Grocery shopping has taken on a whole new meaning after children.
I mean, I used to run in and spend an hour browsing the aisles, reading the labels, sifting the coupons to find the best deal, pausing at the Starbucks for some coffee. I’d pick up some items for work along the way, and I’d usually be in nice pants and a blouse.
Now when I go, I feel like I’m on an episode of survival.
I’m typically wearing exercise clothes. I have the entire store mapped out, and my rout memorized. I know just what to grab off the shelf. No more label reading – if it turns out I’m allergic to the product, I just won’t eat it when I get home, the rest of the family can enjoy it instead. If I realize upon getting home that it contains more sugar than I’d like, oh well.
I consume more than enough coffee before the event, knowing every ounce of caffeine will make a difference. I know just how long I have before a kid melts down. And I’m keenly aware of how many tantrums I can mentally handle.
It was a standard grocery run. I lugged Samuel into the store and held Summer’s hand. I was ready for the challenge.
As was expected, Summer soon began to cry. Samuel followed suit.
I’ve purposed myself to smile when this happens.
I stop. I breathe. I lean in and kiss Summer’s forehead. And talk to her about her behavior, all while offering a genuine smile. I offer this smile because it is so rare that I see parents doing so as their kids meltdown in public.
Even though the grocery store tantrums are one of the more tiring aspects of parenthood, it really is a privilege to coach and grow these little humans. I want to remember that. On this day, I would be reminded of that.
I sincerely do not want to parent her out of a place of anger or rage. So, I am working to choose joy, even in the midst of feeling impatient and frustrated. I want her to know that her behavior is not going to control my emotions or choices. This may not be correct parenting. There is probably some flaw within it that somebody can find. But, nonetheless, it’s what I’ve felt led to do so far.
After climbing out of the grocery store trenches unscathed by the cries of my baby or the meltdown of my toddler, I approached the cashier stand with confidence. Summer was still whining for her pacifier and Samuel clearly needed to be fed, but we had collected every item on our list! A true win.
I looked up at the cashier and she was looking at me as though my breast was out of my shirt (this has happened before. Nursing + sleep deprivation = embarrassing moments).
I quickly looked down, praying I hadn’t just waltzed through King Soopers flashing every neighbor I saw.
Nope. I was clothed.
“Is there something in my teeth?” I thought. I did a quick assessment as best as I could. Nope, that wasn’t it.
Feeling self-conscious, I pulled out my wallet and prepared to pay. At this point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what she saw.
“You know you have something on your shirt?” She asked.
“What?” I replied, looking down at my shirt.
There was the normal amount of debris plastered across my front. Some evidence of spit up. Dog hair. And some smeared banana on my shoulder from when Summer nestled her nose into my arm during a meltdown intervention.
“Oh, this?” I looked at her and pointed to my shoulder. She nodded her head. “Oh, this is just smeared banana,” I replied with a sense of relief.
Then it hit me. Should I care about this? Do I appear unkept? Had I given up all hope of looking nice? Am I not honoring God through caring for my body and clothes? (I know. Ridiculous, right?)
The enemy began to bombard me with lies about the burden of motherhood and how life had taken a turn for the miserable. I couldn’t shop for work items anymore, because being a walking napkin is my work. I couldn’t look put-together if I tried because the time to do so is hard to come by.
I put the kids in the car and handed Summer her pacifier begging her to “just be quiet.” My eyes watered as Samuel continued to wail. “What have I done with my life?” I asked myself. “Or worse, what have I done to my husband’s life?”
I pulled into my garage and got out of the car to breathe in some silence before helping the children out. As I closed my eyes, I felt God speaking.
In my mind, God gave me this picture of my shirt and all of the debris turned to beautiful sparkles. I felt Him saying, “This is how I see the smeared banana. This mess is true beauty. The price of motherhood is high, yes, but you get to experience a sacred love. A messy love. A love that shapes the future and powerfully ushers my Kingdom to earth.
That banana was smeared on you by Summer because she nestled her nose into your arm during a tantrum. She was scared and angry. You smiled and reminded her that no matter how ugly her behavior was, you still had My joy and strength to offer her. That’s what will change the world. Holding to joy when it’s hard, and seeing sparkles in the smeared banana.”
I opened the car door and things did not get easier. The cries got louder and demands got more ridiculous and obnoxious leading up to nap time. But, with every meltdown, with every spill, with every moment of correction, and with every hug, I remembered that it is this mess that changes the world.
So, moms, we may feel like walking napkins, but we are changing the world. One smeared banana at a time. Just look for the sparkles.