"Hey Hun...why is the bread mangled and squished?"
My husband asked me this question a few weeks ago, after finding our brand new bread had an odd shape. My reply was, "our son kneaded it before we bought it." The confusion on his face illumined the fact that he really didn't understand why I had let my son "grope" the bread and how a mother has to use ninja skills to get out of the store with everything semi intact. Therefore, I began to open his mind to what a grocery shopping experience with an almost two year old is like.
I would like to state first, that my son is obedient, a good listener, and enjoys "helping" Mama in the store; unfortunately his idea of helping and mine are drastically different. Now I usually let my son sit in the main part of the cart ( I know...such a bad parent right? Get over it...). The reason for this is that he cannot sit still in that little seat built for the torture of all small humans. We have come to an understanding that when the cart is moving, he sits; and when it stops he can stand and help.
Let me be the first to say that I live by my own grocery store etiquette, I silently grumble when people break my own rules...but that is a different topic for a different time. So, when I shop I hold to the GOLDEN RULE of shopping with Tiffany: when in an aisle one must pull over to the side that you are wishing to peruse/pick an item from; NEVER stop dead center - this will cause a traffic jam. As a single person this worked nicely, however, with a toddler this can prove daunting; because as we all know there is never just one thing on a shelf. For a child who loves to help, loves food, and has a penchant for stacking random items - a grocery store shelf is Utopia.
As I am selecting the item that I wish to purchase, my son has discovered a myriad of items that he believes we need in our cart. As I turn back to my cart, I now realize that my son has stocked our cart with 20 cans of tomato paste...apparently he has a craving for Italian food..noted. His face is beaming, and he says "help", so I cannot get mad. I thank him for being so helpful, and then have him help me restock the shelf. As I am putting the last can on the shelf, he spies the canned green beans. Yelling "geen bees" he lifts his tiny arms up, as I quickly put the cart in motion. Narrowly avoiding having to restock another shelf. This little maneuver happens time and again, which makes the quick trip to the grocer much longer than it should be. My least favorite aisle is the produce...that is a nightmare...because this is my son's paradise! So many things that are ready to be eaten...and I will stop there cause I really do not need to say more.
The other thing that occurs is while my cart is in motion, there are limitless things inside the cart that are now ripe for squishing, biting, and licking...yes I said licking. I hear my son say "Mmmmmm" and I look down to see him "hugging" the bread and making smacking noises. Or rattling the crackers, shaking the cereal, and squeezing the marshmallows. Nothing is off limits, and yet when I say, "be gentle or put that down" he does listen and usually leaves the offended item alone. By the time I reach the register my items do not look like they did prior, but they are ours, we maimed them and therefore we claimed them. I let my son help me unload the cart, because the joy that this brings him is immeasurable...and I want him to WANT to help. Our grocery items are further assaulted at this point, but I couldn't care less...they still will cook and taste the same.
Finally, we return home. As I place the squished bread on the shelf, I am reminded that things like this are only temporary. I won't have to eat squished bread for the rest of my life...but I know that someday I will wish for the days of squished bread, broken crackers, and rattled cereal. I tell my husband this very thing, as I explain why certain items look the way they do...and we both smile.
Every trip to the grocery store, I am reminded of one particular moment and the words of an elderly woman after she watched my son and I dance the grocery store waltz. "You have one good helper there, and honey, squished bread has always been a favorite of mine." Winking as she walked away. Quiet affirmation and wisdom from an old warrior. Looking down at my son's smiling face, I know that squished bread is my favorite as well...