For those of you who may have wondered how a mother with many young children survives a trip to the grocery store, this post should provide you with a good laugh. Please keep in mind, this post was written when I had six children and was pregnant with number seven. Now we have eight. :)
It is fair, and rather accurate to say that I detest grocery shopping. Even when I am able to shop alone, I find it tedious and dull, and rather tiresome a task. But add several small children to the mix, and it becomes, generally speaking, domesticated torture.
Not that any of my children are bad, or generally ill-behaved in any way. It is simply a matter of logistics. Grocery store shopping carts, I have found, are typically not engineered or designed to seat seven children. In fact, they usually only seat ONE! If you really choose to push the maximum capacity, you can sit one child in the front seat and one inside the cart. But, as your cart gradually becomes filled with groceries, whoever is the unhappy passenger inside the cart eventually will need to be vacated, or else buried alive by boxes of Cheerios and cans of creamed corn. This new-found liberation is always a great joy to the child, and a great stress to the mother.
So, my family creates a fairly entertaining scene at the grocery store, not because of behaviour, but simply because the sight of six small children, (two in a double stroller pushed by the oldest boy, two crammed into the cart, and another walking along side) not to mention a very obviously pregnant mother attempting to corral them all down the narrow aisles- is truly a spectacle to behold.
Add to this the fact that the four year old, on closer examination, is now discovered to be wearing two different colored socks, the five year old boy is wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words WORE THIS YESTERDAY in bright yellow letters (thanks to his sweet grandmother for THAT lovely gift), the two year old, only girl in the bunch, has about three too m any multi colored barrettes in her very wild, curly hair, one of the littlest is found to be missing a shoe (which means it has either been left in the van or is somewhere in the store) and the seven year old boy who only has one very loud volume (which is generally considered capable of causing real hearing loss in all who are long subjected to it) is asking incessant questions.
To say that we are stared at is a gross understatement.
The usual plan of action is to get what is needed as quickly as possible and get back out. For each label I take the time to peruse, a small sliver of my sanity is forfeited.
With that said, I have four general woes that are nearly always part of the grocery shopping experience. I will briefly describe each.
First, whoever is pushing the stroller with the two babies in it usually hits me in the back of the legs about twenty-five times throughout the course of our trip. I leave the store limping and bruised.
Second, my seven-year old's volume. Although he generally tries to be helpful, when he scolds one of the younger children for doing something they ought not, we all look around wondering how his vocal chords are mysteriously being projected through the store's speaker system.
Third, the question "Are they all yours????" which never fails to be asked at least once, and one time was asked eleven times in one trip. I wonder, do women often seem so insensible and masochistic as to go shopping with five small children and a bullhorn, while pregnant, if the said children are NOT all theirs?
Finally, and I have saved the best for last, the forbidden aisle. You know the one I am talking about. It has cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, and generally all your bath and body items.
My loud-speaker, I mean son, Riley, HATES this aisle. I think his great dislike for this aisle began because of some very silly teasing from his older brother. Some thing about Riley liking "the girly aisle", teasing which, I suppose, not self-respecting seven year old boy could be expected to endure. Every trip to the store, the teasing takes its toll on poor Riley, and one time it took its toll on all of us.
On that particular day, I was feeling especially tired by the time we reached that fateful aisle. The back of my legs were more tender than usual from the constant bumping of the stroller, which was also being pushed by Riley, who would loudly exclaim "SORRY MOM!!!" with each accidental slam into the back of my calves.
My daughter had caught sight of the cart that looks like a race-car, which is designed to hold two children, but was being employed by only one, very bratty child. Libby started to whine about wanting to ride in that cart, and Riley, although trying to quiet her, made far more noise in the process that she was capable of making, however distressed she might have been.
After grabbing a tube of icy hot and an ice pack for my legs, and quieting the children, we proceeded, but only for a moment before Riley realized which aisle we were on. He began by asking why we always had to go down it in the first place.
I saw that there were other people in the aisle, and tried to be sure to get all of the children over to one side so the other people had plenty of room to go by while I was perusing the toothbrushes. Sometimes people look quite afraid to pass us by.
In any case, I was looking for the cheap toothbrushes, since my children have an extraordinary talent for losing theirs, and since I buy them almost every time I go to the store. Once, in fact, when we were really eager to find a tooth brush that was missing, we discovered they cost eighty-five dollars if flushed down the toilet in just the right way, and that plumbers use a special scope to see all the way down the pipe to determine it is indeed a toothbrush, before they remove the entire toilet to retrieve it. Homeschoolers really do see so many interesting things....
So, as I found the most economically friendly toothbrushes, one-volumed Riley very unabashedly asked why I always bought toothbrushes, since they will just keep on losing them.
I was determined to let the throbbing in my legs help me ignore the chuckles of the other customers in the aisle, who I was now sure would try to get a good look at my children's oral hygiene as they passed.
One customer, a friendly enough looking man, made eye contact. I knew it was coming. The question I had already heard ten times during that trip. I tried to distract myself by looking at my children. The baby had gotten a package of hotdogs and was chewing them through the package. He had been at it a while when I toothbrush shopping and had worked up a little hotdog lather.
The man I was trying to avoid saw the baby foaming at the mouth, and rather than comment on the possibility of mad- hotdog disease, asked, "ARE THEY ALL YOURS???"
"They sure are." I replied, trying to look as sane as possible. If I could just make it to the next aisle, Ben and Jerry's could be my salvation.
But, as it turned out, my mortification was not yet complete. Riley, in near hysteria from being detained in the "girly aisle" far longer than he could handle, said in such volume as to be heard by all in our aisle and very likely the aisles on either side of us, "WHY DOES EVERYONE ALWAYS ASK YOU THAT MOM!?!?!?!"
To this, such uproarious laughter was heard by all in earshot, that I nearly expected applause.
Thankfully, we had only two aisles left, could quickly leave, and my children do not much mind occasionally having a supper consisting of half-chewed hotdogs, cheerios, and creamed corn, since that was all I was able to fix that night. I was just too mentally exhausted to follow a recipe.
Besides, I had lost all feeling in my legs.