Our children are SO fun! I love spending time with them! When they were all very small, Craig was in the Army, which meant that we didn't live near our extended family. I remember wishing that I could have my mom nearby so that I could go grocery shopping alone just once in a while. But alas, she was 800 miles away in those days!
Now, I nearly have to beg someone to go with me. "More hands make light work", and I appreciate having someone to help load and someone else to return the cart (not to mention extra feet to run after the items on my list that I've inadvertently passed by).
I tend to get better results when I'm under pressure, so seeing that I was outnumbered in those early days by these precious treasures from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5), I decided that I should train our children to happily join me on errands without the drama that is commonplace among young mothers shopping with little ones in tow. This, of course, meant that I had to be especially strict in the beginning, until they learned my system.
For starters, as a homeschooling family, we have the freedom to shop during the day while others are at work or at school. I continue to enjoy this option, as it means that I can avoid crowds, for the most part. However, in the military community there are many retirees who also value the option of shopping in the earlier parts of the day.
One thing that I've always tried to install in the children is the biblical command to be considerate of others:
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
In the commissary, this meant that they'd have to show deference to these honored veterans and their spouses as we meandered through the aisles. To solve this dilemma, I taught all ambulatory children to follow behind me, single-file. (It's funny -- to this day, I have to tell them to walk beside me; but of course, my boys take up the rear in order to "watch my back".) The others rode in the cart. Imagine the joy I felt when the Ft. Benning Commissary finally provided those nifty carts with the double-seat extension! At one time, I had one child in the regular cart seat, two in the extension, one walking beside me, and one on me in a sling! What a sight I was!
My second non-negotiable rule was that no one was allowed to make special requests. It's likely that I never would have gotten out of the store with all of the appeasement that would ensue, had I allowed them to make demands at those ages! I would occasionally reward them with special treats, but they had to learn to be thankful and obedient first. Again, they outnumbered me. :-)
Probably the toughest part for me was facing the possibility that one of these little sinners would suddenly decide to throw a tantrum in the store. Praise be to God, only one out of five of our children ever threw tantrums -- and only at home. (I'll save that story for a future post. Maybe.) Still, I never wanted them to think that it would be acceptable for them to whine, cry, pout, or otherwise display ungrateful or impatient behavior in public. I had a couple of speeches prepared to ward off any such inclination.
First, I'd remind them that we are 1) Christ's ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), and 2) representatives of Dad's leadership in our home, when we are in public. I'd ask them whether they wanted to show, by their behavior, that Craig wisely teaches and encourages our family, or if they wanted to portray a false image of a foolish father who disregards his biblical responsibility to raise our children in the "training and instruction of the Lord".
My final line of defense was to clearly warn our children that if they weren't too embarrassed to publicly behave like foolish children, I wouldn't be too embarrassed to publicly correct them. There has only ever been one challenge to this (as far as my memory serves); and by God's goodness, I emerged the victor, with the child unscathed. :-)
I'm thankful that the Lord gave me the chutzpah to face head-on the challenge of grocery shopping -- and all other errand running -- with five children in tow and no help. (In Craig's defense, he was usually at work or in the field during these times, but he was very generous in his off hours -- even to the point of taking over the evening bathing ritual so that I could exercise with a friend.) It all paid off in the end. We've always been able to take the children into nearly any situation and trust their behavior.
These days, they're almost all teenagers and they've become my buddies. I absolutely love being out with them. Most of our shopping rules have long since been relaxed or eliminated, and now I even consult them on some of my purchases. The girls have made a great contribution to the planning and preparation of meals, as well as grocery shopping for me at times.
As "big kids" they have creative ways of making the mundane more exciting. Today as we put away groceries and bags, they came up with a new kitchen sport. The above photo shows Graham holding the extension ring of my grain mill over a bag full of grocery bags. The others stood across the kitchen tossing balled-up grocery bags through the ring and into the bag.
OK, so I use a lot of canned beans. I've done the long dried-bean process for things like beans-and-rice or hummus, but I've found that it just isn't worth the time it takes.
Gabriela & Morgan
To my "guys" (which I call them, collectively), I don't know if you'll end up reading this, but thanks for making my load easier and my life more blessed! I praise our Father in Heaven for giving you to us! I'm coming to pinch your ears!