Adventures in Shopping (Mommy Monday)

Part 1: The Toddler and the Shopping Trips

I remember when Minnow was tiny and I felt awful dragging her along on errands. It didn’t seem fair to her and it was just *so much work.* I had to pull her carseat out of the car, set it on the cart (ignoring the warnings), bring a diaper bag along everywhere in case of catastrophe, keep one hand on the carseat at all times (so I’d feel less bad about ignoring the warnings), and anxiously worry about a meltdown in the checkout aisle.

Huh. Maybe time fades memories to rosy, but shopping with an infant hasn’t got anything on shopping with a toddler. As in a refuse-to-sit-in-the-cart, grab-everything-off-the-lowest-shelf, try-to-eat-things-off-the-floor adventurous one-year-old. This weekend marked my first foray into Target since Minnow has been fully walking and I gained a heckuva an appreciation for those wily marketers that put Pirates of the Caribbean bubble bath and glittery candy on the bottom shelves. I also gained an appreciation for those moms that managed to keep their toddlers in the carts or strolllers for the duration of the shopping trip. How do they do it? Bribery, scolding, threats,…or are their kids just naturally that docile?

Whatever their secret, it remains a mystery to me, because the next day I took Minnow to the grocery store by myself. Usually, Fish accompanies us and one of us kid-wrangles while the other does the majority of the shopping. But I just needed a half-dozen things….should be easy, right? If I hadn’t chosen the self-checkout line, I might have made it out the door with my sanity. But I tried to self-checkout and Minnow proceeded to “help.” I might have let her put the Hershey’s bar in the cart, but I was constantly returning the bottle shaped candies (wtf?) to the bottom shelf. Finally, a clerk came to my assistance with the bagging, but the end result was that my groceries ended up in four plastic bags and the canvas tote went unused. I will *not* be trying the self-checkout again. Or maybe I’ll be quizzing other moms on their secrets to shopping with toddlers….

Part 2: Consignment Sale

My neighbor told me about this kids consignment sale held twice a year by one of the local churches. She explained that we would get up at 5:30 am to get in line to get a ticket that would determine when we would be able to get in and shop. It seemed awfully early to me to get some used clothes, but since she was enthusiastic about it, I agreed to go along. When we arrived at the church around 6 am, there were dozens of people ahead of us in line. Some had brought lawn chairs and a few (the first in line) had brought sleeping bags. What was all the fuss about?

At six-thirty they began giving out tickets. We were numbers 99 and 100 and they would let the first 100 people in the door at 8 am. I decided that I would never, ever get in line any earlier than I had this time. It just didn’t seem worth it. We went home, got some breakfast, and then headed back to the sale, bringing along canvas tote bags for our purchases.

When we got in the door, we were greeted by a whole gymnasium full of baby and children’s clothing – all neatly organized by gender and size. Beyond the gym, there were rooms of toys, furniture, bikes, maternity clothes, books, puzzles, … It was an unbelievable amount of stuff.

My goals were to get some summer clothes in Minnow’s current size and one size up, a toy shelf, a potty, and maybe a ride-on toy. I started with the clothing, which was a little overwhelming. Jam-packed racks full of choices. They had a helpful area for sorting through the things you pulled off the racks and volunteers to restock anything you changed your mind about. After clothing, I checked out the rest of the sale. Since I had specific things in mind and the best items probably disappeared quickly, I probably should have done the clothing second – but I guess that’s a lesson for next time. I did get a potty and a ride-on toy but there were no toy shelves to be had at least by the time I got to that part of the sale.

In the end, I got 34 items for almost exactly $100. As I was shopping I felt shocked by the consumerism and materialism of the whole thing (focusing on getting good deals, brand names, being first, more more more…). But maybe it’s not so bad. After all, we were recycling the clothing and toys. And some of the proceeds went to charity. I think that if we get a good amount of use out of the stuff I bought then my dismay over the consumerishness of the event will disappear and I’ll feel good about it. I’ve got until the next sale in August to decide.

But I’m glad I didn’t bring Minnow to the consignment sale. That would have been an adventure indeed.


  1. #1 Cherish
    March 3, 2008

    My younger one is much easier to handle in that regard (now) as he will ask for things and I can usually say that we already have it or we don’t need that right now. Then I say thank you for thinking of it and can he please put it back.

    I recall with my older one that I would stick him in the cart, buckle him in, and let him scream the whole time. This made me much less insane than the temper tantrums about wanting this or that or the other. He was also notorious for taking candy out of the candy bins, so this was the only way to avoid it.

    I also wouldn’t feel bad about the sale. Kids constantly require new clothes, and what you did is about as uncommercial as you can get.

  2. #2 Female Engineering Professor
    March 3, 2008

    For our Target forays, I start first at the snack counter and buy a big pretzel. My kids (1 toddler and 1 preschooler) love them and they last a long time. I might also stop at the Starbucks counter for myself. I have also been suprised that if you let them hold a toy for a while, they usually understand that when it’s time to go, you have to put it back.

    Seriously, life’s too short to beat yourself up for consumerism at a consignment sale.

  3. #3 LL
    March 3, 2008

    Keep them in the cart – bring snacks. If you always keep them in the cart they don’t expect to run around. When I had a 4 year old and a 1 year old the 4 year old sat in with the groceries until I needed the space. Mostly worked ok as long as all three of us were not too tired. But, on at least two occasions I walked out of the store half-way to done, abandoning my half filled cart.
    I still bribe them for grocery shopping (15 and 12), but now it is so they will come with me! We actually have some quality time at the grocery store these days.
    The consignment sale sounds wonderful. Better than driving around to garage sales hoping to find something useful.

  4. #4 Peter
    March 3, 2008

    Threats, nagging and scolding? Don’t buy into the modern mantra that negative reinforcement is the way to go. I’ve got two small kids (5 and 7), and although we have had some interesting moments they are also pretty simple to take around.

    Keep on engaging them. Kids are always ‘on’. If you aren’t the one that they’re paying attention to, then the bubble bath will happily take your place

    Extra crankiness is usually caused by something real. In our case, it took my wife and I (both smart people) far too long to realize that the kids were ‘hungry’ or ‘tired’. Now it’s one of the first things we think of.

    We don’t do physical punishment (much). But we do try to make clear that some behaviours are bad, but acceptable, and others are not acceptable.

  5. #5 KJ
    March 3, 2008

    My daughter is 14 months and while I don’t have much trouble in Target (I keep her in the cart with a toy in hand), I have much more trouble keeping her quiet and busy during church. I keep on telling myself that this is a phase where walking and exploring are her main activities. Eventually cheerios and picture books with keep her occupied for longer than 5 minutes. Until then, I get to know the ushers while the little one runs up and down the narthex. I give it a good try, and don’t beat myself up when things go wrong. One of these days I’ll actually hear a full sermon!

  6. #6 Twice
    March 3, 2008

    I just always keep them in the cart. Being out of the cart at Target is just not an option. I did this by necessity – no way I could chase two toddlers. With twins, I need the big carts with the two ride-on spaces in the back. I circle the parking lot until I find one and park next to it. They get in right away and don’t get out until they get back to the car. (Something to think about if you decide to have a second at some point.)

    The main reason this all works for me is that I never ever let them out of the cart at this particular store, and I’m lucky in that they aren’t particularly grabby. We’ve somehow managed to do this with no snacks allowed also – again, I think this is mostly luck. It was just too much for me to bring inside and keep track of. (Though, when they were smaller, they were allowed a sippy.) They get to hold some items I am purchasing. They can trade for a new item when I pick something else. Exciting huh? Enough trips and now they don’t even ask to get out. Of course, they are 3.5 now which makes this much easier.

  7. #7 ScienceWoman
    March 3, 2008

    Thanks for your suggestions and empathy. I suspect that as Minnow gets older keeping her in the cart will get easier. Right now walking and picking things up is so new for her, she wants to do it all the time *all by herself.* This evening she was trying to put a sock on – a task that is way too advanced for her – but she really wanted to do it and didn’t want my help. Eventually she was getting frustrated so I distracted her by tickling and “eating” her feet.

  8. #8 Pat Muller
    March 4, 2008

    If you have the expectation that the children will behave in the store and hold them to it, you will have better luck. If they are not behaving, leave the cart with the groceries and remove the children from the store. You will only need to do this a few times, but it will be worth it. I’ve seen parents on the way into the store with the child screaming in the cart, better to turn around before entering!

  9. #9 Flicka Mawa
    March 5, 2008

    I love your story in the comments about Minnow trying to put a sock on. Apparently I was just like that as a child, too. It really stuck with my Grandma that during what was probably that one time that she saw me in a year or so I refused any help walking up the stairs (at something like 1 and a half yrs), so just recently when she gave me a photo album she included a picture of me going up the stairs and the words “I do it myself” which is what I kept repeating.

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