Monday, February 2, 2009
All the crazy stares
I have four kids. Their ages are 5, 4, 2, and 1. This creates a problem when I go anywhere without my husband. The problem is that most places, a grocery store, for example, do not accommodate families with more than one or two children. The carts are designed to hold only one small child in the basket up front. If you have two children that are 2 and under, you can't have one in the basket and the other walking, that would be a disaster for their store. If you put one in the main part of the cart, though, inevitably you will get lectured by an old person telling you they knew of a kid out in Georgia who fell out of a grocery cart, landed on their head, and died. I know that does happen, occasionally, but I'm taking my chances and hoping that I can maintain enough discipline and control to allow my child to sit there as long as he truly stays seated. That is the issue with that.
However, sometimes I have to run a quick errand to the grocery store and I don't want to do the double stroller because I need more items at the store than will fit in the basket of the stroller. Tonight I had such an errand. We had made valentines for all the cousins and wanted to buy some valentine candy and mailing boxes/envelopes. So we piled in the car, sans Daddy (who is at work), and went to Fry's Food & Drug. Their carts are the worst because they're super tiny as well. So I put the baby in the umbrella stroller and assign the 4-year-old the job of pushing the stroller. I put the 2-year-old in the basket of the cart and the 5-year-old's assignment is to stay by the cart and help find the candy. Before we get rolling, I give detailed rules to the 4-year-old as to how he is supposed to push the stroller in the store (no running, no sharp turns, watch out for people, stay by the cart and go slow, etc.). He is actually very careful about following these rules, more than the 5-year-old would be (which is why he was given the assigned task).
We head in and immediately elicit stares from other customers. Several feel the need to give instructions themselves to the 4-year-old, who is pushing the baby. Several others exclaim their disbelief in the horrible mother that is allowing her baby to be pushed around a store by her older brother, who is only 4. Even the checker comments on how she would never let her 4-year-old push the baby in the stroller.
"Excuse me? Maybe you should tell your boss to order carts that have two seats in the basket (like at Costco) so I won't have this problem in the future. Thank you."
No, I didn't really say that, but I do this often enough and get the same comments over and over that I really want to.
I'm a terrible mother who lets her 4-year-old child assume some responsibility by helping her out. We went in the store, the children were well-behaved, even quiet, they followed my directions, we left the store, they walked through the parking lot without running, and everybody was safe and well-behaved.
So what was the problem?
I just don't get it. We baby our kids so much in the world today that nobody expects a 4-year-old to be capable of helping out in such a fashion. They would probably be horrified to know that my kids also cleaned the mirrors in the whole house (all our sliding closet doors are full-length mirrors) and dusted in all the rooms without me standing over them (I was cleaning the bathrooms). They also make their own beds, clean up their toys, and do a number of other chores. A mom that actually expects her children to work and pitch in around the house, even as young as they are. Cart me off to jail right now...