It happens every week. A morning grocery trip turns into a spectacle as my three-month-old son screams. I know you've seen and heard babies crying at the store before. Maybe you're a parent and you've been there. Maybe you're not and you think you have something to offer.
I've had comments of all sorts from people who surely mean well and aren't implying that I don't know why he's crying or what to do about it.
Believe me, I KNOW he's crying. I do.
I've had people offer to unload my groceries onto the conveyor, pack my bags, random offers of help like that. That's kind - and sometimes I do take people up on it - if it's gotten to the point where he's so upset I need to take him out of his car seat and bounce him to soothe him.Then, I don't have enough arms to get us out of there fast and hold him and unload groceries.
I've had the dirty looks too - like I'm a terrible mother for "letting" him cry and not doing something about it immediately. Or maybe it's for the way he's interrupting their blissful grocery shopping trance. Or conflicts with their idea of what a mother should be doing.
Here's what I am actually doing:
I'm buying food to feed my family, just like you. I happen to like spending time with my husband on evenings and weekends, so weekdays it is. Afternoons are nap time for my toddler, so I'm there in the morning. I need to get out of the house and see adults - even if the only adult conversation I have all day long is a mundane exchange with the cashier.
You'll see me hastily shoving
groceries into my cart as we make our way through the store, trying to
get everything on our list while comparing prices and using coupons as I
try to also save money for my family. You'll hear
me talking to him, trying to reassure him that we're almost finished.
You'll hear me asking my toddler to sing to him and make funny sounds to
try to flip his mood. And you'll see the stressed-out look on my face
as I try to manage a heavy cart, my coupons, my purse, my toddler and
this crying baby.
making silly sounds. I've even nursed while shopping - one arm full of baby,
one arm wrangling a big and awkward grocery cart down the aisles. So sorry
if I got in your way.
And here's why he's crying:
He's tired. He naps in the morning, and while ideally he would sleep through a grocery trip, the store is so big that it takes me a while to get through it, especially with a toddler who is curious about everything she sees. I've taken the time to talk to her and answer her questions as we shop, showing her interesting vegetables, and discussing where food comes from, and the different kinds of things we eat, and how we try to save money with coupons and sales, and answering a thousand "Why?"s. Perhaps I should do that at home to speed up the trip. But, then how could she touch a dragonfruit, or wrinkle her nose at the spices? How could she see the crabs and lobsters in their tanks? Would we get into a random discussion about coconut jelly? So, I cross my fingers and hope he'll sleep most of the trip, that the motion of the cart will lull him to sleep and nobody drops a can or my little girl doesn't poke him awake.
He's hungry. Although I always nurse him before we leave the house, he's a little guy and he eats often. So I can bust the boob and try to steer the cart (near impossible, tried it, had the awkward convo-while-nursing with the bakery staff); I can steer my full cart back across the giant store to spend twenty minutes sitting in the pharmacy waiting area and nurse him while attempting to entertain a
bored and hungry two-and-a-half-year-old with a pen and a brochure (done it). Or I can rush through the check-out line - inevitably busy - while he cries loudly - and nurse him in the passenger seat in the parking lot, while my daughter reads one of her books in the back (that's what I usually do).
He's hot. Car seats just are hot. My daughter was always sweaty in hers, and he's no different. I can't do anything about that. Carrying him throughout the trip is just not on - he's too heavy, and it's too awkward. He can't sit up on his own yet. So while I can take off his blanket, I can't really solve the problem any other way. He's got to be in there. Yes, I will pull him out and bounce him in the parking lot before buckling him back in and driving away.
He's ill. My healthy looking, chubby and mostly happy little guy has tummy troubles. We've got a specialist, and we're giving him medicine for it. But the medicine doesn't completely solve the problem, and it's at home as it's a big bottle and needs to be measured out. I can't bring it in my purse. So if that's the trouble, he'll just have to wait until we're home. Home is less than 10 minutes from the store. And you can bet if that's what's wrong, I know - I can tell by his cry - and I'll be the one standing in the bathroom in the dark with the fan on, bouncing him and holding him up with his head back, the only combination of things that will eventually calm him down.
So yes, I know he's crying. Yes, I know why. Yes, I know what to do about it. One of the best things I can do is get out of there fast - but I still need to finish the job. Because we need to eat too. So if you don't mind - just be nice, don't say anything and trap me in a polite but unwelcome conversation, smile, and... get out of my way :)