Lessons in Grocery Shopping

It’s Tuesday. We’re grocery shopping. She wants to push the tiny cart, the one that slams into the back of my ankles while I’m ingredient-comparing banana chips.

Daddy lets me, she says.

I know, I say. We’re different, Dad and me.

It’s not even the comparison. It’s about observing someone doing something differently, something that appears better or effortless or more graceful/creative/wise and wondering what might happen if you do the same.

So yeah, it’s the comparison.

By the goat milk, I watch a mom with four towheads (four! towheads!) falling in step behind her. They’re each carrying little loads – a box of muffin mix for the oldest girl, Elmer’s glue for the littlest boy – all proudly walking single-file style through the aisles, a crew of ants carrying their finds dutifully to the check-out counter.

Do we need muffins? I think.


I forgot what Dad wanted us to get, I say to Bee. Was it spinach?

Donuts, she says.

(It was not donuts.)

A woman with my mother’s haircut carries her basket through the produce section. She takes her time, checking individual avocados, finding the ripest, or the least ripest, depending on when she’s serving guacamole.

I bag my apples as Bee sings.

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream…

She’s lovely, the avocado woman says. I miss those days.

Thank you, I say.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life’s a spider dream.

Paper towels! Bee shouts. Dad needs paper towels!

She’s right.

We check out. Bee asks for a treat, I say no.

My mom doesn’t let me push my own cart, she says to the clerk wearing the Halloween earrings.

The clerk smiles. Maybe when you’re older she’ll let you, she says, winking, and then asks me if I checked my eggs today.

I’d read somewhere that we observe others to learn things about ourselves, to identify where we fall in the great classification system. Are we the kind of parent that lets our kids push the tiny cart? Carry the glue? Should we be? Do we want to be?

Does it matter if we do?
Does it matter if we don’t?

We’re home now.

Did you get paper towels? Ken asks me.

I remembered paper towels! Bee says. Mom forgot, so I remembered to her.

I let Bee push her own cart a few days ago. We had an extra window of time and I had an extra window of patience, and she scooted those wheels aisle after aisle, only knocking over a few bath soaps along the way.

For a moment, I was proud I’d become the kind of mom to release the reins, to choose Bee’s experience over my convenience, to see a glimpse of beauty in a slower afternoon at the grocery store.

But letting Bee push the cart doesn’t make me that kind of mom.

That kind of mom doesn’t exist.

That kind of mom remembers the paper towels (sometimes). She chooses to let her kids march with muffins (sometimes). She takes her time in the avocado section (sometimes), she grows wistful of the past (sometimes) while appreciating the present and anticipating the future. (Sometimes.)

She says no to giving her kid a treat, except for when she doesn’t.
She lets her kids push the cart, except for when she doesn’t.
She checks the eggs, except for when she doesn’t.

Like avocados, like eggs, like apples, we’re different from person to person.

But we’re also different from day to day.

Row, row, row your boat,

From choice to choice.

Gently down the stream…

And that’s OK.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

(That’s better than OK.)

Life’s a spider dream.


p.s. This essay is part of a series with Land of Nod. All month long, we’ll be Celebrating Tuesdays – the everyday adventures, mishaps and lessons we’re learning from the parenting trenches. Thanks for reading, and follow along with #CelebrateTuesday on your favorite social channel!

  • I love your parenting posts so much. They let me exhale and release my shoulders that I didn’t even know were close to my ears and tight. I feel like everything is going to be o.k. after reading your posts, like I’m going to be o.k.! Thank you for that gift of peace and acceptance. So So kind of you!

    • Oh Jana, this is such a kind note! Thank you! Everything IS going to be OK. You’ve got everything you need. ;)

  • Erin,
    So excited to collaborate with you on this series. Your words mean so much to me, as I live this struggle with my littles every day. I’ve found it’s so important for me to take my “patience temperature” each day and only do what I can handle, instead of what I think I should do to be “that mom” I have in my head. Here’s to doing the best we can and loving ourselves and our kiddos!
    -Creative Director @ The Land of Nod

    • “Patience temperature”!! That’s the perfect name for something I didn’t realize I was doing (on good days) and forgetting (on the rough ones). Perfect. = )

    • Oh sweet friend – I, too, love the idea of a patience temperature! Thank you for finding a name for something I didn’t realize I had. ;) So, so grateful to partner with you on such an important series! See ya next Tuesday! ;)

  • I worry less about him hitting my heels than everyone else’s in the store, but I know this one – push the little cart, walk next to the cart (you have to stay with me or in you go!), help with groceries (be gentle with the apples, please)… I figure he won’t have some of the experiences if I can’t give them to him, so I do when I can. You know? = )

  • Whenever I forget to hop on to your blog for some inspiration, I somehow land here just when I need to. And yet, you’ve reminded me that we don’t need inspiration to be good moms, or “that mom.” We just have to row along merrily, with our kids and up and down their streams. For it’s these days that will slip past us quicker than we’d like; I see that now that i have a 6 year old and a one year old. I still don’t have it together, and yet perhaps this “me, currently” will never have it together! And that’s ok. I’ve accepted that I am “this mom” and it is enough, for me and for the kids. (And hey, my elder kid actually pushes the big carts now!)

    Can’t say how much I needed this today.
    Thanks, Erin…

    • Oh Martine, you are the sweetest thing. I always love hearing your perspective, and isn’t it freeing once we realize we’re not “this mom” or “that mom” but “a mom”? Just a mom to the kids we love. Sending hugs your way!! :)

  • oh seriously, this has got me giggling….i’m remembering that moment a couple months ago when I caught the deli guy laughing at me because I was being propelled past the bagels by 2 kiddos catching my ankles with their mini carts! it feels good to laugh at myself a bit….

  • It was so much fun reading your post. I love tour way. Curious about a post written by dad. What do you think?

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