Paper, Plastic, and Are They All Yours?

A few days ago, I finally broke down and went grocery shopping.  With all the kids.

I know.  But I honestly had no choice.  The last food items in the house were a ziplock bag of peanuts in the shell and a half jar of instant coffee crystals from last summer’s camping trips.

Ken kept telling me to make a shopping list and he would go get it done before work one day, but me, oh no, I was too busy playing Diablo or not showering to be bothered to make that list.

The kids’ least favorite punishments are natural consequences, and who can blame them?  It’s bad enough you’re suffering, but to know the suffering is a direct result of your own choices makes it almost too much to bear.  So when the natural consequences of my laziness came to bite me in the butt, all I could do was grit my teeth, hunt down the baby sling, and load all six kids into the van.

I get it.  I really, really do.  It’s unusual in this country to see a large family.  I also have come to understand that many adults make personal comments about large families that they wouldn’t make when faced with another uncommon person.  So while I don’t think the majority of people would look at paraplegic in a wheelchair and ask him twenty questions about his situation, his lifestyle, and his history, there doesn’t seem to be the same filter in regards to family size.

It’s not a big deal to me anymore.  It used to weigh on me heavily when people would say things to/at me about the kids, but now I’m in a place where I feel comfortable being a sort of ambassador to a foreign land.  That’s why I make sure I don’t go out with all the kids unless I’ve showered, put on something not sweat pant-y, and still have enough patience left that I’m not barking at the kids like some deranged drill sergeant.  If I can’t meet those requirements, then it’s another day of voluntary house arrest.

But I really didn’t want to go that day.  Somehow, a very public outing with six children under ten seemed too much, like I’d reached some sort of tipping point.  Five was one thing, six just seemed to be Asking For Trouble.

Suspicions were confirmed when I pulled into the parking lot and quickly realized the only cart that would seat more than one child was –of course- the “car cart”.  You know what I’m talking about- the cart that has a plastic car attached to the front of it so your little darlings can pretend to steer their way through the market.  Or, in my case, the little darlings can pretend to be policemen, chasing down bad guys, and make loud siren noises all. through. the. store.  Oh, also? The car cart puts little hands at the exact perfect level to sweep across the lowest shelves, knocking 3 dozen cans of soup into the isle in a single movement.

There’s a lot of indignities I can handle as a mom.

Bodily fluids, diapers, embarrassing questions asked at ear-splitting levels in the middle of Mass, no problem.  But the car cart?  It’s the bête noir of my domestic existence.

Whatever woman.  Load three kids into the car cart anyway, strap an infant onto your front, remind the two kids promoted to walking status that they’re not to wander off, and go.

We hadn’t even made it into the produce section when it started.

To be honest, we did bring this one on ourselves, since the nine year old stopped in the middle of the floor, mouth wide open, marveling at the renovations the store had made during our absence.  So while she was commenting at how “glorious and spacious” (her words) the store now looked, we had a big fat target on us.

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Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a website for her farm, Ghost Fawn Homestead.

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