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Friday, May 24, 2013

The Grocery Store Curse...Thank you, Eve.

I believe the Word of God is infallible. It is inspired. It is a literary masterpiece. However, back in the beginning of the book of Genesis, shortly after Adam and Eve seriously jacked up our futures by eating that forbidden fruit, I am pretty sure God left out a section that read something like this:

"To the woman he said, 'I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. [ADDITION] And you shall forever be subject to taking said children grocery shopping with you, and it shall be a terrible plight each and every time. Also, you shall never again pee alone.'"
GENESIS 3:16a through the part I just made up

Now, forgive me if I sound flippant with Scripture, but anyone who has been a mom for more than fives minutes knows what I am talking about, and has silently cussed thanked Eve under her breath more than once while trolling the aisles of Publix with a long grocery list and and a child who suddenly feels the need to engage in a deep meaning-of-life-type question-and-answer session, intermixed with the loud, "can we get that's?!?!"

My three children are all under six, and I am being very serious when I say that nothing reminds me of my need for Jesus' help in parenting more than a trip to the grocery store. It really does seem like the worst comes out in everyone - parents and children alike - during this never-ending task.

I have to say, I often feel set up to fail before I even step foot inside the store. Oh, everyone is happy and cooperative on the car ride there. Usually the first sign of distress is as we exit our awesome blue minivan that is missing a hubcap, when I ask my children to hold hands as we play Frogger through the parking lot. At some point between the van and the sidewalk, at least one of my children decides that they are too big to hold hands, and it appears they think that the best solution to their problem is to go limp, making it impossible for anyone to hold their hands lest they fall to the asphalt as well. This is usually where spanking number one is tallied and tucked away for after the store.  

Once we get everyone into the store, my children make a beeline to the race car. You know, the double-seater cart that has pretend steering wheels and more germs than a toilet seat at the airport. Enter dilemma number two: which ones of my three children will have the distinct pleasure of sitting in the torture device race car, and which one will walk. An argument typically ensues depending on who does or doesn't want to ride that day, who got to ride "last time," and who is a "big kid" who doesn't need to ride in a cart anymore.  

Once I get everyone duct-taped strapped in, I tentatively enter the store through the automatic sliding doors. Our favorite check-out lady, Tina, sees me and starts laughing immediately, probably sensing the chaos that is going to ensue as the Watts family takes over Publix. The first stop: the bakery. Oh, the joy a free, dried-out cookie can stir up in the heart of a child. Now, every mother knows that you have a grocery list either mentally or physically prepared, and that the moment those cookies enter the hands of your children an imaginary timer starts ticking on the portion of your shopping experience that can be done in silence and peace. The younger the kids are, the longer the cookie lasts, providing a calmer, more orderly grocery run. The older the kid is, the faster he eats, and the faster Mom goes from "I can actually hear myself think" to the overwhelming temptation to "ABORT MISSION!  ABORT MISSION!"

With cookies in hand, the expedition begins, and for a few moments everything is as it should be. Then inevitably the child who is supposed to be trailing behind me ends up in front of the cart to "help" by pulling it, then stops suddenly causing me to ram the cart right into her Achilles tendon. Cue the waterworks. I begin to apologize repeatedly, with my five-year-old daughter giving me the death stare for hurting her, even though she was the one who walked in front of the cart to begin with. She now climbs in the cart and switches places with my son because her leg hurts, and he walks with me.

We make a stop at the deli counter, where I order two sub sandwiches that take 15 - yes, that's FIFTEEN - minutes to prepare. I almost think I should double-check to see if they are custom-butchering the meat or something. With the cookies long since devoured, the kids are already asking when we're leaving. My five-year-old doesn't want my two-year old touching "her" steering wheel, and, ironically, in that very moment it is all my two-year-old want to do. The race car seat is not a happy place. While this is transpiring, my four-year-old son is smearing his hands along the glass deli case, leaving trails of cookie grease and who-knows-what-else. The sandwich-maker man looks rather perturbed that I am having to parent my children, which one would think would make him work slightly faster, but no. The line is growing behind me as a hungry crowd of lunch-goers wait for their turn to buy a mediocre, over-priced sandwich. Just as Mr. Sandwich Man is handing me my subs, my son comes behind me and lifts my sundress with both hands, exposing my bare, pasty-white rear end with ratty, torn navy blue thong underwear, and let's not forget the baseball-sized black bruise on my left butt cheek from the antibiotic shot I received days before to treat me for strep throat (that my kids gave me). And, for the record, let me say that my hind quarters are *slightly* larger after having kids. I hear laughter filter through the crowd of people behind me, but at this point in my life someone seeing my hind end is the least of my concerns, so  I move on fairly unfazed.

Moving along, we get to the juice aisle, the aisle created by some kind of parent-hating genius. Not only are there multicolored bottles of fun-looking juice, and juice boxes packaged in Pixar-character print, but there are swirly straws and reusable drink containers hanging every five feet, right at eye-level with my children. The "Mommy, can we's" start before I can even turn that fateful corner. "Oh, Mommy, puh-leeeeeaaaase can I get a new Princess cup? I never had one like that before!" "Mom, look, a Darth Fadah cup with a Light-saver straw! Please, please, please, please can I get it?" Even the baby gets in on the action, grunting "uhhhhhhhh" while pointed at cheaply-made, dishwasher-unsafe cups that wouldn't last a day in my house. After a long string of "no, no, no's" and "don't ask me again's," on we go.  

At this point I feel the need to step up my game to get this job over and done with, so our walk becomes brisker and my patience runs admittedly thinner. As does my children's patience. They go from wanting fun kid stuff to just wanting everything they see for the sake of buying something, anything to meet their shopping-addiction needs. Pretty soon they are wanting Gladware and toilet paper, begging for the new floral design, or maybe a bottle of olive oil. About this time, my son reaches his hand out of the cart just in time to make contact with a large display of paper towels, bringing down the pyramid with a single touch.  Can anyone page for a clean up on aisle 10? While frantically trying to gather the millions of rolls of paper towels, my daughter decides that she wants to "help" me by pushing the cart out of the way. Push, she does, and right into the large wooden crate of wine bottles. I'll let you guess what happens from there.

I finally look up from our disaster zone to find a multitude of people staring at me. Some with pity in their eyes, others with disgust. And, of course, the one old lady who feels the need to tell me in this moment to "enjoy every single minute with those precious little ones." To which I offer her a cheers and start chugging from the broken, half-empty bottle of wine on the floor because it's no use crying over spilled wine. Just kidding - I go to a Baptist church and I don't drink. Right...  

At this point, I know that I just have to push through to the end of our excursion, which is in sight. No matter if everyone is crying, no matter if my children are annihilating each other, no matter if people look at me like I am the worst mother in the history of all mothers. Because people gotta eat. So we go. I stop for no man. Or child. My children see it in my eyes that I am not to be toyed with, and they are brought to (momentary) silence. We grab the last of our produce and whip back around toward the registers. Amazingly, with 19 registers lining the front of the store, two are open. One is for hoarders like me, the other for 20 items or less.  And even though her line is empty, I see it in her eyes: the 20-items-or-less lady ain't gonna budge and let me through because I am over the limit. Her head shakes slightly. I sigh and get in the four-person-long line at the other register.  

As we finally approach the cashier, the begging for gum and candy begins. "Mom, you NEVER let us get gum. Puh-leeeaseeee?" "Mom, please can I have M&Ms? But, Mom, I asked POLITELY!" It's at about this time that I tune myself out and go to my happy place. In this case, my happy place is aboard a luxury 50-foot catamaran in the British Virgin Islands, where I will be escaping to heading in a mere two weeks (on an expenses-paid trip, nonetheless, proving beyond any doubt I might ever have that there is, in fact, a very real God who loves me dearly). I can almost hear the waves crashing against the boat now...

We get to the register and the man checking us out is very friendly and talkative. He is also extremely effeminate in both the way he sounds and in his mannerisms. So, just to make a fun morning that much better, I guess, my inquisitive four-year-old son feels the need to ask him, "Hey, man, why do you talk like such a girl?" Which is a good question. But bad timing.  

At this point I am just exhausted, so I can't even pretend that it didn't happen. I just muttered a "sorry" and waited on him to finish ringing me up. I don't even flinch at the total, because the emotional toll this trip has taken on me is far more severe than even the current cost of groceries, and I swipe my Amex to be done for good with this experience. As I put my credit card away, my four-year-old presses the red "cancel" button. So I, in my most calm and calculated tone, ask him not to touch the machine again, and I take my credit card out once more, swiping it while doling out a spanking-in-the-van to my daughter who has just swatted the baby. Again, while I put my card away, my son presses the cancel button. Seriously?! The cashier doesn't even attempt to hide his grin, somewhat deservedly. The 80-something lady in line behind me, who resembles John Rivers (if you live in Atlanta, you see know what I am talking about - there are old-lady Joan Rivers lookalikes all over town) looks disapprovingly at me, tsk-ing under her breath, probably something about "kids these days." My son is awarded consequence #2, and after receiving the "mom look" from me doesn't dare move while I run my card for the third time, finally paying for the food that has probably gone bad by now.

In a display of confidence-bordering-on-embarrassment, I pick up my son, grab the cart, and head out of the store, unable to look behind me for fear of the round of applause that has probably erupted upon our leaving.  

We get to the van, get everyone unloaded, spanked, and into their rightful car seats, and I load the groceries haphazardly into the trunk, because at this point what are broken eggs after my spirit has been crushed. Okay, that might be a little dramatic...eggs are almost $2/dozen now, so even with a crushed spirit I take special care of my eggs and they get to ride in the front seat. I return the cart to the cart corral, which is always, I repeat ALWAYS, as far from my car as it can get. I climb in the car to a symphony of tears, "I'm hot's," and "can we go to Chickfila's?" I sit. I breathe. I hear the waves and the steel drums. I taste the coconut. And I am still.

This might sound a bit dramatic, but I assure you that every single thing I've written about has actually happened to me. Every. Single. Thing.

This also might sound like I have hellions for children. I do not. But they are CHILDREN. All of us act out at times; kids just have a knack for all acting out at the same time. They are darling, precious, loving, and kind children. But they are also little sinners.

Lastly, this might sound like I am a depressed soul who caves under the pressure of motherhood.  This could not be further from the truth (thank you Lord, and thank you Prozac). However, I feel the need to encourage other mothers out there that they are not, as they might think, crazy, that yes, these things do happen in other families and to other moms, and that no, they are not alone. And not every moment of motherhood is FUN. The pressure to be supermom, to have perfectly-behaved, perfectly-mannered children, and to soak in every precious moment of motherhood is enormous. But that is not reality. It's merely a facade, and when we play the game of appearing perfect for the approval of others, we become fatigued, overwhelmed, and discouraged.  

Motherhood is not easy; it's not meant to be. But it is refining. I mean, what is more refining than having to respond with grace when your son lifts up your sundress for the world to see your cellulite-covered behind?  

Motherhood is a calling, and we have to remember the big picture. We are trying to raise up tiny humans into grown, responsible adults that love and pursue Jesus. This takes time. This takes mistakes. This takes energy. It takes perseverance. It takes dying to ourselves day in and day out, submitting and resubmitting our will to our Heavenly Father. It takes losing what we think we need in order to gain what He KNOWS we need. I love how Philippians 3:8-15 describes it:

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you."

I pray that, through the "grocery store" experiences in my life, I press on toward the goal, and for the prize, which is the call of God in Christ. I pray that I truly do count everything as loss, including my agenda, my desire for perfection, and my pride, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him. I pray that I don't miss the opportunities for refinement that he extends to me, and that I will not be blinded by my frustration and self-entitlement. I pray that I see Him in every single tedious, monotonous, exhausting moment that threatens to overtake me. Because He is there. And He is working.

Lastly, as I leave you today, my friend, I would be remiss to post this without offering up a few self-proclaimed genius ideas from an everyday mom for my friends at Publix, and all of the other grocery stores around the world.  These ideas are yours for the taking, and you're welcome:

1. Any mom worth her salt knows that the only way to survive a grocery run with kids is the coveted cookie. That sugary, delicious treat that kids start asking about upon the mention of the grocery store. If possible, can you have cookie stands at the beginning, midpoint, and end point of every aisle in the grocery store? Refill stations, if you will. Rations. If their mouths are full, they are unusually quiet - I'm just saying.  Don't tell Michelle Obama I said that.

2. Carts that look like this, with duct tape supplied on an as needed basis.  Trust me, this would be to your benefit:

Feel free to laugh!

P.S. If the mention of Prozac in a joking manner offends you, can I just ask you, from a heart full of the love and grace of Jesus, to relax?  I am not making fun of mental illness.  I suffer from it.  Life is hard.  Prozac helps.  And I'm okay with that.  It's not an off-limits topic for me.