Another Love Note to a Grocery Store Mom

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I’ve seen these posts before, sort of love notes to strangers out in this big, judgy universe, reminders to other moms that we can be in this together. This is mine.

When I saw you in the grocery store, wrangling your child in, I really wanted to stop, look in your eyes and say “you don’t have to do that for me. Please, don’t do it for my benefit.”

I heard everything you said to your (yes, very wild) little guy because it rang out loud and clear. I was trying to mind my own business. But I recognized the secret mom code many of us use. When you were telling your little one something along the lines of “this is why I usually do the grocery pick up. I can’t believe you are acting like this, this is not how we behave”, I figured you were saying it to me and the other people around you. You reminded me so much of myself.  When you spoke in a crisp but teetering towards stressed out, I’m in control but OMG I wish I could scream voice, I so, so badly wish I would have told you to not worry even a little bit. I get it. I do.

Sometimes I want to wear a shirt that says I have a kid on the front and I get it on the back so when he’s not with me other moms know that I’m cool with the carrying on, because I know that just like me, you are doing everything you can to get your list of crap purchased and get out the door before a meltdown happens. I know the checkout line is its own special kind of hell, so close to the finish line but still so far. Toys and candy, that little shelf that pulls out, the card reader, all obstacles in your way as you attempt to put your groceries on the belt one handed. You other hand is busy keeping your child from touching it all or banging his head on the cart. I know that if your child is loudly misbehaving it’s highly likely it is in response to being told “no” or being corrected for another behavior equally abhorrent to the masses. Freaking out in the checkout line is up there with the pterodactyl like screech children seem to have perfected.

I know that while these concerns seem silly and not a big deal with all that goes on in life, lots of not so big deal things become a VERY big deal in the midst of the hormonal circus that becomes your life postpartum. Until I was a mom I had no idea that a simple trip to the store could entail so much drama and frustration.

Really, I’m okay with stepping around your child in the shaving cream aisle and I have no problem walking an aisle over and coming back when I can’t actually get to what I need (hey, I get to log extra steps, yay!) because I understand. I would be right there with you, fellow mama of small child, but I am lucky to be doing the shopping while mine is in school. If my kid was here the shaving cream would be completely touched out and climbing shelves would be attempted. Gritted teeth scolding would ensue. For some reason a trip to the grocery store turns my fairly polite and sort of well behaved kid into a flopping wild fish-like creature. He acts like he forgot how to stand and constantly rams the shopping cart into shelves full of spaghetti sauce. Never the marshmallow laden shelf, always the spaghetti sauce shelf. If my kid was here I would be correcting him trying to use the best words I could bluster up. I would be bright pink, blushing and bursting with embarrassment, because I know my behavior, as well as his, is on display and open to judgement.

I feel bad when I come across these scenarios unarmed without my own child. I imagine my thoughts are emanating out and they are not the real, actual “hey, I’m a cool mom” thoughts but the perceived thoughts another mom is worried about me having. Hence, the overly loud and carefully constructed sentences a lot of us worried moms say for other people’s benefit.

I try to speak to my child in appropriate, kind ways but when I have to enforce something in public it all unfolds in seven easy steps!

  1. Please stop doing that.

  2. WHY did you do that again?!

  3. I have asked you twice to please stop doing that.

  4. Stop doing that right now. (you might know this tone, the hushed but firm, right up in their ear, clenched teeth version.)

  5. If I have to ask you to stop doing that again we are leaving.*

  6. We are leaving.

  7. Okay, seriously we are leaving. NOW.

*Please note step five is super awkward when all of your groceries are already halfway bagged. This is why the grocery store checkout line tantrum usually maxes out at step four and you have to kind of hug your child to your legs with one hand or try to detain them in the cart somehow. Fun.

When we actually move to leave, this is immediately followed by lots of crying and hysterical actions, literal feet stomping (can you believe that is an actual thing?!) and typically ends with me carrying my screaming child through a mall/furniture store/library/museum or virtually anywhere people exist. All the while I am trying to remain calm and saying things rather loudly about how “when we don’t behave we have to leave and this is not the appropriate way to get things we want” blah blah blah as my tiny wild thing hears nothing I say.

I’m not saying it for him. It’s for all the people out there staring, commenting, silently judging. For an anxious, introverted mom about to lose it, it’s very taxing.

So, mom in the grocery store, when I heard you saying all these things, forgive me if was projecting my own feelings onto you. Forgive me for being a tad too shy to actually acknowledge you and ease your mind. If you were saying those things for me, you didn’t have to. I understood. I know you probably got to your car, and by the time you were home the grocery store drama dissolved, as it sometimes does. Maybe you hugged that sweet little guy, told him you were disappointed with how he behaved but you know he will do better next time. Maybe you said all the amazing and loving words good mothers say, and he listened for a blissful minute and then went right back to his toddler ways.

For your next shopping trip, you don’t have to worry around me. I hear you behind your words, I see it in your face. I see you doing your best. I get it. Don’t stress, these little outbursts won’t ruin my day. It’s simply another part of it, just like it is for you, and we are all in this, together.