Confession: I find shopping unbearably depressing.
Bad to start with, it’s an understatement to note that it goes downhill with kids. The more of them, the less of it, if you know what I mean.
It all starts sweetly enough. You may even do it for recreation. He looks so precious sitting in the cart, and he eats his graham crackers with a bib, and total strangers tell you how cute and well-behaved he is. What a brilliant testimony we are to Christian home life.
Subsequent kids add challenges. Life is not what it used to be, and graham crackers are in high demand. But you cheerfully hand them round, surmounting the obstacles and finding a new normal. Total strangers mention the fact that you have your hands full. You and your darlings share smiles all around. And Mommy crosses her fingers till we’re all safely home again.
And then comes the inevitable point from which there is no return, the tipping point into total chaos. You leave a trail of wreckage through the store, Hansel and Gretel style. You threaten. You beg. You implore. You breathe hoarse warnings and bribes into deaf ears. You fling graham crackers into every open mouth, to no avail. Total strangers come to your aid.
I used to think – How can I be a good testimony to Christ if my kids don’t behave? But I have learned this: everyone has happy kids some days. The real miracle, the thing that takes the power of Christ, is a patient mama when it all hits the fan. I think Mrs. Pig has it down.
These days, severe shopping crises are normal for the Zooks. But sometimes I wonder if anything later in life can ever make up to me for them.
- The predictable-but-no-less-piercing meltdowns in the candy aisle
- The time I am forced into administering Kelly’s first spanking ever, in a public restroom–at which she is so surprised that when I hold and comfort her, she pees all down my skirt
- The time Small Son bumps into a display of sunglasses, and the whole case falls forward, strewing most of its contents over the floor.
- The time a stranger comes to the head of our aisle as we are in meltdown and says in a loud, cheerful voice, “Hey! Who’s makin all that noise?”
- The time Kelly hits Regan and Regan bites Kelly in the check-out lane, just as it is time to pay. She is screaming bloody murder and I cannot hush her, sharp marks on her arm. Regan is crying too. Aarick is loitering. Cashier is waiting. Unknown man is guarding my cart for me. And we are so distraught that we fail to notice Regan shoplifting a toy bat en route to the vehicle.
Sometimes my face is flaming. Sometimes I am numb. Sometimes I am furious.
I tell myself, “A patient mama is the real witness” and I try, and try again.
And that is the gospel according to Richard Scarry.
All illustrations taken from Things That Go, by Richard Scarry.
Credit to my friend Becca Slabaugh for the graham cracker disintegration sequence.