Monday, May 12, 2014

On Running Errands Alone

On Saturday afternoons, my husband occupies all four kids one way or another and I have a half-hour guitar lesson. For that short time each week, I am kid-less. It is a healthy, rejuvenating half-hour for me. A half-hour in which I can focus on myself, my guitar, and the chords before me and not wonder if the toddler is getting into something he shouldn't, not have to break up shouting matches between my two oldest, not have to be interrupted to feed a crying baby. It is a half-hour all my own, and I treasure it.

Something interesting happened recently. I got to my lesson about 15 minutes early, accidentally (I over-estimated traffic). I was thirsty and needed to use the bathroom, and we needed a few groceries. Next to Guitar Center is a Trader Joe's. I parked the car, went to Trader Joe's, bought a couple of things, including a drink for myself, drank it, then went into Guitar Center, used the bathroom, and then went to my lesson.

For someone without kids, or someone who is regularly able to run errands without their kids, this doesn't seem at all remarkable. I mean, it's an obvious sequence of events.

But if you're like me and you almost always have at least one or two small children with you - or even three or four - you can understand why this was interesting. Normally, running any errand, whether it's to pick up a few things at the store, make a deposit at the bank, or run in to the post office, is a project. Depending on how many and which kids I have along for the ride, I need to plan my parking spot close to the door or the cart return, I need to wear the baby or put him in the cart, I need to hold at least two other hands, keep my eyes on the others lest they wander. I usually try to limit my errand-running to one or two per day. It can be exhausting.

No to mention that any trip to a grocery store inevitably involves requests for treats or a drink, various instances of "can we get this?", a trip to the samples table (at Trader Joe's), and potentially fights over who sits in the cart and/or who pushes it. And G-d help me if there are kid-sized carts!

And forget stopping in the bathroom. I'll just hold it until I get home.

If I forget to buy something on a trip to the store, oh well, we'll do without. If we need something in particular, I stack that errand with any others I may need to do. There's no "stopping in on the way to" or "just running out for"s in my life. I'm not complaining. This is just my reality right now. It has gotten easier in recent months since the older two can get themselves into the car without assistance and the toddler can at least climb into his car seat, although I do have to buckle him. It's gotten easier because the older two know not to run off or dawdle in parking lots. It's gotten easier because they can actually help me by grabbing things from the shelves, standing with the cart while I run to the other end of the aisle for something, and make the baby smile.

So, suffice it to say, I enjoyed the luxury of being able to run in to Trader Joe's, buy some stuff, and use the bathroom all by myself.

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