Friday, December 11, 2009

first supermarket toddler debacle. never again.

James was meeting his brother Chris for coffee at the mall, so I gamely decided to attempt taking both boys to the Pak N Save supermarket by myself for the first time. First mistake. Imagine 4:30 on Friday afternoon at the most popular supermarket in the most popular mall in Christchurch. What was I thinking!?!?

James dropped me off and helped me put Will in the cart while I optimistically strapped Ben into the front pack-- second mistake. I will never again ask my body to grocery shop with a 10 pound weight strapped to my front. (I naively thought it would only take half an hour!)

Apart from struggling to make decisions and focus on the task with Will interrupting all the time, I did pretty well. I did stretch Will's patience though, and by the time we got to the checkout he had had it with sitting in the cart. So while I packed the groceries I lifted him out and let him ride the toys at the front "for a treat for being so good". Third mistake. Never un-contain a rather large and strong, safely contained toddler in a public place unless you are supremely confident of being able to re-contain him.

The debacle commences. I'd given Will several 1 minute warnings, and was already half an hour later than I'd told James I'd be, so I had to push the issue and get him to leave. Of course he didn't want to get back in the cart, and since he's so huge and I had Ben in the frontpack I was afraid to try to lift him and force him in myself for fear of hurting Ben. So. First I tried the "walk away" technique, expecting Will to get insecure and follow before I got too far away. So much for that. It took him until I was almost out of sight around the corner and I was getting nervous, before he started coming after me, and even then, he stopped at a comfortable distance away to look at a red car parked in the middle of the mall. When I went back towards him, he ran back to the toys again. So much for all our training to "come" when called... he just completely disregarded me. At this point I started getting a few sympathetic looks from passersby (and a few not-so-sympathetic "why don't you have your kid under control" looks too).

Next, since "sheer force of Mommy personality commanding at a distance" wasn't working, I went back to him and grabbed his arm and started making him walk with me. Of course that resulted in a royal melt-down-- kicking, dragging his weight, screaming at full volume right down the center aisle of the mall.

After a couple seconds of that, I shoved the shopping cart into the wall at an angle and knelt down to make the third side of a triangle with my body, pushing Will down to sit on the bit of floor inside. Since it's illegal to spank in New Zealand and we were in a VERY public place, I was paranoid not to do anything that could get me arrested! He's screaming at the top of his lungs, hitting and kicking me, trying to crawl past me the whole time. I just stayed as outwardly calm and emotionless as I could, and kept pushing him down into that little space with one hand on his chest, holding on to Ben with the other (who of course was starting to stir and fuss by this time, poor little guy). I just kept saying, "You have to get in the cart, William, you have to get in the cart. You have to obey Mommy. We're going to sit here until you're ready to obey."

So here we are, on the floor in the middle of the mall, no sign of Will calming down, I'm not making eye contact with any of the passersby, mortified that it's actually MY child making the horrible scene, my knees are aching, and panic is starting to rise in my heart because I truthfully felt I could not physically force him into the cart without him hurting Ben, and nowhere else to put Ben... Boy, was I praying hard!!! And, of course, I had left my cell phone at home so I couldn't call James for reinforcements!

Finally, at my wits end, when it looked like this could go on indefinitely, I just stood up, prayed for strength, grabbed Will around the torso with my free hand, pushed the shopping cart with the other, and practically dove the last few yards to the conveyor belt up to the car park. Right in front of the conveyor belt, I somehow superhumanly swung him up into the cart and forced his legs through the holes (he's still screaming at the top of his lungs and resisting me with all his strength), muttering threats about spankings under my breath that I hoped no one else could hear...

As soon as he was in the cart with no where to go, he kept crying for a minute or so, but by the time we got to the car he had settled down. I just left him sitting outside in the cart while I sat down shakily in the front seat to nurse Ben. Praise God, right at that moment I saw James sprinting toward us, and as soon as I saw him I burst into tears! I blurted out the whole thing, and he felt so terrible for not being there, but it was nobody's fault. I volunteered to go on my own, and the whole thing would never have happened if I had just made Will stay in the cart the whole time.

James put groceries and belligerent toddler in the car while I nursed Ben and calmed down. When Will got in his carseat and saw me crying, he immediately started saying to "Sorry, Mom... sorry, Mom..." which ordinarily would have melted my heart, but I do have to say, I was so upset with him that it took me a minute and a prayer to be able to say, "I forgive you, William". I was so furious with him! I felt so humiliated, helpless, panicky, like my hands were tied, like a terrible disciplinarian... Oh man, the emotions were running high! James and I both agreed together that it's almost better not to give him any treats at all, his behavior is so terrible afterwards-- he just cannot tear himself away from anything, and one is never enough.

Lessons learned:
1) At the supermarket, put both kids in cart, not on you!
2) Better to endure the noise of a contained toddler, than deal with the noise and challenge of containing said toddler!
3) Don't go to busy supermarkets in malls on the busiest night of the week!! And definitely don't go when you've missed your nap and it's already 5pm. In fact, just don't go shopping with children at all. Much better to starve.


  1. Oh Carolyn, I am sorry that must have been so stressful! I do hope that next time is easier and that you do not starve.
    Miss you! Merry Christmas to your family!

  2. Oh, friend. I have been there, done that, and I feel every ounce of your pain! It often happens that Ben starts crying so we have to leave a place and leaving makes Jonah cry so we always make exits with both kids crying (church, the park, the library, the toy store, you name it!) Hopefully we'll be able to look back at this difficult phase of life and laugh. =) Love you!

  3. P.S. I carry snacks and crayons in my purse and pull them out for Jonah when he starts to get antsy in the cart. That seems to really help.

  4. Carolyn, I am so sorry for your experience. I love your ending comment about how starving would be preferable.

    I sure there are some parenting "experts" that would tell you that they have never been in the situation you described. But I've never met a parent I've admired who hasn't been through it. From all accounts and the bit I've seen you with Will you are an excellent mother. Will will not be doing this when he is seven.

    I can so relate to the helpless, embarrassed feeling. Hang in there! The days are long, but the years are short!

  5. Hi's been awhile since I've visited here...sorry, I just found out you have a second son already! :) So congrats on that.

    Just read this post and wanted to tell you that I could have written the exact same thing...I have SO been in this position a number of times. It's so hard...and emotional, and Don't know if that's encouraging or not, but just wanted to say I feel your pain for sure!! :)

    Your boys are beautiful!