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Shopping with a Toddler: A Mommy’s Tale of Survival


Every parent knows what I’m talking about when I say survival is certainly a primary objective in describing our days with children. Please don’t misunderstand me — children are a blessing, and I love my daughter more than I ever thought possible. However, there certainly are times when we all enter survival mode and just start telling ourselves, “Five more hours” or “Just get me through this.” Initially, after several successful shopping trips with my daughter, I was starting to think, “Wow! This is so easy. I just put her in the cart and she falls asleep.” Well, my friends, those days didn’t last long.

One particular shopping trip had my head spinning. Like all of my previous trips, I had a clear plan in place. All of my coupons were cut and organized according to the various sections of the store; I had put my daughter in the cart, made sure to bring a toy and bottle for her and even made sure to go to the store when I knew she was moments away from a nap. It was the same formula I used every time, and up until that point it worked excellently. She would fall asleep, and, inevitably, fellow shoppers would pass, smile at her and then at me. I have to say that after awhile, I got a little cocky about it all, as though I could challenge any mom in a “my baby is better than yours” contest. (Don’t we all think that at some point?)

It started the moment I tried putting her in the cart. She bowed her back, stiffened up and began wailing. I remained calm, as all parents are expected to do in a politically correct world, and gave her a bottle and toy. Just steps into the first aisle, she threw the bottle and continued crying. I immediately kicked into gear with the Mommy Circus Show – singing, dancing and swerving the shopping cart as though the aisle were the curvy Lombard Street in San Francisco. Nothing worked. She was writhing in her seat, trying to escape when I made the mistake of taking her out of the cart. From there it was all downhill. She immediately took off, and I went running after, yelling in that whispering manner moms master. She rounded the corner and ran smack into another shopper’s cart. A busted lip and judgmental look later, I scooped her up and made my way back to the cart. At this point I realized I had somehow become the pity show and World’s Worst Mother all at once.

I quickly patched her up and continued on my shopping mission. All was great until she again decided she wanted out of the cart. Learning from the earlier incident, I decided to let her cry. I have to say, at a certain shrill pitch there comes a breaking point. In frustration, I picked her up and carried her for the next two aisles. Now came the bowed back and crying again. I put her down. She was wearing a hooded sweater, so I held on to the hood while I pushed the cart. Believe me, I’m aware of how that looked. A number of times she tried escaping my grip, so I finally just deserted the cart and went home. Of course, on the way home she fell asleep in the car.

Since then I have armed myself with ways to survive shopping with a child.

1. Find another adult to climb on board.

Sure, having someone else to shop with you and a toddler sounds like the easy way out, but that is not all I am suggesting here. In order to truly have a successful couponing trip with a toddler, there needs to be an understanding among the other adult figures in her life. Going to the store with Mommy shouldn’t be much different than going to the store with Grandma or Daddy. While they may not be on a couponing mission, like yourself, they need to abide by the same general rules.

2. See the store from your child’s perspective.

It may not always be easy to allow your child to walk along side you, but it has its perks. (Make sure to have a way to keep her close to you at all times. I recommend a backpack with a leash. No, your child isn’t a dog, but trust me on this. Knowing they can only go so far without yanking you along with them will make your trip easier than running after them.) Most, if not all, stores keep their cheaper items on the lower shelves. If you get down to your child’s level, you may just find some deals that would have otherwise been overlooked.

3. Treat your child like an adult.

Before you go up in arms over this tip, hear me out. Children, especially in the toddler stage, want to be like their parents. They want to do everything you do. So I say, let them! At the store, have your child help you load the cart or hold on to the coupons. When they hand you a box of crackers you asked them to reach for you, give them a high five and really play up their achievement. It will give them valuable skills in learning to help Mommy and Daddy

4. Know your child’s limitations.

If an hour shopping trip is too long, then find another adult to accompany you so you can take turns concentrating on the hunt while the other keeps your child entertained. Better yet, find another mom to shop with so the kids can keep each other company. (Tread lightly here; two may be double the trouble.)

After implementing these tips, I learned that sometimes knowing our own limitations is the key.  It’s not easy, so hats off to all moms; you deserve to be applauded.

This has been a guest post by Nikki from Oxnard, CA
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