The 5 stages of supermarket with a toddler (the Kübler-Ross model)

I love toddlers. Toddlers are cute and funny and people stop to admire mine on a regular basis, which, for some inexplicable reason makes me feel like I am WINNING AT LIFE. I have so much fun with Baby N, who is 21 months now. He is a constant source of amusement. His latest trick is this: you say: “Baby N, what do you get when you cross a cat with a pig?”. And he replies “meow” and then he snorts. I cannot get enough of this trick. His mispronunciation of just about everything is delightful (until he’s 7 and needs intense speech therapy). Like all my toddlers have been, he is with me 24/7 and I really do love it.

Except when I am attempting to get anything done. Unless I am trying to watch In The Night Garden, kicking a soccer ball around the house, upturning sippy cups, ditching food across the room, or sitting in a Fisher Price car, then Baby N is not only NOT interested in what I am doing, he is taking active steps to prevent it. 

Nowhere is this more obvious than the supermarket. Ah, the Supermarket. Feared by all parents with toddlers in tow. Based on 11 years of personal experience, across 4 personal toddlers, there are 5 stages of doing the supermarket shopping with a toddler.

Stage One: Denial

I don’t know about you, but as I am driving to the supermarket I am convinced that it won’t be that bad. Baby N will be fine. He’s grown up a bit since the last time and has been a lot more amenable to recent errands. I have my shopping list, so I can be super efficient. My bag is well equipped with water and sultanas. I can get him a Chobani yoghurt if he finishes the sultanas. I will chat to him the whole time and keep him distracted. It will be fine. No, more than fine. I love the supermarket. 

Stage Two: Anger

I am not sure who is angrier. Me, because Baby N won’t sit in the trolley, or Baby N, because I am trying to shoehorn him into a trolley that is clearly not meant for toddlers of his stature. Or the guy who is trying to move his trolley along but can’t because Baby N is dawdling sweetly, but somewhat inconventiently in the middle of the aisle so that no-one can get past. Either way, there’s some anger brewing. I am trying to move on to the next aisle and Baby N is not moving at all. “Why is this happening to me?” I question. I think the guy stuck behind Baby N is wondering the same thing.

Stage 3: Bargaining

I offer Baby N a yoghurt in exchange for sitting in the trolley. It works like a dream. For about 5 minutes. Even though he eats yoghurt tubes beautifully at all other times, in the trolley he squirts it out everywhere…..over him, over me, over the floor, over the trolley. I abandon my aisle ordered list and hot-foot it to the baby aisle to get some wipes.  Baby N smiles beautifically like a Huggies baby.  And then turns around and starts reaching for the contents of the trolley and hurling it down the aisle. I give him sultanas and promise G-d that if I can just finish this supermarket shop with even half the things I need, and half my sanity intact, I will never ask for anything again.

Stage 4: Depression

We are at the check out. I have most of the things I need, but have just realised I forgot the nappies. I need the nappies. But I can’t leave Baby N in the trolley at the checkout. I don’t want to take him out to go and get the nappies because then I will never get him back in and then I won’t be able to push the trolley. This is depressing. Forget it. I will have to come back tomorrow for nappies…..

And then I look up and Baby N is sprinkling his sultanas all over the floor, followed by the box. I bend down to try and clean up but the cashier has finished and is waiting to be paid. The woman behind me, who has a small-ish baby who is starting to grizzle, is looking at me with barely-concealed horror. Must be her first child.  I leave the sultanas and start to pay. I give her a gift voucher. She enters a whole lot of numbers and codes and then tells me she needs to do it again because the voucher has been used already. Baby N is squawking his yoghurt smeared face off for his sultanas. Small, perfect baby behind us is grizzling more. Perfect mother behind me is shooting more machetes than daggers at me. I am never going to the Supermarket again. No, I am never leaving the HOUSE again. I want to get off the world.

Stage 5: Acceptance.

There are sultanas everywhere. I can’t pick them all up. My receipt is printed, my Woolworths collectable dominoes are in hand. The woman behind me is truly fed up because I went on to pay with three gift vouchers (yes, Working Boy, I’m looking at you).

“I’m sorry, I say to the cashier, there are sultanas on the floor”. And I leave. 

Except I don’t because as I walk off I count my dominoes and even though my receipt says I have earned 18. And even though I TOLD her I have 4 kids, somehow she has given me 12 dominoes. She grabbed handfuls of them, like she was being very generous. But it was all an act, and I only have 12 dominoes.   By now I have accepted that shopping with a toddler is an exercise in utter mortification. In fact, I am embracing it. So I march back up to my cashier who is finally serving the non-yoghurt smeared woman behind me and I say “Excuse me. But you only gave me 12 dominoes and I was supposed to get 18”.

So I got my extra 6 dominoes. Sure I lost my dignity but you know….you can’t win them all. And quite frankly,  when it comes toddlers and supermarkets, you feel lucky to escape at all. 

XOXO Shopping Girl


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