Surviving the Supermarket

Alisa Schindler essays

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It was something I had successfully avoided for quite some time.Truly, I went out of my way not to do it. I’d look for help, I’d pawn off my kids, we’d go without; anything not to have to bring all three of my children with me to the supermarket.

I’m sure that sounds extreme, but you have not experienced supermarket shopping until you have rolled down the aisles with me and my boys. It’s almost worth the experience just to say you survived it. You know, like skydiving or wrestling alligators. I considered making tee-shirts, “I walked the aisles with the Schindler boys and lived.”

But it had been so long since I had done it. So long in fact, that like labor, the mind forgets. Then all of a sudden you find yourself with your insides twisting in agony, vomit rising in your throat and your useless husband looking like he’s about to pass out, as you face death and life simultaneously while crying for mercy or drugs, while trying to push the newest love of your life out a hole that no amount of kegels will keep you from peeing your pants when you laugh or sneeze ever again.

That’s how I found myself on this particular Saturday with three children at the Supermarket.

The boys were grumbly from the first, immediately threatening a mutiny; but instead of putting me off and causing me to abandon the mission, strangely it propelled me forward, stealing my determination. We hadn’t done this in a couple of years. Years. They were bigger now—5, 8 and 10-years-old. Certainly not babies. We could do this.

The boys immediately attached themselves to the cart with the adjoining racing car. You know, the one for toddlers. When they actually were toddlers, it was almost never available and we’d stalk any mom lucky enough to score one, my kids loudly crying to gently hurry her shopping along. Of course it's available now.

I had a quick flashback to the three of them trying to jam themselves into the car cart which only fits only two. There were arms flailing, children wailing and a random leg that got run over. I quickly banished the image from my brain to deal with the present, which were the boys standing by the carcart, smiling hopefully. I had a bad feeling about this.  

We start out reasonably well with the 5-year-old in the car, the 8-year-old hanging off the side of cart and the 10-year-old at the helm. After some misunderstanding which was the enter door and which was the exit, our journey began.

And… it was fun! The kids were laughing. I was laughing. We were on an adventure together.  

I sent my oldest to grab a bag of baby carrots from produce, but he came back empty handed. I point directly toward them, and sent him off again. He returns saying, “There are no carrots.”

“You know carrots are orange, right?” I ask.

He nods like I’m the idiot and my youngest joins him on the hunt. One minute later, they both come back and report, “There are no more carrots.”

I’m staring at the carrots. They are bright orange and stacked in a way that I can see them from the Pink Lady apples where I am standing. My 8-year-old and I exchange a look.

“Maybe you’d better help them out,” I say and three little boys go searching for carrots.

Thirty seconds later they all run back brandishing a bag. “I found them.” My 8-year-old attests.

“No I did!” my 5-year-old contests.

“I knew where they were,” My 10-year-old protests.

I take all the bags and move on. “Watch where you’re going,” I warn my 10-year-old driver.

“I know what I’m doing,” he says confidently as he struggles to turn the heavy cart, pulling it back then forward, back then forward, then right into a giant display of parmesan cheese and pepperoni. The top of the cardboard display falls right over onto my hysterically laughing 8-year-old, while packages of deli meat scatter to the floor.


Onward we roll, and as I contemplate Corn Pops or Honey Nut Cheerios, my children race through the aisles causing older shoppers to almost break a hip jerking out of their way. I hear their laughter in the next lane and shamefully smile, even as I shamelessly yell, “Get back here now!”

“You’ve got your hands full there,” says one kindly older man, and I smile gratefully, happy to have avoided a reprimand like the one I could have gotten from the woman standing by the canned peas,glaring at me who is absolutely bleeding in her mouth from biting her tongue.

They return giggling like hyenas with hoards of snacks filling the cart. Good one, guys. I’ll never notice the 14 boxes of Oreos or bags of giant Doritos.

Somehow we make it to checkout. I pull in to line #4.

“I like #3!” My youngest yells.

My middle decides to join the torture mommy game.

“Number 5 is our favorite number!”“3!”


My youngest kicks my middle. My middle pushes my youngest. My oldest rolls his eyes like he’d never be involved in such foolishness then shoves my middle just for fun.

I yell but in that very quiet voice which is the most deadly, “Stop this nonsense immediately and help empty the cart! Now!”

They climb over themselves to ‘help’, literally tossing food onto the checkout counter, fighting over who's putting what up, while my oldest makes a tower with all the boxes.

We are so close to out. So close.

Miraculously, the tower of Barilla rigatoni and Annie’s Mac and Cheese boxes do not topple, but unfortunately the container of blueberries that my youngest was holding does. It doesn’t even matter how, because there they go, rolling away.

“I dropped it.” He admits.

“Yep, I see that.”

“And I stepped on a few.” He shows me a bunch of squished berries on the floor.

“Yep, I see that too.” Deep sigh.

I squat down to round up as much of the mess as possible. “Boys, do me a favor. Don’t move, okay?” No one answers. “Okay?”

I look up, but they are gone. I shake my head in knowing disbelief. I did this. I put myself in this position. I can hear them, laughing, yelling, possibly having a cereal box toss down aisle four. I stand slowly, brush the supermarket floor dirt and a piece of staining berry from my knees, and quickly empty the rest of the cart.

Never ever ever will I bring all three boys with me here again, I think and when I look up the manager's stern face is looking back.

Not that I would be allowed to anyway.  


About the Author

Alisa Schindler

Alisa Schindler is a SAHM of three boys and wife to Mr. Baseball. In between schlepping to the ball fields and burning cupcakes, she chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her blog . She has just completed a sexy women’s fiction novel that she would love you to read.

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January 2015 – live & learn
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