My girl, Taryn, in all her spirited glory with her brothers.
By Kathy P. Behan
Right up there with camping, one of my least favorite activities to do en famile has got to be grocery shopping. It’s always such an ordeal to bring the kids. I’m willing to shop
late at night or with crowds of people on the weekend, just so I can do it solo while my husband stays home with our children. But even with careful planning, the unforeseen can happen and that’s when the kids get to come. Oh, it’s not so bad if I’m there for under three minutes and just have to pick up an item or two. But all you-know-what breaks loose if we’re there for any longer a period of time.
The clock begins ticking the second we enter the market. It’s always a race to see how many items I can collect before the time bombs, a.k.a. my children, go off. While I’m
racing down the aisles at top speed, wielding my shopping list and coupons, their finely tuned homing devices are zeroing in on the most expensive and rotten-for-you snacks
they can find. Usually though, I can reason with the boys and talk them out of some junk food, cooked up in some deranged advertising executive’s mind and not in a nutritionist’s kitchen. But these debates and explanations eat, if you’ll pardon the
pun, into the time that my daughter allows me to shop.
At 21 months, my precocious Taryn is well on her way into one of the most aggravating and accurately–named stages of childhood — the Terrible Two’s. Two- year-olds are
usually not well-behaved at the best of times, but put these little tyrants into less than optimal conditions and watch the fur fly. She’ll begin our marketing in a pleasant enough mood, entranced by the people and brightly colored packages. But before long, she becomes bored with “sight-seeing.”
I really know we’re in trouble when she’s tired of squishing all the soft items in the
cart and no longer cares to dump out the foods that for some unfathomable reason fail to please her. These are the unmistakable signs that our time is up and she’s about
to blow. When Taryn has decided she’s been captive long enough, sometimes all it takes to soothe her is a little bribery — she’ll remain seated in the cart if she’s supplied with a
steady stream of animal crackers or string cheese. But other times she refuses to be pacified and just wants “Out!”
More than once we have arrived at the checkout counter in desperate straits. Taryn will be standing up on the seat, stamping her feet, with her arms wrapped tightly around my head, screaming what must surely be baby obscenities. I strive to look nonchalant
while trying to extricate myself from her vice-like grip in order to unload the cart, pay and keep her from toppling onto the ground.
During this ordeal the boys are: a) causing their own ruckus and therefore oblivious to their sister’s tantrum; b) trying hard to pretend they’re not in any way related to the
small screaming person and her hapless mother; or c) (my personal favorite) so in awe of their sister’s wild behavior that they just docilely follow us to watch the action.
The worst part is, after such a stressful experience, I usually completely lose my appetite and don’t care to eat any of the foods that I went to such great lengths and personal trauma to obtain.
I do try to learn from these trying times, though. For instance, I’m honing my skill in kiddie combat. That’s why the next time I find myself in a similar situation, I’m going
to hold my head high (if Taryn will let me), try to maintain my sense of humor and, like my sons, pretend the tantruming child isn’t mine. And based on our latest marketing
experience, I’ve also developed a brand new shopping strategy — I’ll let my husband do it!
Kathy P. Behan, a mother of three, is a nationally published freelance writer specializing in health and family issues.