I have four kids under five and I take them to Target on a regular basis. When I say regular basis, I mean at least two or three times a week. Sometimes four. Because let’s face it, taking them along means that I almost never get everything on my list before all hell breaks loose.
During every trip I reach a point when I think to myself, “I’m NEVER bringing them along again.” And then a couple days later, there I am driving into the parking lot with my little angels in tow.
That’s how it always starts out, by the way. My kids acting like little angels because they are SOOOOOOO excited to go to Target.
You see, I’ve come to notice that there are usually 10 distinct stages that happen.
1. We’re EXCITED to shop!
When we drive into the parking lot my kids are screaming, literally SCREAMING for joy. “We’re HEEEERE! We’re HEEERE!” my two-year-old twins yell. This is followed closely by my four year old asking, “Momma, can I get a new toy? Please momma?” Meanwhile my one year old is squealing and kicking with all his might because even at 13 months the excitement for Target is contagious.
I park as close as I can to a cart corral that has a mega cart, grab it, run it back to the car, and start loading kids in. At this point we’re still all generally pretty excited. Except when one of them doesn’t get the seat they want. There’s usually some fighting and repositioning, and then we’re off. The entire way into the store the excitement builds. They see the bullseye, they see the doors, they yell as we make our way through the parking lot and think it’s hilarious that their voices vibrate as we cross the bumpy terrain. We get in the door, and they are conditioned for what’s next.
2. We need to eat. And we need to eat NOW.
I think my kids view our trip to the store like a four course meal. But they aren’t starting with salad. Nope, the minute we get inside they yell, “COOKIE please!” Honestly, at that point I pay extra attention to the fact that they said please. That’s a win, and I’ll happily oblige so we can make it through a few aisles in peace. We head over to the bakery where they hand out the free cookies. Those ladies know us by name. It’s like visiting old friends.
We get through the produce section with quite a bit of ease, and then we’re off to the rest of the store, which feels incredibly daunting at that point.
3. We’re going to make noise like we own the joint.
During the middle portion of our trip, just when they finish their cookies, they use the sugar high to let their presence be known to everyone else in the store. They talk to each other, and sing “Let It GO!!!!” whenever they see Frozen anything, which is about every 10 seconds. Did you know they even make canned green beans with Elsa on the label now?! I mean…
At this point though, everyone is still generally happy. I’ll take loud and happy any day!
4. We are going to escape from the cart.
By the time we hit the laundry detergent aisle, things start to get real. One decides they don’t want to be in the cart anymore. I distract and attempt to keep him contained. “If you want to look at toys, you need to stay in the cart!” I say this in a singsongy voice, trying to keep my cool. “Want some crackers?”
…For about 30 seconds until not one but two want to get out. After several more stalls and distractions, there is simply NO WAY to keep them all in the cart. One by one, they get out. “I walk! I walk!” I place them on the ground and they act like they got away with something BIG. Because the truth is, they did, and we all know it.
5. We are going to take everything off the shelves and put it into the cart.
This happens. All the time. I end up with the most random items in the cart. I’m so busy trying to find the items we actually need, that as long as they aren’t screaming, I sort of let them think they’re winning. They look out of the corner of their eyes to see if I notice them, and with each bag of candy that gets thrown in, they feel victorious.
6. Mom tries to gain back some control.
At some point, maybe when we have 10 rolls of paper towel in the cart or 5 different kinds of cheese, I realize this is getting out of hand. We’re going downhill FAST. I quickly place everybody back in the cart, bribing them with yogurt pouches from the dairy aisle, and they fall for it. I decide to forget whatever else was on the list except for maybe one or two more necessities, and make a run for it. In an effort to get them to last just a few more minutes, I remind them that if they’re happy, we can stop by the toys.
7. Mom celebrates and lets them run free in the toy section.
At this point, I let go a big sigh of relief. We made it this far, I think to myself. If we can make it here, we can make it through the rest of the trip. Even though in the back of my mind I know some of the biggest battles are still coming.
Oh well, let’s just enjoy these happy few minutes. They all find toys that are the neatest things EVER. Like EVER. Doc McStuffins was never so cool until they got to see her with light up shoes! And Lightning McQueen can change COLORS now? Yeah, we definitely need that too.
When baby brother starts to get fussy, we know our time is limited. I ask them to say goodbye to their toys. On a good day, they will, and its the sweetest thing. On an attitude filled day? It’s a full on battle. I usually end up leaving one of them behind, pretending we’re going to go home without them. “See ya later, Emmy!” Classic mom move, right?
She finally comes, but still has her toy in hand.
8. We make a pitstop at the One Spot.
The One Spot is sort of like the conciliation prize. My kids know it, but they are still desperate for taking something home, so they usually go with it. A new coloring book for a dollar? Sure, Mom. You’re the best!
But there’s usually still that one who can’t let go of the toy she found before. I remind her that we’re not getting that today, but she stays strong, and keeps holding it.
A full on party is about to be held in the check-out lane.
9. We limp to the finish line.
By the time we get to the checkout lane, we’re all toast. I’m usually holding baby brother who is sick of sitting in the cart, while I try to get everything loaded onto the belt. Meanwhile, the older kids have climbed out of the cart and are raiding the candy. Because doesn’t every preschooler deserve a king size Reese’s about now? I sort of win the battle with the one who NEEDED that toy, although she’s in tears. And the candy? Some days I win that battle, and some days I don’t. I finally swipe my card, load the bags in the cart, and we head to the car. This usually requires me holding one or two kids, while pushing the cart, while asking one of them to hold my hand. We literally limp to the finish line.
10. Find the nearest Starbucks drive-thru.
Regardless of the shape we’re in, we made it through another shopping trip. My caffeine tank is running on empty, and since I didn’t get my Starbucks inside the store, you can bet I’m going to go to the nearest drive-thru, which is basically programmed into auto-pilot. I’m pretty sure I’ll be okay getting paid in Starbucks for the rest of the my mom life.
In all seriousness though, these trips can be exhausting. It’s in those moments that I can question who I am as a mom or a parent. It’s in those moments, when the rubber meets the road, when I’m reminded that I can’t do this whole motherhood thing on my own. But it’s also when I’m reminded just how BLESSED I am to be able to make Target runs with my kids. Years from now, when I see a young mom in Target with her little ones, you can bet that tears will form in my eyes because I’ll miss my own little troublemakers. And you can also bet that I’ll bless her with a Starbucks. 🙂
I share many more “real life” mom moments on Facebook, Instagram, and Periscope. I’d love for you to follow along on our crazy, not perfect, incredible journey. Follow me on Instagram: (@ambermkuiper), Facebook (Mommy’s Me Time), and Periscope (@ambermkuiper).