In just over a week, we will have been Texans for six months. (Well, that's if you don't get too technical and require a TX driver's license to make it official.)
This. Place. Is. Vast.
I depend a lot on my GPS these days in order to run my usual errands.
Some folks use Costco for "bulk" purchases, but with the size of our family (and our appetites), it's part of our regular grocery shopping.
It's taken a while, but I'm finally over the fact that the nearest Costco is located in the city.
About 25 miles away.
In lots of traffic.
On Costco Day, I'm always sure to take along at least one helper from my "staff of volunteers". Yesterday, Craig Grayson packed his school books and joined me. We covered a lot of ground, and by the time we got to our final stop (Target), he opted to stay in the truck and finish his school work.
He had earned the break. That boy can pack a mean trunk!
I can remember when it was my life's dream to be able to shop alone. I used to think that it was so unfortunate that we didn't have family nearby and couldn't afford regular babysitters to keep the children so that I might enjoy a child-free day of running errands.
Nowadays, I beg for a companion.
It's now clear to me that it wasn't at all unfortunate that I didn't have anyone to ease what seemed a burden to me at the time.
As much as I longed for a shopping trip without car seats, strollers, reprimands, and taking head-counts at regular intervals, I'm thankful that the children and I didn't miss the lessons involved.
I'll admit that if I had been offered the help, I would have taken it; but we spend so much effort trying to alleviate what God intended for us to bear.
(ref. Genesis 3:16-19)
Women no longer have to endure the pain of childbirth if we don't want to. Most go as far as to say that they don't even want to have children, or at least not very many.
Men no longer toil for the sustenance of the family as they once did. Labor is no longer valued as a means of provision. These days, time is money, and no one breaks a sweat while sending emails or making calls.
Likewise, moms who are able to stay at home with their children often forfeit the teachable moment that comes from including them on the shopping trip (or doing chores or baking or serving guests...). Someone else is left to pacify the children in order to lighten Mom's load. This isn't inherently bad, in itself - we are called to bear one another's burdens, but we must be wise about which ones to bear.
I understand the value of help, and I encourage my daughters to help other mothers of young children when the need arises.
Deuteronomy 6 tells parents to diligently teach God's commands to children "when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." (ESV)
How will children learn to be obedient in social settings if someone is always keeping them in the sterile environment of the toy room while mom goes "by the way" without them?
Nap time and scheduling are important; but giving our children opportunities to learn proper behavior and be reminded that the world doesn't bend to the whim of one boy or girl, is even more important.
The grocery store is a perfect training ground for learning to "love your neighbor as yourself".
My children's formative years were spent on Army posts, for the most part. This meant that we'd often encounter elderly retirees in the commissary, which offered the perfect opportunity to teach the children to "stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man" (Leviticus 19:32).
When it comes to teaching children to be considerate of others, opportunities abound in a grocery aisle. I can't venture a guess at the number of times I've repeated this statement:
"Stay to one side. Don't block the entire aisle. We're not the only ones here. Be considerate of other shoppers."
If children are allowed to join mommy for her errands - and required to be obedient - after a while, not only will it gradually become less daunting to "handle" them in public, but they'll even learn how to be helpful.
Children should be regarded as producers, rather than merely as consumers. They are meant to be a blessing; but left to the toy room, they'll be hindered from opportunities to learn to be responsible and respectful when out.
Joining Mom on errands also prepares the children for learning to respond to others (safely by Mom's side, of course), look them in the eye, and respond coherently.
"So, is school out already?"
"No, Sir. We're homeschooled."
(By the way, learning to respond graciously to unsolicited opinions or snide remarks from others is another lesson best learned in the grocery store, and could be a blog post in itself. Oh. Yeah. I already did that here.)
An important thing to remember is that it is God Who sends these treasured arrows to us, and it is His Word that teaches us how to instruct them. What a comfort it is to know that He is patient with us as His children, and patiently guides us as we learn to parent according to His Word. As a mother (who is still in the process), I'm continually encouraged by these verses:
"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."
"He Who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:24
Remember, mothers, that God is concerned with our training as well as that of our children. He leads us as we lead them, and He uses the challenges of motherhood to teach us to trust Him.
Regarding our children:
"... in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Let's be interested in training our children diligently.
May the Lord richly bless you as you aim your "arrows" for His glory!