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Parent Moments: Shop 'Til You Stop

2 months old

"Where are we going, Mommy?" Henry asks as I strap him into his car seat.

"To the grocery store. It's a place where you buy food."

It might sound surprising that I have to explain to my 5-year-old what a grocery store is, but I haven't taken Henry shopping since one particularly hot and humid day the summer he was born -- a day now known as the Anniversary of the Costco Incident.

On that day -- July 23rd, to be exact -- I decided, in a postpartum funk, that it would be "fun" to go to shopping for our upcoming Cape Cod trip with 2-month-old Henry and 2-year-old Julia. Yeah, I know.

The expedition got off to a promising start -- Henry slept in the baby seat and Julia sat in the cart fiddling with a new toy I had brilliantly brought along. I was making darn good progress as I cruised the aisles, and blithely decided to shop for all five families going on the trip. When I finished, the cart was so full that I could just make out a tuft of Julia's white hair over the boxes. Henry was still sleeping as I rolled the cart down a cement ramp into the parking lot. I imagined the other moms on our Cape vacation gushing with thanks for my shopping coup. "How did you manage?'' they'd ask, or perhaps, "You're amazing!''

And then Julia stood up in the cart.

"Sit down -- it's not safe," I hissed. She had a 2-year-old's mastery of "No!'' and as I went to grab her, I pulled the cart forward, and Julia slo-moed into a backwards dive over the front. She thudded onto the cement.

I cradled her as she wailed, and was relieved to see she had suffered nothing more grievous than a skinned elbow. As I hugged her, I looked up to see the Costco cart, with a still-sleeping baby Henry, careening down the ramp like the iconic baby carriage in "Battleship Potemkin.'' I started screaming -- the window-shattering, eardrum-splintering wail that only a terrified mother can make -- and watched as another shopper stopped the cart in its tracks.

Out of breath and fighting tears, I held Julia's hand and slowly pushed the cart to our car. Once the kids were buckled in, I slumped in my seat and called Dave, who listened patiently, the way someone engages a crazy person. As I went over the details, I noticed that my left foot was bare -- and it hadn't even registered that I was walking on hot pavement with a naked sole. Go back out and retrieve the flip-flop? No way, I thought, and wondered if I could get an ambulance to sedate me and take us all home.

It took me a long time to get over The Costco Incident. My friend Leslie helped me recover by telling her own tales of shopping horror. Her daughter once knocked over a display of Trader Joe's "two-buck Chuck'' wine, each bottle exploding as it hit the floor. "All I could do was grab her and run for cover!" The knowledge that I'm not the only mom who's gone through retail fire empowered me, and I now watched as Henry strolled wide-eyed through the grocery store aisles, like a peasant fresh from Ellis Island.

I'm happy, yes, but not entirely without fear. I'm sure I can buy something to take my mind off it.

Online, of course.


Author Emily Miles Terry is coauthor of 'Nesting: It's A Chick Thing' and a columnist for the Dream Team newsletter for Familyfun.com.
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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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