I could dedicate an entire book to venting about shopping with my children. Whether it involves running, chasing, timeouts, side swiping, spilling, crying, screaming, urinating or accidental stealing, I’ve been through it all.

This illustration says it all, really.

This illustration says it all, really.

A couple “mortifying” shopping trips come to mind. Like the time I forgot to put a pull-up on my daughter when we went to the hair salon. Every two minutes, I’d ask, “Honey, do you have to go to the bathroom?” “No, I OK.” “You’re sure?” “I OK, mommy.” Five minutes later, we walk over to the shampoo station and in front of three hair stylists, my little girl squats (without getting her floral dress wet, mind you) and pees all over the floor.

While shopping in Pottery Barn for Kids, my 20-month-old son was playing quietly with an electronic dinosaur display. Everything was all fantabulous until I noticed an odor that could melt the plaid off of a pillow sham. Without even flinching, I lifted my son off the ground and oh yes…..sniffed his bum. Sure enough, it was my child who was causing the entire boy’s bedding section to clear out.

It doesn’t matter how big your little ones are or how many kids you have, bringing them to the store is a lot like throwing up. You never want to do it, but when the time comes, you realize you have no choice – and you know you’ll feel so much better when it’s over.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help delay the running, chasing, timeouts, side swiping, spilling, crying, screaming, urinating or accidental stealing. One of my favorites is feeding the kids snacks while grocery shopping. Stop by the deli counter with a cart full of noisy kids and you’ll see even the longest line thin out so fast, the deli lady will give away free slices of cheese to all your children.

Unfortunately, this keeps them quiet for approximately one aisle.

Another thing you can do is try to make shopping seem like a fun activity. I used to put my kids in those obnoxiously wide mini-van-style kiddie carts so they could pretend to drive while I shopped. This sounds all nifty until you go shopping in aisles that are so narrow, you’ll get side-swiped if you hold a box of cereal the wrong way.

When shopping with kids, be swift and efficient. Don’t think, just shop. Try to get in and out as fast as you can. I like to collect as many edible products as possible while keeping their little fingers and toes inside the cart and simultaneously crossing items off my list. I don’t mind substituting American cheese for Swiss. I’ll sort it out later and deal with any extra cheese on my thighs after they hit college.

I once raced through the automatic doors of a local grocery store with smiling children in tow, swept past the produce aisle, grabbed the greenest bunch bananas and over-ripe strawberries, and upon reaching the bakery, nearly ran over an elderly store clerk, knocked down a cake display and apologized to three customers as I flew past the aisles. We blocked the exit doorway for a full minute when my then two-year-old refused to move out of the way. By the time I picked her up and put her back in the cart, she was crying so hard, I thought someone was going to call the local authorities.

Another thing you can do is pretend to look like you’ve got everything under control even when you’re about to snap. I have this annoying tendency to whisper-yell to my kids when they start to misbehave in a store. “No,” “Get back in the cart.” “Put that down.” “Stop touching your sister.” “Don’t put that in your mouth.” “Use your manners.” “Get back here this instant.” Get back in the cart. Stop doing that. Put that down!” Now my voice is getting louder and people are starting to stare. I start fake smiling and nodding at people as they pass by.

At this point, I should have already left the store, as my “intelligent parenting” books suggest. But when I’m out with my kids, my inner idiot tends to shine. I forget any semblance of common sense. After all, I only have three items left on my list and I can’t just leave.

That’s me as I read “The HORRORS of Shopping with Kids” during the 2013 Providence Listen to Your Mother Show in May. 

This method of mothering, not surprisingly, isn’t very impressive. It gives off the “So, you’re the crazy lady with kids” looks.

By the time I get the kids in the car, I think I’ve crossed off everything on my shopping list along with every “Don’t” parenting tip imaginable.

Just as we’re pulling into the driveway, I notice that everyone is quiet. There’s no spilling, pushing, crying, screaming or urinating. Everyone is great. As I start putting away the groceries, I think, “Maybe it wasn’t that bad.” Maybe the nightmare was just my imagination. Until I realize we forgot the milk.

Another link: This one is now on YouTube, my friends. So proud of my fellow Listen to Your Mother sisters for their performances. (And for your kindness as I had just wiped away the tears after hearing all of their amazing pieces before reading this.)

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