Going to the Grocery Store with Older Children:: The Payoff

I took my children to the grocery store and enjoyed it. Shocker—I know. It’s possible, though.

Mind you, there was a time when I would have given my left arm (let’s be real, I need my right arm) to go anywhere without having to lug car seats, toddlers, or wandering preschoolers along. Let alone take them to the grocery store, where they lick meat counters, throw fits, and beg-beg-beg for all the sugary edibles they spy.

children at the grocery store

Going to the Grocery Store Beyond “Those” Ages

My children are 7, 9, and 12. We’re mostly beyond those stages. I mean, at least the meat counter is safe again.

They had a random day off of school, and I had errands to run. So, we masked up, got our flu shots, perused the toy aisle for gift ideas for Grandma, and swung through the grocery store for a birthday pie. (We’re pie people. Sorry, but cakes are overrated.)

We did get the pie, but that trip was more than a pie run. It was the payoff for keeping my left arm.

The Value of the Younger Years

Don’t get me wrong, even during those younger years when it was taxing and difficult to take them all to the store, I knew the value of it. They learned about sales tags, and if it didn’t have one, the answer was usually No. It’s where my youngest at two learned the difference between $0.99 and $9.99. The placement of that decimal point is vital. They learned how to inspect the fruit, read signage, and how to drive a shopping cart without crashing into my heel Every. Single. Time.

This also means they learned how to not crash into other carts, how to turn corners without taking out the end stand, and how to be patient when other shoppers were in their way. These are all necessary skills, too, because they teach patience, kindness, and a bit of responsibility.

Grocery Store Trips in the Present

This brings me to the present, this year 2020, where stores have been shut down or enforced a limited number of customers and strongly encouraged us to leave extra (little) bodies at home if possible. And while years ago, I would have loved to play that card, I’ve gotten to where I miss having my children in the store with me.

Part of our positive experience might have been linked to the novelty of going into a grocery store again, but I don’t necessarily buy that. They were patient with each other, only abandoning the cart once. They were intrigued by the exotic fruit display, and we took our time investigating, marveling and choosing three items they’ve never had. Rambutans, anyone? Thank goodness for YouTube because we needed to learn how to get past the “hairy” shell to find the delicious fruit inside.

This also involved a “Yes” moment on my part. I could have said, “No” and saved the $25. (I’m pretty sure I got hosed on the $15 dragon fruit.) But if we don’t try new things, we never grow. Isn’t that what we strive to teach our kids? Try new things. Be adventurous. Lean into your discomforts and gain a greater perspective.

When we hit the cereal and snack aisle, they presented reasonable suggestions and only a few unreasonable ones, just on the off-chance I said “Yes” again. I didn’t blink an eye when my son grabbed four boxes of a favorite cereal (Kellogg’s, Red Berries). They were on sale – a sign he knew – and as a growing tween, he can devour an entire box in 24 hours. They bypassed snacks that I thought they liked – but have become tired of – and chose newer alternatives because they could see the variety before them. When we hit the yogurt cooler, they picked the ones they liked. Again, I learned I was getting it wrong. Their tastes are changing, and having them there, in the store, brought that fact to the surface. It was dreamy.

Checking Out When They Get It

As we pulled into the checkout area, my oldest went down the lane, searching for an available cashier and motioning us to follow. Before I could come to a complete stop, three pairs of hands were unloading the cart and placing items on the conveyor belt unprompted.

That’s when it hit me. These little creatures of ours; that try us and tire us and require constant reminding of rules and expectations eventually get it. Not every time. Not all the time. But at least some of the time.

Keep at it, mama. Keep your left (and right) arm. Those hard moments that you’re experiencing get better. If physically going into a grocery store right now is outside your comfort level or time constraints and online delivery is your method, get them involved. Have your children sit with you to meal plan or select a cereal or debate between fruit options. You just may be surprised by the selections they make.

Jennie is a native Nebraskan and aspiring writer. She’s a stay-at-home mom to three kids, two cats, a bearded dragon, and a handful of fish. When she’s not playing chauffeur, maid, cook, housekeeper, tutor, laundress, or answering to “Mom” a million times over; she hides in her writing nook and lives vicariously through her fiction characters. Jennie likes to read, take long walks, go on crazy road-trip vacations her wonderful husband plans, or simply sit on the deck with friends.