take kids shopping and like it

“Three, two, one … blast off!” That’s what we shouted from inside the minivan as I inserted my key and started the engine. I glanced in my rearview mirror while I backed out of the driveway and saw three smiling boys buckled in car seats behind me. We were on a spontaneous trip to outer space, or possibly just out for lunch and grocery shopping at a warehouse club.

Five minutes earlier I was buckling one of my 2-year-old sons into his five-point harness when he asked to ride a rocket ship. For whatever reason, I decided to play along.

I drove our spaceship out of the neighborhood and down the street, leaving the Earth’s atmosphere. Soon we landed on our destination planet and began our shopping adventure.

I have never had so much fun grocery shopping in my life. I told my husband that when I returned home, and he didn’t believe me. He sensed some heavy sarcasm. But I was totally serious. Dead serious. It was so much fun.

My out-of-this-world trip to the store

As memorable mom moments go, that trip to buy groceries was classic. We went on a search for each item on our list. As we would do so, one toddler would call out “cheese block ahead!” or “fruit cups ahead!” We didn’t care we were not using our inside voices.

I waited patiently as the Chief Space Ranger tried to spy the item we needed on the shelf before hoisting it into the cart. I didn’t even wince when the bread was in danger of being smashed.

When our cart was full, I went to the self-checkout line. The normal mom in me would be screaming, “You’re crazy!” Who in their right mind pushes a cart full of food and three rambunctious boys to the self-checkout line? We all know those take much longer and require so much more work. Well, it turns out, fun moms use those sometimes — and on this day I was a fun mom.

That particular self-checkout had a wireless, handheld barcode scanner. It was totally sci-fi. So it only seemed right to hand over the scanner to my 5-year-old Space Ranger. (Thank you nice lady behind me in line for not seeming at all annoyed as my boy carefully scanned every single item on our conveyor belt.)

To be honest, I am normally so worried about what strangers in public are thinking, and for once I was not. I was fully focused on the experience my son was having. So what if we took more time? So what if those behind me in line had to wait longer? So what?

I steered the cart full of boys and food out of the store, dodging big red cement aliens on our way. We found our spaceship and just in time — our spacesuits were almost out of oxygen.

I would love for every shopping trip with my children to be so enjoyable, but let’s be realistic: very few grocery store runs with kids in tow are “out-of-this-world” fun. On this day I asked myself, ‘What made this trip for groceries so much more magical than any others before, and how can I repeat it?’ I may have come up with something:

The Magic Formula

1.  Tummies were full

Before we began shopping, we stopped for lunch. All of us — me included — had full bellies. Often as a mother, I’ll remember to feed my children before we leave the house but I’ll forget to feed myself. I am no fun to be around when I am hungry.

2.  We had plenty of time

I realize that having ample time is not always an option, but shopping without a time limit gave me the ability to take things slow. I was able to stop the shopping cart when my son needed to search for the right brand of granola bars to place in the basket. I was able to wait and observe. I felt free. I didn’t care about the clock or the next place we had to be. I was focused on boys.

 3.  I used my imagination

Man, as parents we really need to remember what the world is like through our imagination. On this occasion, we played; we imagined. When I needed to refocus my boys, I just entered their world and used our imagination to get back on track.

4.  I delegated

I gave my busiest boy lots of assignments, everything from tracking down products to using the scanner. Normally I am rushed and don’t have the time or patience for this, but I made my son’s experience in the story my first priority. I was so calm, as if nothing mattered except to create an enjoyable experience with my kids, even in the grocery store.

On this day I saw my kids as kids, not as little people making my job harder. This is something I need to do every single day. I really am thankful to be a parent, and on this occasion I was honored to be a mother. I was honored that those boys welcomed me into their world and allowed me to pilot their spaceship.

This article was originally published in Motherhood Matters on KSL.com
The stock image used is from www.freedigitalphoto.net