With my wife back to work, I’m often wading into the minefield of doing the grocery shopping solo with my sons, 3 & 1. The only thing that gets me through is the promise of a free cookie at the end of the trip, graciously provided by the store. It’s a miniature life preserver that I’m able to dangle over my kids’ heads willing them into good behavior. Let me rephrase — willing them into behavior that won’t leave them fatherless.
Here’s a timeline of our recent trip from home to the store and back:
9:36 am: I ask my kids to get their shoes.
9:39: I begin the process of gathering enough snacks, drinks and toys for a two-week vacation.
9:45: I ask my kids to get their shoes.
9:48: I remind the 3-year-old to use the potty.
9:50: I pack extra diapers, underwear and industrial strength wet wipes.
9:52: I ask my kids to get their shoes.
9:54: I quickly flip through coupons and decide that cutting out a .25 cent coupon for two boxes of Fruit Snacks is more trouble than it’s worth.
9:58: I grab my kids shoes, chase them around the train table and force the shoes onto their feet.
10:01: As I load up the car, I hear anguished cries from our 1-year-old. “What happened?” I demand, as I rush inside. “I ran over my brother,” says the 3-year-old, with as much concern as if he were naming his favorite train.
10:01:30: The 3-year-old heads into time out.
10:05: The boys are distracted by every toy, bike and ball in the garage.
10:09: Finally loaded into the car, we leave for the grocery store.
10:18: As we approach the store we face our first major crisis. The 3-year-old wants to sit in a racecar cart. The nearly 2-year-old wants an oversized cart with a 2-seat bench. Tantrums are thrown, tears flow and I regret being born.
10:22: The boys ask for a cookie.
10:25: After avoiding eye contact with several staring customers, we enter the store. The 3-year-old attempts to engage everyone in conversation. “Hi. I ran over my brother today,” he cheerfully tells an elderly woman.
10:31: I remind the boys to keep their hands to themselves, threatening them with the loss of the prized cookie. I urgently try to find 12 eggs without a blemish.
10:32: The boys ask for a cookie. I try to remember where the beer aisle is.
10:34: We nearly run over a 5-year-old in our oversized cart, which should require a CDL license.
10:35: I remind the 3-year-old not to bite his brother. I make a mental note to bring a bottle opener next week.
10:40: We make it to the deli, where free samples await. Another crisis nearly ensues when the employee only gives us one free slice of ham. He sees the demonic look in my eyes and quickly provides a second slice.
10:42: Midway through our deli order, the 3-year-old tells me and everyone within earshot that he has to go potty. I wonder why grocery carts don’t come with beer coozies.
10:42:20: I remind the boys to stop touching each other.
10:47: After successfully navigating the bathroom and not touching any door handles, we return to the deli. On the way, the 3-year-old reminds me not to forget to buy fruit snacks. I add up the cost of two boxes of diapers and wonder if I could make diapers myself.
10:53: I frantically call my wife to ask if we need lettuce.
10:56: The boys demand to watch the lobsters.
11:00: The boys demand cookies.
11:02: Attempting to distract the kids, I pretend we’re in a NASCAR race and rev up the racecar cart engine, racing down an aisle. I get looks of hate from several customers.
11:05: We head to the produce section where my children take turns fondling nearly every piece of fruit in the store.
11:06: I wonder if an employee intentionally bruises the apples, making it nearly impossible to find 5 pristine pieces of fruit.
11:09: The boys order me to get them cookies. NOW!
11:12: With cookies in hand, my kids stop talking, touching and paying attention to each other for 90 seconds. I dart through the aisles trying to make sure I didn’t forget anything, which I inevitably do.
11:15: With cookie crumbs covering the cart, we find the shortest checkout line. That means, of course, it will be the line with the longest wait.
11:17: The boys fight over who gets to put which items on the conveyor belt. I wonder if anyone would mind if I start chugging the wine I bought for my wife.
11:22: The nearly 2-year-old presses the “Spanish” option on the payment pad. I might be paying in pesos, I’m not sure.
11:25: The bagger asks if I want help to my car. I briefly ponder leaving him with the kids and groceries and running away.
11:33: Both kids are loaded into the car. Groceries are secure in the back. I sit and breathe for the first time in an hour.
11:46: We return home. The boys head straight for the train table while I put away the groceries. I feel proud, pleased and grateful that we are all home safe and sound.
11:51: My phone rings. My wife asks me if I got the steaks for dinner with our friends tonight. I admit I forgot them.
11:52: I ask my kids to get their shoes.