Mission Improbable


mission impossible.

Once upon a time, I wrote a weekly column called Miss Mom. It appeared on a community web blog called the Spartanburg Spark. I thought I’d drag some of my favorites out of the archives.

The other day I was watching a young mother making a purchase at the store. She had a baby on one hip as she was trying to pay for her purchase. Her other child, a lively little girl, was making fast circuits around the checkout area, running as fast as her little feet could carry her as she giggled loudly with delight.

That scene made me remember my days of shopping with my kids when they were young. This is a task undertaken by moms for generations. Shopping with kids at times could be like an epic adventure or one of those thrilling television shows. There was excitement, adventure, danger, suspense. Don’t believe me? Then sit back and enjoy what I will call Mission Improbable


Good morning, Mrs. Phelps. Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is as follows. You must take the following list and make purchases found on that list. You must do so within budget and try to use the coupons provided. Your team, if we may call it that, are young, inexperienced and will depend completely on your guidance. It is your job to take them on your mission and keep them safe and content until you all return to base safely….

You will take yourself and your charges to the grocery store. After you unstrrap the toddler from his car seat and shout at the seven-year old to not run out into traffic you enter the facility, beginning at produce.

Why is grocery shopping with children such a mission improbable, you ask? Because to kids, stocked aisles full of foodstuffs with colorful packaging is nearly as appealing as an amusement park. There areĀ all sorts of interesting displays, and things to touch, despite what moms repeatedly tell them. There is even a thrill ride in the form of the grocery cart. While the little one sits in the seat in the front of the cart and tries his darndest to pull things out of your purse, the older ones will take turns hanging off the sides or beg you to push the cart. Their pushing the cart, if they are still not quite tall enough to see far down the aisle, is just asking for trouble. They will either run into every obstacle they can’t quite see or repeatedly run into your ankles while you are comparing prices of spaghetti sauce.

While the oldest is imagining he’s the next star demolition derby driver, and eyes the pyramid of cracker boxes at the end of the aisle, the middle one is trying to sneak in four boxes of snack cakes into your cart when you aren’t looking, or is simply taking off items off the bottom shelf to see if she can fit into the space she just made. This will take about 12 seconds, or as long as it takes you to find the coupon you had brought for paper towels.

When you get to the back of the store, or the furthest point from the nearest exit is where the greatest possibility of tantrums occur. This is usually because the toddler is upset because you took a box of mac and cheese away. She just doesn’t yet understand why she wasn’t supposed to gnaw a hole in it. Sometimes the tantrum comes from an older child who is mad because you aren’t buying that super sized box of sugar bomb cereal that they just HAD to have. Reports of mom’s making hasty retreats with children literally in tow in such situations have occurred, leaving full carts of groceries behind. Resisting the tantrum maneuver is recommended but can difficult. Bribing the temper tantrum throwing child is one way of dealing with this danger, but it often causes long-term ramifications. It is best to find and use other methods to diffuse that volatile situation if it arises. You need to be prepared to use a variety of tactics to end the situation as quickly as possible. Retreat is certainly an option as was already mentioned.

After your list is complete, with only 14 extra items added to the cart, at least that you are aware of, it is time to begin the process of ending your mission and you head to the checkout line.

Depending on the time of day you choose for this mission, the checkout process can take a while. That is when your team can go into whine mode. They will complain of being hungry, bored, or tired and ready to leave 5 minutes ago. This is often one of the prime times that they will suddenly and without warning have an urgent need to use the bathroom, right now. It is wise to familiar yourself with the locations of every public restroom in a three state area. You will be surprised how valuable that information can be.

Now you approach the checkout station. Patience on your part is paramount at this time because you reaching little kid nirvana, or the candy display all people must pass on the road to the cash register. This display is set right at eye level for any child under the age of ten. Use all your skills to dissuade your team from persuading you to purchase, gum, candy, mints, or some cheap toy displayed. Your team has means of persuasion that could render the most hardened criminal mastermind into giving up his darkest secrets. They will attempt to use their persuasion skills on you. Use diversionary tactics to try to take their attention off of that tempting candy display. One suggestion is to do what you can to channel their energy into helping you unload the grocery cart instead.

Finally, when you have made your purchases, take all the bagged groceries and load the kids and bags back into your car. Go home, unload everything, (and everyone), give the kids a snack to hold them over till dinner and put your purchases away. You will have just completed a successful mission.

Should you choose to not take this mission, or convince your spouse to do it instead, we will not hold it against you, while applauding your delegation skills. Just try to talk him into taking the kids along.

Just one more thing. The toddler’s diaper will self-destruct in 30 seconds.



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