So I was in Shop-Rite the other morning during one of my thrice-weekly visits (if I’m not there every few days, they put out an APB on me and have the police investigating my absence). My daughter was, blessedly, in preschool while Junior was learning algorithms (?!) in his 5th grade class. Grocery shopping is one of those few times I don’t feel guilty about spending money. I mean, you have to buy food, right? It’s therapeutic for me (until you’ve got to carry all the bags into the house, but I try not to think about that).
“Honey, look at the birds.” The speaker’s tone was soft, sweet, unrushed. I looked up and there was a lovely young mother speaking to her toddler who was pointing at the ceiling and looking at the sparrows that had, at some point, flown into the store. “Sparrow starts with the letter S,” she said. “Why do you think they flew in here?” Clearly, these two were in sync with one another; she was enjoying the opportunity to educate her child while doing something she needed to do and he had the full attention of the person he loved most in the world.
I used to be like that.
I used to be the one speaking to my child in a honeyed tone, dispensing treats to keep him quiet and happy. I was the one giving my kids clipboards with letters on them, asking them to find objects that began with those letters. I went to the grocery store equipped with a barrage of ammo to keep one in the kid carrier and one attentively walking beside me.
Somehow things changed. I’ve become busier as they’ve gotten older so time is more of an issue, especially when the Diva and I have to pick Junior up from school by a certain time. So, I guess, I’m less patient than I used to be. I’m also more aware of the dangers of sugar (my 5-year old has horrible teeth) while the kids are more cognizant of its pleasures, so we fight about it more than ever. They’ve become more prone to the messages of marketers, so they want stuff with TV characters, regardless of the nutritional content. As I’ve come to expect more of them with regards to behavior, they’ve risen to the challenge for the most part (they insist on helping bag the groceries at the checkout line), but since they’re kids, they also get distracted. When they’re together, they fight, forcing me to channel Sergeant Carter from the old Gomer Pyle show “(Move it! Move it! Move it!”). I find myself bribing them, telling them if they’re good, I’ll buy them a package of gum on the way out.
But sometimes I miss the days when they were little and I had more time, more fortitude, and was more mindful of my primary job as their mother. Not to say those days were completely care-free. Under that calm demeanor, that mother is probably wound tight. She’s aware that her son can fall from that basket, that he’s touching the handle which harbors oodles of germs, knows that she has to be careful where in the basket she puts the dozen eggs that he’s dying to touch, and is watching to make sure an errant tossed hand doesn’t hit a display of glass jars. At checkout, she’ll be multitasking: surveying the prices on the monitor to make sure she’s not overcharged, scrambling to take out her cash (is it behind the binky or the bandaids?), while patrolling Junior to make sure he’s not reaching for a something on the conveyor belt or falling out of the cart. And because of all exhausting multi-tasking, she may be figuring out how to limit her runs to the supermarket.
Ok, so my kids can be pains in the store but as they’re getting older, the SWAT-team mentality that moms with younger kids have is fading. They may not want to accompany me to Shop-Rite, but they do want to help once they’re there. The kids are starting to appreciate the fact that the Grocery Fairy does not come to replenish the stocks at home. Mom is the Grocery Fairy who works hard, several times a week, to get the food into the house.
And maybe, just maybe, I can take a moment or two to point something out to them (to the older one: “Look at the unit price on this item. Is it cheaper or more expensive than the one next to it?” To the younger one: “Look at the amount of sugar on this yogurt. Is it a bigger or smaller number than the one on the yogurt next to it?”). We can take a moment to look at the birds flying around the store. And we can enjoy a moment that one day will be impossible once they fly the nest.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by MomsCrayon, a New Jersey mom. You can also find her at MomsCrayon.
Photo credit given to the CDC.