By: Amber Leventry
When I go to the grocery store with my 15 month old twin boys, I swing through emotions faster than I do on the day before my period. As I gather my coupons and courage to leave the house, I know I will soon experience more feelings than a sane person should in a 90 minute time frame. I know it must be done, but I also know I will soon be exhausted from all of the feels of taking my twins to the store. Here we go.
As my partner and daughter head off to work and school each morning, I anticipate the work of being alone with my guys. On the days when I know we are going to run an errand—an errand, never two—I wonder if I have a crazed look in my eyes as I kiss my partner goodbye. I wonder if she notices the hostage-like gaze I am giving her when she thanks me in advance for going to the store. She doesn’t.
Instead of being freed of the task of leaving the house, I summon the energy to get all three of us dressed. I remember my wallet, the list, and a stash of snacks that could last most humans a day, but will maybe last my boys a 60 minute trip to the grocery store. And just when I think we are ready, I anticipate this trip will be the one that bans us from one of the two places we can shop. I convince myself to go. Just go. I tell myself to put them in their car seats and drive. Jesus take the wheel.
Costco and our regional grocery store, Hannaford, are the two stores where I know I can get a cart with side-by-side front seats. But as I pull into their respective parking lots, I see nothing other than the cart corrals. The goal, especially at the grocery store, is to find a parking spot near a corral with the exact cart I need. Otherwise, I need to park as close to the store as I can, leave the boys in the van, hope nobody notices two kids left alone in a car, and run a cart back to the boys before social services shows up. When I can pull up next to a double cart I tell myself it will be a good trip.
I understand why the cart at Costco is huge, but the cart at Hannaford not only has side-by-side seats to fit my boys, but it also has a basket too small to carry all of the stuff I need, and a fake race car attached to the front. Because if I have two kids then I must have six, right? While I am grateful for the ability to go grocery shopping with my twins, I would love a grocery cart I could steer—I have yet to find one with all of the wheels touching the ground.
For the first 50 minutes of an hour at the store, my boys do really well. Part of it is the food I keep shoving into their faces and part of it is all of the attention they get from strangers—between their older sister, the dog, and two mamas who hide in the bathroom to find moments of sanity, they don’t get nearly as much attention at home. At the grocery store, they get more smiles, winks, and coos than a puppy holding a kitten holding a guinea pig.
I am used to people staring at me without filters. I look more male than female at a quick glance, but when I am almost anywhere with my kids, specifically the twins, I am seen as a mom first. When I am at the grocery store with the boys, I am stopped every few minutes by someone asking me if they are twins. Those same people then look at me with admiration, not admonition, and remind me of what I already know: “You have your hands full, Mama.” The gentle smile or hand on my arm tells me I am accepted, maybe even respected.
And when I pass a parent with just one baby and get a nod of appreciation for the task I am conquering, forget it. My pride teeters on the verge of smugness.
Things spiral downhill pretty quickly. My bursting pride and cockiness transition to anxiety faster than Hemingway finished a bottle of gin. Did I say Hemingway? I meant me on Saturday night after being home all day with all three kids.
By the time we hit the dairy and personal care sections—the last few aisles in the store—I am almost out of food and rationing Pirate’s Booty like mothers did with bread during the Great Depression. This is the point where I make poor decisions. I have lost my list somewhere between the cereal aisle and the bottom of my bag while searching for a stale cracker leftover from our last trip to the store. Going off of memory never ends well. Why can’t I remember if we need yogurt? Do we need garbage bags? Shaving cream? Little Debbie Snacks? More alcohol? I never buy Little Debbie Snack Cakes, but in those moments I want to motorboat a pile of Oatmeal Crème Pies.
I do remember I am supposed to buy the boys toothbrushes. Not because I want to, but because the pediatrician recently asked my partner and I how teeth brushing was going with the boys. After we stopped laughing and realized she was serious, guilt set in that we were not brushing our 15 month old boys’ teeth.
Toothbrushes. I know the boys will soon be tantruming, but I need toothbrushes. In the two minutes it takes to pick the most appropriate, yet cheapest ones that will likely end up in the toilet or shoved down their diapers, one twin is using a box of toothpaste like a Shake Weight, narrowly missing his brother’s head; the other twin has a mouthful of something, because if he isn’t eating, he’s screaming. All of this is happening in front of a condom display, not on purpose, but not without apropos irony.
I am done. The boys are done. And all I want to do is put my stuff on the check-out line’s conveyor belt, get the boys into the van—shit, I need to get them into their seats again…sigh—and go home. Remember that awesomely big shopping cart? It’s great to fit your family of 12, but to get anything out of it while it’s pulled into the check-out lane requires the flexibility of a gymnast and the reflexes of a cat.
If I am reaching over the boys, I can’t reach the bottom of the basket without lifting my feet off of the ground, and I am getting four hands on my face and head while I bodysurf for my groceries.
If I am working from the other end of the cart, I am leaning over the fake car, which is only holding the beer, cheese, and eggs that didn’t fit in the tiny basket, and tossing canned goods at the boys to remind them to keep their busy fingers off of the gum and magazines flanking them.
Yet, I will withhold food and pinch my kids to cause tantrums and further annoyance to the person who gives me the stink eye while I am in the middle of this process. There is one every trip, a person who glares or sighs when they see me coming. Look, I don’t want to be at the grocery store with twins either. But here we all are. Save it.
When I push that cart over the parking lot cement, I feel light as a feather—totally frazzled, but light with relief. We did it. I did it. Why can’t I find anyone to high five?
It’s hard to savor that feeling of relief. But I do because it all could have gone much worse. With the help of two antsy boys, I must get home and unpack a carload of groceries I can barely remember buying. They’ll be helpful, I know it. Forget ignorance, denial is bliss.