One of my major goals in life is to never go grocery shopping with all three of my children. I know….many of you may be thinking I should aim a little higher with my accomplishment expectations. Those of you with multiple young children feel my pain though. I mean, it’s not that I don’t love my kids or want to spend time with them. And it’s not that I am so overwhelmed by grocery shopping that I can’t handle the thought of taking my kids….even though it takes three times as long….and involves pinching and shoving and threats (from a veritable treasure trove of combinations – we’re like a math word problem. “If a mommy and her three kids all go to the store, and each person threatens bodily harm to the other in every possible variation of combinations, how many threats can you calculate?’). And, while we’re at it, it costs more. Because at some point, even the most strict and determined of mothers runs out of steam in the “no, we are not buying that” argument. Plus, they tag team. They alternate between acting like if we don’t buy everything in sight the world will end, to getting incredibly excited over basic foods (like it’s shocking I am providing sustenance for them), to distracting me with someone’s meltdown or crazy social interactions so that the others can sneak goods into the basket. I feel kind of bad, like I am painting a picture of crazy hooligans at the store. Well, if the shoe fits….
By the time we get to checkout on these days, I am beyond frazzled and ready to trade them in for extra organic anything. Our latest experience was no exception. At some point, you just get past your capacity to handle to amount of sensory overload this adventure involves. Drew thinks he can bag groceries…..and while it is precious that he wants to help, eggs cost too much to get smushed before you even leave the store. Luke loves to pull Emry out of the cart, despite my (semi) strict she-rides-in-the-cart rule, and then after about ten seconds he forgets he promised to carry her around or be in charge of her in any capacity, so she runs wild throughout the front of the store…and she’s small for her age. Which means a) no one can see her before they trip over her or run her down with a cart and b) people without children or who have forgotten what it’s like to have them glare at me as I try to pay for groceries/catch her/stop the smushing/shout for Luke to get back here/make it out alive.
This particular trip, we finally made our way out of the store into the light (I actually thought it might be dark outside, even though we arrived during the day….that’s how eternal the session inside felt) and started across the parking lot. It was one of those days that no one offered to help us with carry out, whether because they were too busy or the staff decided they don’t make enough to put up with any more of our crazy. As I pushed the cart (so full of groceries I couldn’t see over the top….or steer….or fit Emry in the front, so she was hanging half on the cart and half on my leg), we made our way across the parking lot. We walked all the way down the row. All the way….as in, no more cars were parked there. I stopped, looked around, shrugged, and started back the opposite way. Calling out to the boys who were pummeling each other, I laboriously turned the Titanic of our cart and made my way up the next aisle, having overshot our suburban. We walked to the front of that row and then stopped. Hmm….Weird. No sight of our car here, either. I shouted at the boys again, clutched Emry to my side, and repeated this pattern two or three more times.
Crap. Either our car had been stolen, or I had totally lost my bearings and forgotten where I parked it. Which never happens. Ever. Unless, apparently, my mental capacity is completely over its limit by the multi-tasking it takes to shop with three children. The boys began to grumble about walking in circles, and right as I opened my mouth with a less-than-motherly comeback, I heard a voice booming across the parking lot.
The retort died on my lips as I froze. I really hate being called ma’am, for one. And second, there is nothing quite like the humiliation of having a stranger witness your inability to find your vehicle in a parking lot. I turned to locate the source of the voice, cringing. Then I stood, mouth hanging open, as I found him.
Across the way and halfway down the lot, standing on top of his truck was a tried and true cowboy. I kid you not. He had it all – jeans with a giant belt buckle, handle bar mustache and enormous white hat. Holy cow. He was waving his arm above his head while shouting out to us, “It seems you’re having some trouble finding your vehicle!”
Does it? Does it seem so? What was your first clue, my friend? And how can you be sure I’m not just pushing this giant cart up and down every row out here as a new form of exercise? It’s all the rage in mommy resistance training.
Of course, I said none of those things, just nodded and smiled as my boys yelled out that we drive a tan suburban and couldn’t find it anywhere, even though we’d been walking forever. Do you know how many tan suburbans are in an HEB parking lot at any given time? A lot. We walked up to at least four of them. Each time, my western friend would call out, “No? Not that one? Ok, well, I see another on over there!” and my boys would swear up and down that now they remembered! It was that way!
Seriously…how big can one parking lot be??? This is not a large city we live in! Finally, tired and cranky and frustrated, I turned on my heel, ignored the cowboy, left my sons arguing, headed in the opposite direction…..and found my car in about five seconds. Emry, whom I had plopped on top of the mountain of goods, stayed wisely quite, slapping me a silent high five. My sons came pounding up to the car as I finished loading the back with our wares. We all piled in, and I took a deep breath, made myself eat humble pie, and drove over to the cowboy to thank him for his help (his trailer had four-wheelers, not horses, but still….hat + mustache = cowboy)
As we pulled out of the parking lot, Luke turned to me and said, “Mom, you have got to blog this. I’m not even kidding.” You got it, kiddo…..
Reflecting on it later, and finally able to laugh about it, I was as surprised as I was amused at what a general life lesson this is. Some days, some seasons, in life get so confusing and bogged down and turned around, that we lose our way and find ourselves confounded in situations that shouldn’t be overwhelming or difficult…..but they are. We get lost, unable to see where we want to go and/or how to get there. These are times when we need someone with a different view, a perspective that is outside the immediate problem, to step in and offer a helping hand or opinion or angle to help us find our way. We need to reach out to the ones who love us and are eager to forge ahead onto the right path with us…..or at least help us find it. They are a blessing, these helping hands and eyes. We should embrace their assistance and aspects.
And we should know as well, that there are times when they can’t do it for us. When all the well-meaning advice and vision and outlook and support in the world aren’t going to do the trick. Those times, and we all have them, we need to have the strength and wisdom and fortitude to smile and say thank you, then turn on our heel and head towards the destination meant for us….and us alone. Because in the end, no one can do it for us. No one can bring us to our destination, our destiny. That leg of the journey is personal.
We did make one more stop, the kids and I, and went out to eat at a little cafe in celebration of surviving our shopping soiree (and because it took so long we were all starving). Luke is in a phase in which he insists on only speaking in a British accent when we go places, so he ordered his food and interacted with the girl at the counter in this manner…..to be honest, his accent is amazing and totally believable….until you hear his mother speak. My accent is not remotely related to anything British. Which would be confusing enough in and of itself, but Drew (who is in a Spanish immersion program) decided he was in the mood to interact in Spanish, so my conversations with him took place totally in Spanish. He even spoke to his siblings and the server this way. And Emry…..well, what can I say? Half the time she sounded like a valley girl (this is her new thing) and the other half she used made up words in what she feels is her own version of Spanish.
I’ve decided to view us as international….or cosmopolitan….as opposed to just really strange. If nothing else, we amused the staff there to no end. And perhaps contributed to the message of birth control.
Solidarity, sisters. Sometimes you need a guy in a white hat….or with an accent.