Benjamin with a smile on his face that seemed to good to be true. When he got situated behind the wheel of his car shopping cart we took off into the produce section.

“Drive Benjamin! Drive!”

“Okay Mommy! I’m driving! Look!”

The cart was massive, if you even want to call it a cart. And so loud – thundering through every aisle, torturing anyone within 20 feet. Every time we use it, I am sure people can hear us from at least four aisles away. But I never give a damn because I am trying to survive – to get out of the grocery store alive, with my sanity in tact. Tonight, in spite of my son’s smiling face, is no exception.

So while I cheer Benjamin on, making him believe he’s really steering the cart I am simultaneously grabbing whatever I can, as quickly as I can. I feel like one of those contestants on that shopping game show from the 80’s.

We make it as far as the tomatoes when he jumps out.

The first time Benjamin broke free from me in a grocery store he was 6-months-old. As soon as his feet hit the ground he started running down the aisle while screaming some kind of Braveheart freedom cry. He didn’t touch a single thing on the shelves he just ran and ran. I had to let him do it – to deny him that kind of pleasure would have been wrong.

But tonight my little baby had morphed into little boy and he was jumping out of the cart, not out of a thirst for freedom, but just to piss me off.

“Get back in now Benjamin,” I said, using my stern mommy voice, the one Super Nanny suggests. He refused. I quickly looked around for something to bribe him with (I know Super Nanny would kill me, but we needed food, damn it, and I couldn’t afford a tantrum at the start of the grocery trip. At the end – maybe, but not now).

I spotted some cookies.

“Get back in and I’ll give you a cookie.” That did it. He jumped in as fast as his little legs could get him there, grabbed a hold of the wheel and stared straight ahead.

I gave him his cookie and then after a few precious seconds of silence and munching he jumped out again. Before I could even tell him to get back in, he looked at me square in the eyes and demanded the entire box of cookies.

“Fine. Here they are.” I said, “now get back in.”

And just as I totally cheated, caving to my son’s demands while committing the worst of the worst Mommy sins – pure bribery with an unhealthy snack – I saw her. She’s there every time. Sometimes she’s old, sometimes she’s young – but for some reason she’s always a she. She’s the woman at the grocery store who gives me the you are a horrible, horrible mother glare. One year ago, still fresh from my divorce, her stare would have ruined my night. Defeated me. But tonight I just shook it off.

Benjamin chowed on his cookies through the baking aisle, the pasta aisle, the frozen food section and even the dairy section. And then the check out. We were almost out. I could see the pearly, white lights of the parking lot and just as we were about to cross through the automatic doors I heard the cookies crash to the floor.

“Uh-oh,” Benjamin said. “Uh-oh, uh-oh Mommy! Look! Look!”

“It’s okay Sweetie, we’ll just pick them up.”

And then another she – a nice she – looked at me with understanding sympathy as I crouched down to collect each cookie with my son scrambling to help. This she was older and I could tell her smiling eyes were remembering a similar moment. I felt jealous, wishing that just for a second I could be looking back on the now instead of living it. One second away from gathering the last cookie a store employee rushed up,  “I’ll go get you another box.”

“Oh no, really… that’s okay.”

But she was already gone, on a sprint to the cookie section.

Damn it. I was so close. Benjamin followed her with his eyes and as she ran through the produce section he saw the balloons. And then he was off – in a mad Braveheart-like dash. But instead of a “Freedom” he was screaming “Baallooooooonsssssss!”

He stopped at the foot of a giant, hideous Sponge Bob.

“I want that one,” he demanded.

“No, absolutely not.”

And then there it was.

The tantrum.

My groceries were still waiting. So was my car. So was freedom.

I’m was to hold him up but he kept wriggling to the ground. The cookie lady finally appeared and when she saw me clutching on to a now horizontal, screaming son in one hand and the cart in another she said, “Do you need help?”

“No, thanks. I’m almost there!” I grunted as Benjamin’s foot swiped near my head.

Somehow I got him outside and into the car. He was still screaming his brains out and I couldn’t find my keys. I sat him on the ground along with my purse. I used one hand to hold him down and the other to frantically sift through my purse.

After I’d finally found my keys and bucked Benjamin in another she appeared.

This time she was a young, single, childless she. The she I used to be.

She had just spotted her friend in the parking lot and they were now walking toward each other. Both of their faces so fresh, unwrinkled and bright. I again wish to be that she – completely unaware of all of this, but then I look in the car at the sweetest little he on Earth and all of the wishing goes away.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

SingleParentDad October 28, 2008 at 3:04 am

I’m glad you’re in that place, and I think Benjamin deserves a great deal of credit too.

Supermarkets are a nightmare, I try to go when Max is elsewhere, but I know a lot of moms locally have resorted to online shopping and deliveries.

It has got better, bribery can work, but I’ve found as he’s got older he’s wanted to help, and has almost seen shopping as a game, give him his own list and pencil, that sort of thing.

Good luck next time, I hope they sell balloons!


Bikash February 4, 2015 at 3:19 am

There’s nothing I rlaley want/need for Christmas. The only thing that I would be surprised/happy to receive would be an iPad, even though I’ve learned to use my cell phone pretty much the way I would an iPad.Is your Christmas shopping done? (mine is!)


Angie October 28, 2008 at 5:41 am

It gets better. They get older, and it gets easier. My Daniel (8) still detests the grocery store (or any store that doesn’t have video games) and grumbles…but we don’t have tantrums.

Some things I’m happy I started when the kids were little:

“We don’t buy toys at the grocery store, we buy food”. My little mantra that the kids repeat. It’s amazing what they sell at the grocery store now — and if they know before they ask the answer is no, they ask less.

“We don’t candy/gum at the checkout”. Again, saves a lot of “please, please, please!!!”

I wonder if your grocery store gives kids cookies from the bakery? Our Safeway does and it’s a treat right before checkout, that doesn’t cost me a dime. Maybe, even if they don’t give cookies, you can get a box of animal crackers or something every shopping trip. Then get them on the way out and start that habit. It’s amazing how they will start behaving if there is a “schedule” in the store. If I behave like this, I will always get this.

Or maybe a quarter for the candy machines — my kids love those as an extra special treat too.

That way the treat is at the end of the trip. You will have a tantrum once or twice to test you — but in the end it’s worth it. Maybe go for 3-4 things a couple times to get the habit rolling.

btw – check out this article about RED:
Sorry, wordy Angie today. Just throwing ideas out there!


Najia October 28, 2008 at 6:13 am

I love and hate those car trolleys at the grocery store. I love them bc my son gets to “drive” which makes him happy but why are they so large and heavy to push? Why???? And turning. Every time I’m in an aisle and I try to turn around mid-way I’m reminded of that scene from Austin Powers. Not a good movie, im my opinion, and not a good moment.

If I get to close to the aisles when my son is in the car he is at the perfect level to just grabs things from the shelves and stuff it on his seat. I usually don’t notice this until I see a few people smirking and (after initial moment of panic and making sure my clothes are on right) I realize what’s up.

Seat belts? I belt my boy in everytime now whenever I seat belt is offered. And it works for now.


Cyndi October 28, 2008 at 7:12 am

I LOL’ed and felt the hugest dose of sympathy. At all costs I go to the grocery store when N-man is at his dad’s. He insists on holding all of his favorite things and then as soon as I turn my back he chucks them at the other customers and says Uh-oh. I pray I have time to go today before he comes home.


Wyliekat October 28, 2008 at 7:17 am

I remember, last fall taking Rosebud to the mall with me at night, because I had to get some things. Meanwhile, I’d sprained my ankle moving, so I was limping, carrying bags and she suddenly decided that she didn’t want to move anymore. She plopped herself down in the middle of the mall in a fit of toddler pique.

I remember trying to carry her and my bags with my sore ankle and being near tears, all the way back to the car.

Not fun.

Nowadays, we don’t have the girls on Saturday mornings, so we do our grocery shopping for the week at that time (I even have an excel spreadsheet I use to plan the meals – saves a lot of random trips). But when I did take her, I’d always bring a snack, a toy and a drink for her. I’d dole it out as I went along, keeping her occupied. When that waned, I’d solicit her “help” in referring to the list (in other words, she’d draw on it and sometimes actually help me find things).

Usually worked for the duration. It’s all about timing.

That said, I think it’s not humanly possible to avoid all temper tantrums in public. Kids are kids and they generally just don’t enjoy shopping.


T October 28, 2008 at 7:37 am

What a great post! I was SO right there with you through all of this!!

Honestly? I shop when the ex has the kids. Or on my lunch breaks. Even though I’d rather be doing something else.

I know, that doesn’t help much but sheesh! I can’t even focus with two little girls asking me 5000 questions while trying to decide what to buy. Its too overwhelming.

Benjamin is so dang cute.


goin-crazy October 28, 2008 at 8:30 am

When you figure out how to make it out of the grocery store alive, with all your kids, all your groceries and no tantrums…let me know.

I wish I had some help for you. For me, going with one is a blessing. I pray for my mom, my sister, anybody to take one of my kids so I can go with just one. Going alone? Almost better than sex. I cry a little inside anytime I notice that we need groceries.

The life of a single momma…grand huh?


jenn October 28, 2008 at 8:33 am

I deal with this EVERY week. Not fun. Shiloh doesn’t want to sit in the cart and I don’t want her getting into everything or running off. I have gone to the shoe dept (at Walmart) and put her in “time out” on the bench before. Of course she screamed and people gave me awful looks. I don’t have the option of shopping when she’s not with me, because I have full custody. I just keep trying to bribe her with snacks, but it only works for about five minutes.


pisceshanna October 28, 2008 at 9:41 am

THOSE DAMN BALLOONS! Grr, I swear stores are set-up to create tantrums and make shopping a living hell. LB wont sit in the cart at all anymore, so I’m forced to spilt up my shopping trips into basket marathons, on a weekly basis. If I give her an apple at the beginning of the trip, she is usually content to follow on my heels, but I have to make the whole ordeal a scavenger hunt:
“Ok, lets find the milk now, hurry hurry!”

the parking lot is fun, since she hates holding my hand, and I literally have to drag her, holding bags of groceries.


Laura October 28, 2008 at 10:26 am

I have stopped taking my kids! I go to the shops on my way home from work or during my lunch hour or I do not go!

There are times I HAVE to take them with me! I warn them up front in the car – NO SWEETS, NO FIGHTING, NO TANTRUMS and then give Cameron the list to remember and Kiara the trolley to push! And I make sure we need max 3 things!

I have had too many trips like this and I have 2 so its double the fun!


Jenny Butler October 28, 2008 at 10:58 am

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Leah October 28, 2008 at 11:10 am

OMG! You had me so cracking up with this post. Oh, do I get it. In fact, I employ all the same strategies as you. Mainly, I proffer a nonstop stream of food through the store – some healthy, some not-so-healthy.

People may be giving me the stinkeye but I am way too caught up in the madness to even notice!

I actually have mixed feelings about those car carts too: 1) they are easy to climb out of. 2) at the checkout stand it put him at eye level with the candy.

My one possibly helpful suggestion: online grocery delivery services? I don’t know how well it works because I never do it, as it requires far more advance planning than I am capable of. Usually at about 8 pm I realize that we are out of milk.


Holly October 28, 2008 at 1:55 pm

the scene is me and two-year-old Lily at the grocery store last Friday. I am the one in sweatpants running frantically up the aisle screaming “No, Lily! Come back here right now! Lily!”

She is the one grabbing a carton of eggs (god bless them for putting eggs at toddler-height. What a brilliant idea). As the eggs smash to the floor, I do that guilty look around to see if anyone saw her.

Damn. Stockboy five feet away. Busted I scoop up the carton of gloopy eggs while Lily announces “Mommy, I got more more eggs!”

Yes, yes, we certainly did.


Anna October 28, 2008 at 1:57 pm

When my four year old was little and shopping was a horror show I used to do my grocery shopping at 4am when I got out of work…he was still sound asleep at my mother’s and what’s one hour less sleep when you already don’t get any? 😉

He’s joy now, though…I always give him the grocery list and a pen and his job is to cross items off the list as we find them and to hold onto the coupons…which is all to say: It gets EASIER! 😉


LTP October 28, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Oh, the “car” shopping cart–how I love thee yet loathe thee at the same time!! I don’t mind the car-cart for major shopping….but for a “run-in/run-out”, which for the record, does NOT exist with kids in-tow, it is impossible. It’s big, awkward, and nearly impossible to maneuver, even if it does garner adoring smiles from other shoppers.

Now for my advice–and trust me, I am at Kroger nearly as much as the employees so I think I can help a little with your dilemma: one, I announce to my boys what kind of trip it is–“this is going to be super-fast guys….just a few things. Will, can you remember ____ and Henry, can you remember ____ & ____?” This gives them a focus and I can escort them through the store more quickly–“okay, let’s go find Will’s item”, etc. If it’s major shopping, I’ll give into the car-cart and allow one “treat” –usually candy from the check-out BUT ONLY IF THEY ARE GOOD THE ENTIRE TIME–and I stress this throughout the adventure. I know what Super Nanny & all the parenting books/magazines say–but honestly, I see no harm in a little bribe/treat if it makes my job a tad easier!

The next thing I do: return smiles to all that smile at me and completely ignore frowns and side-glancing looks. I really don’t give a crap what someone thinks of my parenting–let them wheel my two young boys around Kroger near dinner-time and see how they fare. Most of the time, I get compliments and smiles.

Last–and really this is the FIRST thing–before you even get out of the car: lay out the expectations. I know that sounds all parent-magazine-y but it works (most of the time). I just say in a very matter-of-fact voice, “Guys, Mommy needs to get a, b, c, etc. and I expect you both to stay right with Mommy, do not run, do not fight, and if you do, I will take away privileges and there will be no fruit snacks, chocolate milk, etc. Do you understand me?” I will not get out of the car until I hear a “yes, ma’am” from both of them. Now I may need to remind them several times in the store (“remember you said to Mommy that you would ___”) but it usually works.

As for the balloon thing: Kroger (aka Fred Myers) gives away FREE balloons–they have their name/logo on it but my kids don’t care. Check with the floral counter to see if they have “free” ones–with weights so they don’t fly off the minute they are handed over.

Finally: if they do a mostly good job, I thank them on the way out–“Guys, you did a great job. Mommy is really glad you helped me out like that” Again, kind of parent-magazine-y but it seems to work for my two.

Good luck!!!!


mssinglemama October 29, 2008 at 7:29 am

These stories are incredible. Looks like we could write a novel about our shopping experiences.

I’m SO glad I’m not the only one – thank you so much for chiming in everyone.


Erin October 29, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Reading this is like reading my own experiences at the grocery store with my daughter. I think grocery shopping with a toddler should become an Olympic event!


Kim November 2, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Luckily, the pain of taking kids grocery shopping is similar to that of childbirth: As they get older, you forget most of that pain. LOL My kids are teenagers now, and I don’t remember much about those trips. (We didn’t have those car-carts, thank God. I always strapped them into the cart. No riding on the edge [store safety rules, printed on the seat], rare riding IN the cart unless we only needed a few items.) After reading all the comments/advice/solutions, I’d like to toss out a few FWIW: Bring a book for your child to read in the cart (to keep him distracted)…keep it in the car so you don’t forget it; tell him he can choose ONE favorite food item during the trip, and when he gets antsy, remind him to look for it…repeat as needed; if it’s small enough, let him hold it when he finds it; if he behaves well during the trip, congratulate him on the way out and offer something special at home…reading an extra book at bedtime, extra snuggle time with you, whatever he likes best. Of course, the MOST important part of all of this is to FOLLOW THROUGH with your threats/promises/consequences/rewards. This is hard to do, but it is CRUCIAL. Kids know how to play us and they will do it every time, guaranteed. When they learn you mean what you say, it gets better. :o)


Anonymous November 16, 2008 at 9:14 pm

You are an EXCELLENT! – EXCELLENT WRITER. I really enjoyed this one. Keep up the [Hard] work 🙂


N November 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm

🙂 My little she is not much younger than your little he. So far, we’ve escaped store tantrums. But she is a tantrum thrower at home, at times, so I imagine it will only be a matter of time before the public tantrums commence.

We have not escaped choking on a grape and throwing up all over the store, however. : /

What is it they say…if its not one thing, its another? :O) But you know…if it wasn’t for the single exhausted moms and their tantrum throwing cherubims at the grocery store, there would be no entertainment for the passers by… It all works itself out. :O)~

(P.S. Can I be a member of your fantastic single warrior blogroll?)


Maverick December 12, 2008 at 11:12 am

Advice from my sister, a special education teacher, get a milkshake before you go to the store…Holding the cup with both hands at their center is very calming for kids, as is the suck and breathe method needed for that thick milkshake.


Solomother December 15, 2008 at 7:06 pm

It sucks, but here’s how we deal with tantrums — especially when we are leaving places we love to be (friends houses, park, etc.)

“If you don’t make leaving easy, coming back will be too hard. Mommy will worry that you won’t leave nicely, so we won’t come back to the park for a while. If you can leave nicely we will come back to the park {tomorrow, on the weekend, whenever}.”

And if my kid started a fit in the grocery store? We’d turn around and leave. And I’d point out to him that we would go straight home, we wouldn’t stop to look in the [favorite store] or get a snack, or see a movie, or anything. He wouldn’t get his new clothes we were shopping for, or his favorite cereal, and he would have to eat whatever was at home, because, while he’s entitled to his big feelings, it’s mean to make other people feel bad and make their ears hurt…” and on and on and on.

I like the milkshake idea best, though. If only my kid didn’t lose his mind when he gets sugar in his system.

Is there a grocery store around you that delivers? I haven’t been to a grocery store with my kid for a big shop in years. Heaven, I tell you.


Kristina January 30, 2009 at 11:11 pm

god you are so funny!
There is this book i read to my kid its called “llama llama mad at mama”, its about this kid whose pissed off at his mom whose made him come to the supermarket with him, its really funny for kids and moms alike!
Seriously what is it with the looks? “your baby should really have a hat (its 20c outside)…shouldnt your child be in school (its my day off I keep her in the morning…she has daycare every other day) Awww poor baby she shouldnt be walking where is your stroller (shes 3…she can walk). she shouldnt have a sippy cup shes a big girl…(do you walk down the street carrying a mug of milk..i don’t think so…) Un necessary comments I still havent gotten used to!
Love your blogs they make me laugh!


Jaden June 9, 2009 at 7:45 pm

ahh, I know this feeling SO well. This was a great post! I'm so glad you linked to it today for those of us that haven't been around from the beginning… I love all the "she"s in the story… So true to life. Perfection.


Ashley June 10, 2009 at 6:07 pm

I love this post, mostly because I have a 2.8 yr old too!
I know EXACTLY what you are talking about.
But i also have a 1.8 yr old & a 4 month old.
I have taken ALL of them to the grocery store [once, only once thank god!]
and boy was it a day to remember.
But now when I take the two oldest kids I MUST have the following:
snacks [cookies, popcorn, goldfish etc.] & paper and colors/pen.
This keeps them somewhat busy through the trip, then you can supermarket sweep
as fast as possible.. with little to no inturruption.

Hope you have better grocery store trips in the future! =]


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