Drive-By Parenting: A Dollar for Your Thoughts ... Or Not? (2012)

Exhibit A?

Dollar General was exclusively created for moments when you're shopping with a toddler in tow... for the moments when you aren't FULLY committed to the shopping process in a Publix kind of way, but you are danged and determined to GET.  THE.  GROCERY.  SHOPPING.  DONE. 

Yes.  I stand a survivor... and my kids do, too.

You know what it looks like.  Your kids are just being kids.  Doing their kid duty of throwing the "Can-I-Have-A's" left and right while tossing in just enough "yes ma'ams" in their sweet southern drawl to make you consider the notion of actually purchasing a glow-in-the-dark silly putty egg... again.  (And don't get all "holier-than-thou."  You know you have some!)

Then, when you've almost made it to that last item on the hurried list, the spunky kid of the bunch wants to do something that will extend the shopping experience .  For my little love it was a "I want to push the cart" moment.  With emerging speech in hand, however, it sounded more like this, "This is MY cart.  Not yours.  My cart."  Now, my Mommy-Translator knows that this means, "Mommy, I really want to push the cart.  Puh-leeeeeeeeze let me push the cart." 

To the Drive-By-Parenting-Expert we encountered, however, all that was heard was a bossy toddler telling Mommy what to do.

This Stranger-Turned-Parenting-Pro took it upon herself to make our teachable moment HER teachable moment. 

God bless her.  

She meant well, but her "help" took a very simple Mommy/kid moment and turned it into Grocery Store Breakdown Level 10.  Let's just say that we made the People of Walmart look tame before we departed Dollar General.  (If you have pictures, don't tag us.  We prefer to go out on an anonymous note.  It's just how we roll.)

Anyway, Drive-By-Parenting-Pro is telling my new-to-talking toddler why his Mommy is right... and why he is also just plain wrong to want to push the bright yellow buggy that is begging to be pushed.

Determined and freaked out toddler is increasing in his level of freak-out because this stranger is talking to him as if she's known him forever.  I'm freaking out because some stranger is talking to him and interrupting my teachable moment (I was SO on a roll before she came over!). 

Oldest son is totally in his element (kid can talk to a wall and make the wall talk back) as he tells our Personal-But-Not-Requested-Life-Coach about the quality of the items on the Summer Clearance aisle at the DG. 

I finally got my wits about me long enough to politely dismiss our new, um, "friend," and make a beeline for the cash register.  It was beyond time to go and I knew it.  

Code Red Toddler Moment in progress and we FINALLY make the register.  

I believe a shoe flew off somewhere around the green bean aisle and as frugal as I am, I was willing to eat the loss.  Take one for the team, Shoe.  #teamwork

So, we're at the register and our new friend was also there...  explaining to the clerk and friends how she tried to help intervene with our "moment" over by the toy aisle.  That conversation shifted into "Can we just get him his own buggy?" when I walked up with a very upset little man and a cart full of groceries.

Here's where the lesson sticks, though, friends... for my kids AND for me... but also for the Drive-By-Parents of the world.

When asked if my child could be pacified by just getting his way (i.e. PLEASE shut him up), I told her, "NO." 

She looked at me funny and I reiterated, "NO.  He's a toddler and in a learning curve.  God gave me the job of teaching him through these moments and I'm up for the task.  I realize that it might be more comfortable for others if I just gave him his way and got him to be quiet; however, that's not my calling.  My calling is to teach and I'm up for the task... even when it's not a pretty process."  (The movie theaters of the world may not be teachable zones, but with all of the parenting power I possess, I hereby deem the grocery store a zone for teaching.)

See, I believe that our kids can test boundaries with us first... OR as a sweet friend told me once, they can test them with a police officer when they are 18... or with a judge when they are 28... or with a boss when they are 35.  The consequences now are much more apt to be more in the spirit of a teachable moment and less in the realm of traumatic life change that cannot be turned around.  

My job IS to teach and to meet the challenge when my kids test the limits.  It's how they learn and if I'm freaking out every single time they test the parameters, I stunt their growth AND create needless anxiety for myself.  (In other words, break out the number 2 pencils, kiddos.  It's time for some testing!)  

I choose (over and over again) to meet them with calm... and when I'm all out of calm, to press my own restart button and try for calm all over again.

Needless to say, Dollar General wasn't prepped for this response... and I don't know if I was either.  I watched the words float out of my mouth and thought, "Who IS this woman speaking?".  And then I realized, "this woman" is the woman God called to these moments.  She's got arms strong enough to carry a writhing toddler and a heart soft enough to cuddle him up when the meltdown is over. 

And "this woman"?  She's also courageous.

Courageous enough to walk in the same Dollar General less than 24 hours later... with the same toddler... and try it all over again... just to bless us both with a second chance at trying out this lesson... to make sure that it really did stick.

And guess what?  On Take 2, he DID drive the cart... and he did it quite well.  Turns out, he's not bucking authority, but begging to have a task that's his own. He's a little leader and he wanted to have a moment to "drive."  I kind of like that about him and am glad to feed that part of his spirit.

Honestly, I believe deeply that sometimes parenting is all about how we perceive "the battles" at hand.  Sometimes, just sometimes, they really aren't battles at all. 

Sometimes they are more growing pains that require that we as parents care less about what the people around us think.  They are moments that insist on parentals that have their egos in check.  (Whew.  Yes, parenting without an ego is where it's at, friends... and it's TOUGH stuff. I don't always pull it off, but oh, how I'm trying!)

So, I don't know if YOU all learned anything, but I know that this Mommy did.

1- Drive By Parenting is a no-no.  Just don't do it.  If you don't know that mom with the upset kid in the grocery store, then chances are you don't know the size of their shoes, much less where said shoes have traveled.  Smile.  Practice grace.  Go back to your grocery list unless you'd like to help her get her list tackled.  If the latter is true, chances are she could use some Tylenol and it's on Aisle 10 on the right.

2- The woman who puts the missing shoe back in your buggy really does understand.  Her smile says it all.  She speaks your parenting language.  She's fluent in grace-speak.  She is your friend and it's perfectly permissible to hug her before you leave the store.

3- The friend that you see in the grocery store who smiles knowingly, doesn't ask questions, and proceeds to say, "Anyone who says they haven't had this moment is lying"... well, that's a TRUE friend.

 4- This one's my fave-- we may do it different than you do, but we do it perfectly "us".  There is a lot to learn, but God picked me for this crew... and I think He kind of smiles at us more often than not.

Key lesson, though? 

When you go back for the Take 2/Do-Over shopping experience... only take ONE kid with you.  (I mean, come one, people! I'm determined... NOT CRAZY!) 

May you make mistakes, crave peace, and dance in grace- 

Copyright © 2012 by Christie Aitken. All rights reserved.


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