It has occurred to me a few times lately upon seeing large families out doing their shopping, what I must have looked like when I took five, six or seven kids with me to a store. There were curious stares and often comments like, “Are they all yours?” and “You certainly have your hands full.” Coming from a fairly large family myself (I am one of six children), and having planned to have at least five or six children, our “crowd” just did not look that large to me. They were spaced about two to three years apart and each baby was welcomed whole-heartedly. I really loved being surrounded by my kids. So sometimes when I see a young mother pushing a cart with a baby seat and a toddler in the cart and two or three (or more) children trailing along behind, I get a little nostalgic. Sometimes a mom likes to remember...
These days when I go to buy groceries, I do not have a shopping cart full of diapers, baby food, animal crackers, or jars of peanut butter or jelly. I don’t have to make dozens of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each week anymore. We used to go through a jar of grape jam every week. And that reminds me: One of my favorite stories to tell is about a time when my second child was four or five years old. It was a Thursday. I know that because I always did my grocery shopping on Thursday mornings back then. We were at the grocery store and she loved to “help.” The truth is I probably needed her help because I was most likely VERY pregnant, making it hard to bend over, or pushing a cart with one hand and holding a baby with the other. My babies never made it all the way through a shopping trip without wailing to be held and who can think straight with a hysterical baby right in front of their face? Not me. So, I became very good at pushing a cart with one hand. Back to that Thursday morning, so long ago… grape jam still came in glass jars and it was on the bottom shelf. My little helper followed my directions and picked up a jar of jam but dropped it on that very hard floor. The result was a purple, sticky mess with lots of glass pieces scattered around it. I found a clerk who made the customary announcement, “Cleanup on aisle five.” Soon, a young man with a broom and a mop came to the rescue. I apologized profusely and he was very forgiving. Fast forward to one week later. My little darling again picked up a jar of jam, and that slippery jar ended up just like the one from the Thursday before. So, I found a clerk, heard the intercom call for a cleanup on aisle five, and we waited on the nice young man with the broom and the mop. I was embarrassed and very apologetic as I had been the week before. The man looked at the mess then looked at me. He spoke two sentences to me. He said, “Could you start coming in on Tuesdays? That’s my day off.” It wasn’t long after that and jam started coming in plastic containers. And now you know the reason for that! Ha. Sometimes a mother has to laugh off life's embarrassing little moments.
I have a lot of funny shopping stories. Once, when we got to our shopping destination, I had a toddler fall out of the van. Head first. I had an infant in a car seat balanced on my left hip and only one hand free and a split second to prevent my child from landing in the parking lot on her face. I grabbed her by the ankle as she tumbled out and I jerked up. And there I stood… with a baby seat on my left hip and a little girl (in a dress) dangling upside down from my right hand above a hot parking lot. THAT was a hard situation to resolve. Sometimes a mom really does need more than two hands.
Once Isaac was born, we almost never made it through a trip to any store without at least one person stopping us to ooh and aah over his beautiful eyes. Isaac has light blue eyes with a dark blue ring around the outside. Women often wanted to admire his eyes. (They still do.) Around age three, Isaac had taken all of it he could handle. If a lady approached him he’d hide his face. If someone commented on his eyes, he would cry. Those poor ladies felt so badly for terrorizing a preschooler! I considered putting a paper bag over the kid’s head to hide those gorgeous eyes for a few years there. Sometimes mothers have to take drastic measures.
One of the stories I have told the most over the years is about the time my oldest son had a major meltdown in a fabric store. He was about four or five and at the time wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up. He had a gun belt, a toy rifle, a cowboy hat, and a spring horse he called, “Trigger.” He loved to watch “Davy Crocket” and other movies in which the hero fought savages. We live near a town that is both the home of a state university and a small Indian University. The dramatic meltdown occurred when we were in a fabric store and a couple of men walked by. The men were very tan with brown eyes and long black hair, obviously Native American. My boy became hysterical, screaming, and scrambling to hide behind me. He was shrieking, “Hide! They will kill us! They will get their bows and arrows and kill us!” Luckily, the men found it amusing and were not offended as I offered them my excuses and regrets. Being a mother is sometimes very humbling.
I normally blog about autism and this post would not be complete without memories of shopping with a young Tate. When Tate was around eighteen months old he had some very unusual behaviors. I did not yet know that these behaviors meant there was an autism diagnosis in his future. I only knew that he was unique and very sensitive to many things that he should have been able to tolerate and he was very aware of some things that he should not have known at all. It was one of the most curious things I had ever experienced but when we shopped we could NOT walk down the aisle that contained cookies or we paid for it. Keep in mind he was the sixth child. I had experienced tantrums in stores before. I had experienced scared children before. I had experienced children who were in pain before. If Tate caught sight of a package of cookies or if he HEARD the word cookie then he went from docile to inconsolable and frantic. There was no way around it. I tried my best to do my shopping without Tate along for quite a while. It is very hard to avoid all signs of cookies when you are in a grocery store. Another thing Tate did in the stores began about age two. He could “read” the product names by singing their jingles to me or quoting their commercial to me as we wandered through the store. When we saw the Charmin toilet tissue he would say, “Less is more.” When we walked past the cereals he rattled off jingles and advertising slogans one after another. I could hold up a tub of margarine and he could tell me if it was Blue Bonnet or Parkay. He was not exactly reading but he had all the products matched to their commercials. He could memorize commercials, picture books, songs, or movie dialogue after just hearing it a couple of times IF he was interested in it. He still can but only IF it is something that appeals to him. He cannot/will not memorize math facts quickly, the name of states, or anything useful that we would like for him to retain. It is maddening the way his brain works! Mothers sometimes have to accept what they cannot change.
I have so many precious memories of my little ones. My kids continue to bring me joy as they grow but I will always miss them as babies too. Things were often a blur when I had so many little ones all at once but I am able to remember many of the special things they did and I tried to write some of them down in their baby books too. I have many more memories to share in the future. If you are a mother, jot down the embarrassing moments, the things that make you smile and the things that are unique about your child. Someday you will be very glad you did it because sometimes Moms like to remember.