Things I Learned in the Grocery Store the Other Day, or How to Be the Best Parent You Can Even When You’re Screwing Up

shopping cart
1. When your six year-old asks to push the cart, say NO.  Especially when the cart is full and therefore much heavier than you realize.  Contrary to what you may believe, the produce section on a Saturday is not a great place to foster self-reliance, nor to practice the I-trust-my-child, blessings-of-a-skinned-knee approach to parenting to which you continually aspire.

2. When you DO say yes and your six year-old starts pushing said cart in the wrong direction, do not startle or call out.  In particular, try not to yell, “No, THIS way!”

3. Never overestimate the technical difficulty of turning a very full grocery cart, especially when the driver is four feet tall, feeling rushed, and prone to sudden, jerky movements.

4. Watching a full grocery cart tip and then fall is kind of like being in a dream.  You try to move, but you can’t.  Time slows down.

5. Glass is surprisingly strong. Eggs are not.

6. Good people are everywhere. Like the man who comes over and helps you pick up the cart and put everything back in it without saying a word.

7. Guilt and embarrassment can manifest as anger. Just because you think you’re being admirably calm about the whole thing doesn’t mean your child doesn’t feel like you’re yelling at him. Look at his scared little face, and take a breath.

8. When you realize your kid has a minor burn on his arm from the hot coffee in the miniature cup you forgot you were holding when all of this happened, THAT is a moment to practice graduate-level self-compassion.

9.  A bag of frozen mangoes makes a decent emergency ice pack. When your child refuses to let you keep it there, your fear may cause you to raise your voice again.  Take another deep breath, and review #8.

10.  Shame is a powerful emotion.  It’s OK that you feel like crying. Believe me, your kid is feeling even worse.

11. It helps (a little) to be honest.  Say, “I’m sorry I yelled.”  Say, “I got mad because I was afraid you might be hurt.”  Say, “I shouldn’t have let you push a cart that was too heavy for you. That was Mommy’s mistake.”

12. On the way to the car, after the eggs have been replaced and the rest of the groceries have been paid for and bagged up, that is a good time for an extra long hug.