Having a baby changes everything. Everyone knows that, and I think it’s Gerber’s slogan or something. When I first had my son, I’d illustrate this point to my childless friends by explaining how difficult it was to return a movie with a newborn (“You can’t just jump out of the car!"). Well, all the Blockbusters are closed now, so here’s a look at what it’s like to run some other run-of-the-mill errands with a three-year-old in tow:
Before kid: Walk to the back of the store. Grab a bag of cat food. Meet a cute dog and pat him. Check out.
After Kid: Walk into the fish department. Remind the boy not to jump in any puddles. Examine no fewer than 15 fish tanks. Remind him not to tap on the glass. Read the names of all the species to him. Stop him from jumping in a puddle. Pick him up so he can look at the “good” fish that are up high. Remind him again not to tap on the glass. Put him down. Watch him step directly in a puddle. Visit the turtles. Remind him not to tap on the glass. Explain that you don’t know their names, in fact, they probably don’t have names because they live at the store. Wait patiently while he names all eight of them. Visit the reptiles. The boy will immediately want to leave this department, because he can sense that I actually want to stay for a minute and check out all the snakes I’ll never have. Visit the birds. Tell him not to touch the cages. Explain that they don’t talk. Dig feverishly through my purse for an antibacterial wipe when he touches the cage. Visit the rodents. Tell him not to touch the cages. Try to distract him from the giant rodent testicles. Explain that the rodents don’t have names, either, but we are not going to name them all right now. Make awkward small talk with the death metal guy buying white mice to feed his snake while trying to keep an eye on the boy. Explain that we cannot have hamsters, because we have cats, and they would not be okay with that. Pull out another wipe when he touches the cages. Stop in the dog toy section and explain that we will not be buying any, because we don’t have a dog. Meet a “friendly” dog who slobbers all over him. Discover that we’re out of wipes. Beg him not to touch his face until we get to the car, where we have more wipes. Point out a cute Chihuahua I’d like to meet, hoping to use the boy as an “in.” He has no interest. Get the cat food. Stand in line. Call the boy away from the dog tag machine four times. Check out.
Before kid: Walk in. Browse the purses and ladies’ fashions. Pick up a t-shirt. Don’t bother trying it on because I’m skinny and I will be forever; everything looks great on me. Grab some laundry detergent and check out.
After Kid: Walk in. Argue about whether or not we need a cart. Spend 15 minutes in the dollar section debating whether or not he needs a Scooby-Doo coloring book. Riffle through the cartoon character socks to see if they have any in his size. They don’t. Walk past the ladies’ fashions. Sigh. Keep walking. Approach the toy section. Try to distract him by pointing out something in the electronics section (directly across) while pushing the cart so fast, I’m almost running. Fail. Spend the next 45 minutes saying, “Yeah, that’s cool. I’ll put it on your wish list.” (I'll forget.) Enter the grocery section. Approach each refrigerated aisle slowly as he proclaims, “Lights, turn on!” so he thinks he’s really making it happen. Cruise past health and beauty. Tell him for the third time that week that he is not due for a new toothbrush for two more months, and even if he was, we are not getting a Spinbrush; they are awful. Pull up to the pharmacy counter. At his instruction, say hello to each “Target dog” individually (there are twenty, and I must address each of them by the names he just made up). Get prescription filled. Reach the registers. Explain that the $10 impulse-buy Legos are for big kids. “Do you see that number on the corner of the package? What number is that?” “Seven.” “Yes. And how old are you?” “Free ana half.” “Exactly.” Check out.
Before kid: Walk in. Avoid eye contact with elderly greeter. Grab toilet paper, paper towels, wine and meat. Check out.
After Kid: Stand outside admiring plants for five minutes. Walk in. Try to calm him down when he starts freaking out because there are no “car” carts available. Push the cart part the TVs as fast as possible, because they are showing Ultimate Fighting. Explain that we can look at the exciting seasonal items (usually featuring an ugly $200 inflatable lawn decoration) after we finish shopping. Head directly to wine aisle. Look around to make sure no one is judging me for buying a case of Pinot Grigio with a kid in the cart. Head to meat section. Stop at four sample stations. Try to discreetly steer him away from the Tyson nuggets samples without offending the sample lady by stating my views on Tyson. Fail. Walk past the cereal. Tell him that we do not need any cereal right now, and furthermore, we do not buy chocolate cereal. Ever. Spend 20 minutes in the health & beauty aisle, even though we buy the same four things every other week, because I swear to god they hide them! Visit the seasonal section. Patiently explain that inflatable lawn decorations are not my taste, and when he has his own yard, he is free to decorate it however he wants. Check out. Make awkward small talk with the cashier with impossibly bad teeth who has an unnatural love for my kid.
Before kid: Walk in, zip through aisles with a pre-printed checklist of our most frequently purchased items. Buy $60 of groceries (a week’s worth) in under 20 minutes.
After Kid: Park 500 feet from the entrance, because that’s where the cart corral is. Explain that yes, there is a car cart in there, but it’s buried behind 15 other carts, and I don’t want to rearrange the entire parking lot right now, as we’re running late. Go in. Hope like hell that there’s a car cart in the vestibule. There is. Great. Enter the produce section. Explain that berries are expensive, and he never eats more than half a package before they go bad, so unfortunately, we cannot buy strawberries, raspberries and blueberries today. Try to talk him into choosing strawberries, because they’re the only fruit that everyone in the family likes. Fail. Carefully choose the rest of the produce while saying “Yes, honey, we’ll go see the lobsters” every 30 seconds. Visit the lobsters. Get annoyed when the seafood guy asks if I need any help. Are we the only people who visit lobsters on death row? We can’t be. Visit the deli. Try to figure out the difference between 15 different types of turkey while the boy screams “I want cheese!” over and over. Politely thank the deli worker who gives him a free slice of American cheese, even though he’s a cheese snob and really wanted extra sharp Vermont cheddar. Discreetly take the slice back from him after one bite and throw it away while they’re slicing the oven-roasted extra-lean barbecue dry-rubbed organic antibiotic-free turkey breast. Enter Aisle 2. Reiterate that we do not need any cereal right now, and furthermore, we do not buy chocolate cereal. Ever. Explain that we have a particular brand of juice that we buy, in big bottles, and we will not be purchasing any 8-ounce bottles of half-juice, half-corn syrup for $2.50 each simply because they are shaped like Iron Man. Go through the next eight aisles trying in vain to find lemon juice, while trying to explain that Spongebob soup and Disney princess soup taste exactly the same, that man is called the Green Giant and no, I don’t know why, we don’t need any chips, we don’t buy cookies; we make them, and shhh that man is not a pirate! He has a boo-boo on his eye. Enter the frozen food aisle. Try to strike up a conversation about Ni-hao, Kai-lan while pushing the cart 30 mph so he doesn’t see the ice cream. Reach the cheese section. Can’t remember which type of shredded cheese we’re out of. Buy Mexican, cheddar and Monterey Jack. Get to the last aisle. Maneuver the giant, unwieldy car cart around the pallet of eggs that is always parked there. Buy enough yogurt to drown in (it still won’t be enough to last more than five days). Zip past the floral department. I’m out of argument energy points, so I agree to loiter there and smell every damn flower for half an hour. Reach the checkout. Realize that I forgot grown-up soup. Go back. Tell him once again that they are out of Spongebob soup, and why does he even care; he’s never even seen that stupid show? Back to the checkout. The teenage boy checking us out remembers us from last time and it kind of makes my day. Go home. Discover that the bag boy put the soup on top of the tomatoes, we forgot bread, and we needed Italian cheese. Fuck.