My kids used to misbehave at Target. It didn't matter how glorious the hours leading up to a Target shopping trip had been - when we crossed the threshold and walked through the bright red automatic doors it was as if a switch flipped in their brains and they turned into their monster-ish alter-egos. I often wondered if the Target heating/air conditioning system pumped some sort of tantrum-inducing scent - that only children could smell and/or were affected by - through the vents near the front door. What purpose would this serve, you ask? I'll tell you. When children throw tantrums in stores parents have a couple of options:
1. The first (and probably better) option is to attempt to diffuse the tantrum, and if that doesn't work, leave the store. This route is appreciated by other shoppers, and does a great job of teaching children that such behavior will not be tolerated. It also does a great job of teaching children that if they want to leave Target, they should throw a fit. My kids learned this REALLY quickly.
2. The second (and probably more frequently used) option is to attempt to diffuse the tantrum, and if that doesn't work, continue shopping, hoping to ride out the tantrum. This route is not so much appreciated by other shoppers, and makes for a pretty unpleasant shopping experience for the parent as well. But most parents - after schlepping everyone along with the diaper bag, snacks, shopping list, coupons, and reusable totes to Target - aren't about to turn around and go home without picking up the needed essentials that motivated the trip to Target in the first place.
If other parents are anything like me, when they go the route of option two, they end up not so much shopping with their list as they do shopping with speed. Lots of extra items that weren't on the list end up in the cart, either because there isn't time to check the list or because your brain is working so hard to tune out the screaming that it can't recall simple information about whether or not you have toilet paper in the cabinet at home. This is exactly what Target wants.
Eventually my kids grew old enough to learn that if they listened to me and didn't fight with each other, I'd keep the snacks coming and we'd end our shopping trip in the toy department.
At that point, since there was really no reason to misbehave at Target any longer (clearly neither wanted to lose out on endless snacks and a trip to the toy department), they decided - collectively, at some sort of secret nap time or nighttime meeting - to misbehave at the grocery store instead.
Heaven help me, those two are awful at the grocery store. Nothing I do - talking with them beforehand about my expectations, picking up free balloons and cookies for them as we enter the store, continuously shoving snacks into their little hands, letting them drive a car cart, providing a post-grocery store incentive to behave - makes a difference.
They start off the shopping trip with a light bicker, and then transition into arguing by row four. By row eight they're outright fighting, and usually Hallie is hitting Will. (Bless his heart, he hardly ever hits her back.) And while it's tough to give timeouts in the grocery store, Hallie usually gets at least one for hitting while we're there.
Now you're probably thinking, "Erin, why don't you just grocery shop while your kids are in school?". I try, people, but some weeks preschool just doesn't last long enough. And on some days I sub at school, which means that I'm at school for the exact same hours they are.
Last week we were all booked solid from morning until night, which meant I didn't make it to the grocery store. We were out of a few essentials though, so I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and headed to the store at 5pm on Friday evening. Within minutes of entering the store I knew we were in trouble; the store was incredibly crowded, making it difficult for me to shop quickly, and the Cookie Club cookies had run out. Oh mon dieu. As always, by row four they were arguing and by row eight they were fighting. Hallie, for no apparent reason, stuck her finger deep into Will's ear, received a warning, did it again, and went to timeout in front of the canned green beans.
Long story short, when I was only halfway through the store I had all-the-way used up my patience. And the group of young adult males laughing at Hallie while she misbehaved and at me while I physically struggled to strap her - while she screamed and cried - into the car cart brought me to tears.
And then I saw it. The sample table, staffed by a Kroger employee dressed like a leprechaun (I'm not kidding - he was wearing a kelly green shirt, white slacks, white suspenders, and a green top hat), appeared in front of me like a mirage. Sitting on the table and waiting for me - or at least that's what the leprechaun told me - was a dixie cup of red wine and a large chunk of dark chocolate.
As Hallie screamed her displeasure with being buckled inside of the car cart and Will tugged repeatedly on my arm and begged for money to play the claw game, I sipped my red wine and savored my dark chocolate. And then, feeling rejuvenated, I held my head high, finished my shopping, and checked out.
One thing's for certain - if I have to take my kids to the grocery store with me, it sure as heck is going to be on Friday evenings.
Howdy! My name is Erin, and I am a wife, mother and writer living in College Station, TX. After eight years working in fundraising and volunteer management for the American Red Cross, my family moved across the country – from Michigan to Texas, which was quite the culture shock – and I decided a change in focus should accompany my change in geography. I now spend my “free time” (while preschool is in session and during naptime) sharing my experiences and cultivating conversations about parenting, cooking and baking, home and family organization, and philanthropy and volunteerism on my personal blog, my kid-focused blog and for the American Red Cross. And I’m loving every minute of it.