Attention Satellite Shoppers!
One quick look in the fridge, and the decision is made. A trip to the grocery store is imminent. You pack up the kids, roll your eyes at the dog, and set out for that retail experience that both provides and beleaguers. Provides, because no matter how long you put it off, hunger usually winds up ruling the day. Beleaguers, because despite your best efforts, your children simply don’t see a visit to the grocery store within the same frame of mind as you, and are quite ready and willing to point out the not-so-subtle differences.
You’ve seen them. I know you have. The cantankerous children at the Piggly Wiggly, whose single-minded purpose is to disrupt or otherwise prevent their parent/handler from the necessary duty of providing sustenance for the family table. Whining, crying, refusing to participate or assist in any way… challenging their siblings to an all out “I-can-be-louder-and -more-obnoxious-than-you throwdown.” And let’s not forget those “I want this!” tantrums that grocers seem to perpetuate with their displays of bright and colorful, sugar-loaded and over-priced ummm, junk.
But here’s the real test. Is that you? Does a xerox likeness of you and your offspring adorn the “watch list” of the neighborhood grocery? You know, pinned to the bulletin board next to the customer service counter, along with the words pray for her scribbled underneath in magic marker. If this is you, my sincerest sympathies. But it doesn’t have to be…
Children are excitable little things, full of energy and curiosity, eager to see and touch new things, and sometimes just a bit over their sugar limit as well. Going to the store is a field trip for them, as it should be. There’s always something new to see, the smells are very different from home, and there are lots of people (even a few their size) that are touching, sniffing, and grabbing things from the shelves.
So how do you make a quest for vittles into a pleasant experience for all involved? A little planning ahead, perhaps the setting of some rules, and the enlisting of a few extra hands can make your weekly or bi-weekly sojourn into something much more pleasurable.
Try this. Before you even grab the keys to the minivan, state to each participant that they will be allowed to purchase one thing (and one thing only), within allowable limits of course, usually due to factors of price and glucose content. Caution them to choose wisely. This practice will also help them to become more savvy shoppers in the future.
When you arrive at the store, be thinking of ways your children can actually help. “Satellite shopping” is a good way to start. Within the constraint of a single aisle, ask your child to find that can of corn that you usually buy, or the kind of toothpaste they like. In effect, they will be orbiting the shopping cart, assisting you in the process. As they get older, you can even send them to different areas of the store, always to return with their finds, and ready to set off on another mission.
Question them. Ask them if they know which animal a chuck roast comes from, or what color apples are, or even have them do a check and count the number of items in your cart. You can even query them as to the inventory of something in the fridge at home. “Do you remember if we used the last of the ketchup?” If they’re of reading age, ask them to help you identify the aisle where cereal resides, or by examining the pricing structures that many grocers now offer, which jar of olives is actually a better buy.
While at the checkout counter (which is often rife with things that kids desire, and right at their eye level), ask their help in finding coupons or counting cash. Ask them to be thinking about the inevitable question (paper or plastic?), and why they would choose one or the other.
On the way out, give your children something to carry, perhaps a roll of bathroom tissue or a box of cereal, as opposed to say, a carton of eggs or a huge jar of garlic pickles. I call this risk management.
Perhaps the next time you’re at the Piggly Wiggly, you’ll hear someone say “Why can’t you be more like those kids?” And while you’re at it, get something nice for yourself (but one thing only).
Teach. Learn. Enjoy!