Ever see those cartoons where one character shakes up a beehive and throws it at another character and watches them get swarmed and stung about a thousand times? That is what grocery shopping is.  

The store has strategically shaken a beehive with candy displays and character endorsed junk food, and they are swarming all over me as I try to suffer through the people of Walmart. But it doesn’t stop there after the grocery store has gotten our kids to sting us, they come up and hit us in the head with a bat.

Our kids love us, but grocery stores hate us. Grocery stores have something they know we need. Food. We can usually go without whatever it is we buy from most stores to a large degree–or we can get things shipped right to our doorsteps to avoid the beehive experience.

But, going to the grocery store with kids is like fighting a war on two fronts. Both are working against you and manipulating you into getting what they want. Neither is willing or able to show any mercy to the beleaguered parent who only wants to pick up a gallon or two of milk, and something to make for dinner that doesn’t take two hours to cook and also isn’t processed garbage. They thrive on our pain.

The Pre-Race

Watch how your kids react when you first get into the grocery store. Before you even get a chance to put them in the cart, they are already casing the joint. Either they are already working an angle to get whatever junk food or candy they’ve dreamed about, or they are on the hunt for that new thing the TV has shown them a dozen times an hour.

The grocery stores know this, and it places these products at kid-friendly eye level. Everything they want is in reach, and staring them in the face.

The Starting Line–The Cart

The first fight comes when you grab a cart. There’s always only one car cart left, and it never steers right so you have to battle kids and the cart. The entire trip is a series of knocked down Ho Ho displays and injured appendages for innocent, childless shoppers (you know the ones shaking their heads and judging you as you grit your teeth and tell your kids to quit touching everything).

If it’s your lucky day and God didn’t feel like punishing you for everything you did in college, the car carts are all in use (sorry suckers).  But don’t worry, every trip to the grocery store has other hidden punishments.  

Your kids will argue over who gets the seat, for no other reason besides their brother or sister said they wanted it. And victory doesn’t mean that they won’t be wanting out of it and into the basket part of the cart three or four times in every aisle.

Or they just get tired of riding in the cart after all of two minutes.  What trip to the grocery store is complete without kids running around like a gaggle of soccer moms searching for the last bottle of wine?

And They are Off

The aisles are perfect for children to use as a racetrack, made with hard concrete floors, so their heads get that special bounce when they trip over their own feet. This means that we parents don’t even get a brief cease-fire in the aisles with boring stuff like paper towels and mops.

It’s either running or yelling out in a loud and clear voice (the exact opposite voice they use when you want them to say something smart to a grandparent) that “You said that toilet paper because it doesn’t wipe hard enough.” Or both.

The grocery store’s war on mom and dad doesn’t even end in the boring aisle. This is where they place little displays and kickers full of stale Twinkies and cheap toys made of Chinese knock-off choking hazards.

And the Winner is….

All this makes our already overtaxed, and multi-multitasking minds have even more to deal with. We parents can only fight against so much before we give in and say, “FINE!!!” The grocery store has its money, and the kid has that wad of sugar disguised as cereal that is held together by whole wheat that isn’t really whole wheat, but close enough to meet the legal requirements to say it on the package.

The unholy alliance between store and spawn always win. The grocery store by default, since the family has to eat, and the kid by attrition. They will ask and ask and ask and ask for every little thing. We will say no to the six pack of candy bars, the bag of cookies, the case of soda, or the value bag of Doritos. (You know the one where the kid points out how it’s “value” size so you should get it).

We have fewer “No’s” than our kids have “can I’s,” and even if we do have those last few, precious “No’s” left in us, we realize that winning isn’t worth spending the rest of the day with God punishing us for what we did Freshman year.

Happy shopping.

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