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I have, since my eldest child was a newborn, always taken my kids grocery shopping with me. I have, in the past 10 years, received a vast array of reactions to taking my kids grocery shopping with me. For context, I have five children and they range in age from (almost) 10 years old down to two years old.
Grocery shopping is a regularly scheduled part of their lives. It takes place every other Friday and they know the routine well. They look forward to it and enjoy it, as do it. We approach it as our biweekly family adventure.
However, in April of this year, I took a break from bringing my children with me. Between capacity limits in the stores, looming mask mandates, and overall uncertainty and distrust, my husband and I thought it best if I shopped alone. And so I did, for a time.
But then it got to the point where my kids missed seeing the friends they have made at the stores where we shop. Did I mention they are on a first-name basis with the produce manager and their favorite cashier at our first stop? And also with one of the clerks at our second stop. And while management at Trader Joe’s may not know all of my children’s names, they do know that my kids prefer lollipops to toys as their prize for finding Joey (the stuffed kangaroo hidden in the store) and they generously give each child one of each flavor.
When I shopped childless, I was often asked how they were doing. And when they returned with me, both staff and customers, wherever we went, were very glad to see them. There’s just something about kids. And there’s just something about familiarity.
I’ve been scrutinized for shopping biweekly, to three separate stores, with five kids. Why do it when there are other options like online shopping, Instacart, or leaving them with my husband on a Saturday morning? The thing is, I think it’s important for multiple reasons.
First, I believe that children are a blessing, just like God says. And I think that whether people want to see my kids or not, they are still a blessing to others, especially when they are well-behaved. People need to see well-behaved children in public and they need to see big families in public. We’re like unicorns these days. Children are a reminder of life and of joy and the goodness of God to grant us those very things. And especially in weird and challenging times, people need those reminders. I’m glad my children can be those reminders.
And as an aside, since smiles are hard to come by these days thanks to mask mandates, my children’s maskless smiles make them that much more of a blessing to others.
Second, my children are themselves blessed by socializing with others. Homeschoolers take a lot of heat for their children not being “socialized” but I’ll tell ya, my kids, regularly exposed to people of all ages, walks of life, and ethnicities are far better socialized according to reality than kids who sit in the same classroom every single day, surrounded by the same kids, of the same age, with the same socioeconomic standing. My children are making friends with people in their community and building relationships all around them. I’m not willing to trade that for convenience.
And not only that, they’re learning. Bringing them with me provides multiple opportunities to teach them proper manners, how to politely interact with others, what small talk consists of, how to say “please” and “thank you” and when to step in and offer a helping hand to someone in need. Not to mention, they are watching me as I model everyday life skills. Grocery shopping with children is, like many things in life with children, a training opportunity.
This past Friday, our final stop of the morning was to a nearby warehouse store. My children, always delighted to help, immediately assisted one of the employees as she unloaded my cart onto the conveyor belt. And then, on the other side of the cashier, they joyfully assisted her as she put the items back into the cart. Both the cashier and the clerk assisting the cashier commented multiple times about what wonderful helpers my kids were and how adorable they are. I could see the joy in their eyes and I knew that interacting with my children gave them a quick break from the mundane. And my children left full of joy themselves, at the chance to be able to do something of value.
While it may not be exactly common or popular, and while it may be both challenging and frustrating, shopping with my children is significantly more beneficial than it is any of those things. To bless others and for them to be blessed during those few hours makes the effort and the experience meaningful and valuable. I don’t plan to change our routine anytime soon and I highly recommend it to others.Published in