Thursday, June 9, 2011

Surviving the Grocery Aisles

As I mentioned
, grocery shopping is a new experience for me.  When Brian and I were first married, we used to grocery shop together.  We would go at night and roam the aisles together.  I worked days and he worked a lot of weekends so we typically went shopping late at night when all the crazies shop.  When Gavin was born, I quit my job and Brian started working days (at the lawn care job he has now) and as much as possible we still went shopping together in the evenings.  When Maddie was born twenty months later, we tried continuing to shop as a family and I took the kids shopping a couple of times alone, but Brian ended up taking over the job completely.  He would go every other Monday night after work.  I'd prepare the list and he would do the shopping.  It worked for us...until April. 

In the frenzy of the spring grass-cutting season and preparing to buy our house and move, Brian didn't have time to go to the store.  We still needed to eat, though, and so I reluctantly planned to take the kids shopping myself.  I planned a week's worth of meals (instead of the two weeks I usually do) and made a list.  We went in the morning while everyone was still fresh and I made sure everyone pottied and had a snack.  I secured Alaine (baby) in the ring sling on my hip.  I hefted Benjamin (2) into the front of the cart.  I gave Gavin (8) charge of the list and I asked Maddie (6) and Owen (4) to put the items I needed into the cart.

I was a nervous wreck that first time, but we had the most encouraging experience.  I had a conversations about kids and homeschooling in the frozen foods with a mama of four, and when I went through the check-out, our cashier told me all about how she was the youngest of ten children.  She told that she and her siblings were still extremely close-- that she was 59 and that her oldest brother was 89!  I was fascinated by her story and, until my mom pointed it out, I totally missed the fact that her mother must have had amazing fertility to have children for a span of 30 years!

After the success of our first daytime 6-person grocery run, we dared try again-- this time for the regular bi-monthly trip.  By this time we were in our new home and the store was no longer a hop, skip, and a jump from our front door.  We awoke on grocery day to a torrential downpour.  I reasoned that the rain would surely stop by the time we left for the store.  It didn't.  I don't know if the dreary day rubbed off on the other shoppers or if we were just destined to rub shoulders with rude people.  Though the kids were pleasant and we had no meltdowns or accidents, we got our share of stares and more than the usual number of "you have your hands full"- type of comments.  

As we neared the register, I had the 8-year-old engage the 2-year-old in a game of "What's Your Favorite...?" to stave off a meltdown that was sure to occur as they were both restless and ready to go home.  Nothing could prepare us for this week's cashier, though.  As we began unloading our cart, I could feel her eyes on us.  As the  kids slapped cheese and Teddy Grahams and grapes onto the belt, the cashier says, "These all yours?  Five kids!  What a mess."  I was taken aback by this comment.  Surely we are all subject to our opinions, but to voice it in front of the children to whom you are referring crosses the line.  She went on to tell me about a fellow cashier who had six children, but how she herself had only had one and that was enough for her.  As she continued to ramble on, I sensed that, more than anything, she was just clueless about the life of a big family.  It wasn't that she didn't approve.  It was that she didn't understand.  As we placed the last bag into our cart and she prepared to give us our total, she asked if I'd like to donate a dollar to charity.  I declined and she said, "Well, I certainly understand that you wouldn't be able to do that with all those mouths to feed."

During the whole soggy drive home, I felt defeated.  Did my children pick up on what the cashier thought of them?  Did I respond with the right attitude to her literal ignorance?  I posted about it on Facebook that afternoon and my friend Melanie (mama of four) said, "I love going to the store with all the kids. I am either blessed by others or we have the opportunity to bless others."   The words hit home.  Sometimes I am blessed (like by the elderly woman who stopped with a smile to tell me what wonderful helpers I had), but sometimes I'm in the position to do the blessing.

We've been on our bi-monthly shopping trip twice more since that mind- and attitude-altering day.  We've reveled in the blessings.  A few weeks ago, a lady handing out samples gave my kids a whole box of crackers to share.  Another time, an older couple stopped me and said that they had raised five kids, too-- two girls and three boys like me-- and that though the days were hard, the rewards were priceless.  They said, "It was all thanks to the Lord."  However, we've been more open to the chance to bless others, too.  Perhaps the man who grunts as he eyes the kids trailing behind me is hiding a hurting heart.  And though the passing shopper's words may sting, perhaps I'm the only one who is offering up a prayer for her.

Nonetheless, when we are home and thick in the task of unloading a car-full of groceries into the cabinets and pantry shelves, I've been known to pop open a Coke and breathe a sigh of relief that we're done for another two weeks.


  1. Okay, first of all, I LOVE the pic of you with the kids in the bread aisle at walmart!! I SO relate! I love that she's grabbing the bananas, that we use the same floor cleaner and that your sweet boy is wearing a Jedi shirt!!

    And you're so right, I need to be prepared to be the one to bless. I never am. I must work on that. And I get to practice... tomorrow. So timely for me, thank you!!

  2. What a great post. It's hard for me to go shopping with my brood and I just have three!! I always get the comments in which you referred. I usually smile, chuckle, and quickly walk away. But I never thought of it as blessing others. Thanks for this new perspective as I gather my kids for our grocery experience!! :)

  3. Great picture of you and the kids. I need to remember to capture one of those soon.

    Because of Tim's crazy schedule and the fact that I love grocery shopping, it has been one of my tasks since we've been married.

    I definitely agree that sometimes we are blessed and sometimes it is an opportunity for us to bless others.

    We always go early in the morning (out of the house by 7:45), so we typically shop while the store is fairly quiet. Also other shoppers who are there are typically moms or older people who tend to love our very friendly Emahry and usually get a kick out of Jonathan's shyness.

    Of course it helps that the health food store that is usually our first stop has lots of free samples throughout the aisles, especially in the produce section :)

  4. I love your post ! We shop with all our children (5) regularly, and get stared at and comments as well :) I am always amazed at some people's needs to comment so freely without forethought... but I am truly thankful for your reminder to bless others, so that's what I'll do:)

  5. Oh my word! I was SOO convicted by this post today! I found myself fighting off tears while reading it...
    I used to enjoy shopping with my kids in tow(4 in 5 years). I have had friends offer to watch the kids so I could run errands alone, and didn't see the need. We have since, adopted two more children (8 year old twin girls) and I am more inclined to eat peanut butter sandwiches for the 3rd dinner in a row, than plan a shopping trip with all the kids.
    I know that I should enjoy my children as I once did, and sometimes I do. But more often than not, I am just so emotionally drianed from the quiet discipline that I do not have the patience to deal with the negative comments from onlookers.
    But oh how the encouragement freshens our hearts when it comes... the kids even ask after strangers make comments "Mommy, was that a compliment?"
    Thank you for your post! I am a new reader for sure :-)

  6. I just found your blog from Suzanne's and I just love both of you! I am a super big fan of "large" families! We have 2 children right now, but Lord willing we will have more! I am appalled by people's opinions of big families and even more appalled by their guts to voice them! It is frankly none of their beep beep beep business!!!! And I am quick to defend those like you~ So be blessed by your "big" family and shop til' y'all drop!

  7. Thank you for the comment on my blog! I love to read comments and noone ever comments anymore! Anyway, I've been trying to change my blog format and I want to have a header somewhat like you have. I just like the way your page is set up. Do you use blogger or is there something I'm not doing right? I am so computer illiterate! Thanks so much! Love your blog:)

  8. i totally needed to read this today. With my (slightly) colicky baby and 2 year old and other boys I am NOT doing so well on grocery trips! I get so many looks I am in a constant state of defeat when there AND after. It must show...

    Anyway, its good to know that it CAN be done and that good can even come from it!

    Thanks for your words and for the encouragement!



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