Today was grocery shopping day, and I am pleased to report that for the first time in a long while, my secretly-observe-other-mommies-grocery-shopping experiment (to read more click here) revealed something truly wonderful. A mom with three little ones was circuiting the store in the opposite direction that I was, so I had the privilege of passing her in almost every aisle. And I say privilege because it truly was. Her cart was overflowing with groceries that almost obscured a smiling little boy, roughly two or three years of age, inside of the cart. A baby about twelve months old sat buckled into the seat. And a little girl of about four or five walked beside the buggy. This mom had her hands full, no doubt about it. And watching her shop was a thing of beauty.
Each time I passed her in an aisle, she was happily chatting with her three children. Asking them questions. Listening to their answers. She was so animated in her conversation with them that it was no wonder her little ones were captivated – even the passersby were. At one point I watched her acting unabashedly silly, her three little ones giggling away as she all the while continued to fill her cart. It was clear that she was in the midst of a monumental juggling act, yet she was the picture of grace under pressure. Her interaction with her cart full of kiddies was so lovely to watch that I meant to say something to her about it (recognition for a job well done is something moms don’t get nearly as often as they should), but she eluded me in the checkout aisle.
I was so happy to observe lovely, engaging shopping mom today. Because as I’ve conducted this little experiment on my own over the past few months, I’ve observed other approaches far more often, as I’m guessing you may have too. A sprinkling of nagging. A smattering of scolding. A whole lot of rushing and hurrying. And many well-intentioned, busy moms, trying their best to get their shopping done, paying more attention to the items on their list than to the munchkins in their carts. Until, of course, those munchkins start wailing, or running away, or toppling a tidy display (things that bored munchkins do very, very well). And then a return to the nagging and the scolding.
Now don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. On days when I am tired or rushed or otherwise not at my best, the last place I want to be is at the grocery store. And it can be tempting to just rush on through, eyes on the checkout aisle. But one thing is true without fail – When I am not at my best, grocery shopping doesn’t go as smoothly.
Our little ones look to US for cues about how to act and how to feel about the situations they encounter. They bring their own unique style and approach to it all (more on that next time), but we are the ones who set the tone. Every aspect of parenting is a dance between a big parent and a tiny little dance partner (or a whole cart-full of dance partners, for those who are so blessed). Grocery shopping is no different. My daughter brings her feisty little personality, her stage of development (totally and wholeheartedly TWO), her little body bursting with energy, her mood of the day, and many more things to the dance. So if I am to lead well, I had better be prepared, and suit up in my very best dancing shoes (even on days when I’d rather be in fuzzy slippers). When I go into any interaction – grocery shopping included – at my best, I provide her with the best opportunity to do her best. And isn’t that what joyful mommyhood is all about?
So here’s your next challenge: The next time you head out the door to go grocery shopping, try a quick little mommy-check. Take a few deep breaths. Relax. Determine that you will have FUN with your child while shopping. And determine that you will devote more attention (negative attention such as nagging and scolding does not count) to the munchkin in your cart than to the items on your list. I try to think of grocery shopping as a fun morning out with my little one, putting myself in the same mindset as I would when attending playgroup or a fun parent and tot activity. As with almost anything in mommyhood, attitude makes a HUGE difference, and sometimes all it takes is a little reminder to get back on the right track.
Of course, attitude is only the beginning, so hang in there for more in this little series. Still to come:
1) Your Unique Munchkin - What your child brings to the equation, and how to adapt according to your child’s unique style.
2) Grocery Shopping Tool Kit - Tried and tested tips for making every grocery trip better!
3) HELP!!! – How to change patterns that aren’t working.
4) Smiles in Every Aisle – Grocery store games and activities.