The other day I was talking myself through the In-Store-Behavior-Malfunction that seems to be something every mother struggles through with her children. When I am the one with the incredible leisure moment of getting to go to the store by myself, and just wander around looking for the things I need, getting distracted by the things I don’t need, and not having to raise my voice at anyone, it feels like a vacation.

During those moments, I will catch myself looking at moms who have their kids, who are doing the pinched mouth, overly stern, on the verge of a meltdown thing at their kids, saying “Not. One. More. Word.” through clenched teeth, and I think, “Those poor kids. They’re not even being that bad, really. They’re just being kids. Their mom needs to lighten up.”

Until it’s my turn. And my kids are acting like maniacs in the store, and I am loosing it.

So, I had a little conversation with myself to figure out what is going on in these situations. Why am I so crazed by my kids bouncing in a store? They want to touch everything, and I just want to get the things we came for and get out. What is it about a store that brings out the lunatic in all of us?

I tried to see a store, not as a place to purchase things we need for our home, but As My Kids must see it. I tried to get inside their heads to understand why they suddenly want to be loud and out of control inside a store.

These were the first few things that came to mind:

  1. Look at all these colors!
  2. There are interesting things to look at in every direction, I don’t even know where to focus first. I will have to look at everything at the same time and freak out.
  3. The ceiling has got to be 50 feet high – look how much bigger this place is than our house. I really need to bounce!
  4. I want everything in this store. I want that, and that, and that, and that.
  5. There is so much space. Look how wide I can swing my arms in this aisle without hitting anything.
  6. The floor is so smooth. I bet I could slide for 80 feet if I took my shoes off right now.
  7. Wouldn’t this be a great place to play hide and seek? I could hide anywhere!

And I am starting to understand why we get information overload and meltdown is inevitable.

After thinking this through the other night on my way home from work – really thinking about it and trying to calm my own heart because I don’t want to be That Mom, the one who is always stressed out on shopping trips – I have been able to manage our excursions ever so slightly better lately.

Just yesterday, as we pulled up to the store, Ben said from the back seat, “Should we talk about our expectations before we go inside?” Why, Yes, Ben. Great idea. This is something I try to remember to do before we get out of the car. Now Ben is doing it, which tells me it is starting to sink in. I try not to have too many rules, because too many become hard to remember.

Stick together, Stick to the List, and Don’t Draw Attention to Ourselves.

Those are the only rules in the store.

As soon as I started seeing a store for what it is to them, a Giant Adventure, instead of just a place to get what we need, I started having more fun. I am not trying so hard to contain them.

I realized a big part of what happens in public, is that I start being hyper self-critical and concerned with how people will see my parenting skills. I start worrying that people will see my kids acting crazy as a reflection of me not having control of them. And then I remembered that I’m not trying to have control of them. I’d like to instill in them self-discipline. I’d also like to instill in them a sense of wonder and amazement at the world around them, which includes the grocery store, and all the people shopping there.

It also dawned on me that if I’m worried about what people think of me, raising my voice at my kids for being kids and being distracted by all the distractions, doesn’t make any sense. Me being stressed reflects much more poorly on me, than my kids bouncing.

So, this mommy is learning to chill out and not be tight lipped at the store. My kids are really great kids. They say the funniest things, and see things that I have to remember to see. Going with them to the store is much more fun, it turns out, than feeling like I am taking them to the store with me. As a Chore. This is not a burden. This is spending time with my kids.

Going at a pace that allows for random observations and being blown away by all the colors and shiny objects makes everything more beautiful for all of us.