Over the last year or so, my wife and I have developed a Sunday routine. After church, and the twin’s afternoon nap, I take both of the children grocery shopping while my wife cleans house and tries to catch up on the pile of laundry that never seems to go away.
Taking two 16 month old toddlers to the grocery store and pick up more than a few things can be quite a challenge. Do you put one in the seat, one in the basket? If so, where do you keep the actual food without little fingers opening packages and how do you keep the bread from becoming the shape of a basketball by the end of the trip? Kroger has made the right decision and removed the giant shopping carts that look like cars and drive like battleships.So how do you do it? My solution, two carts.
One child in each cart, in the seat, secured with limited mobility. I pull one, push the other through the store. It’s become a bit of an attraction at the store. Most of the employees recognize us, and say hi. The kids love the attention, which keeps them happy, so that’s a bonus.
People say things to me too, of course. “Wow, that’s a handful.” “You’re so lucky!”,”You’re so blessed!” I usually have a response. “You have no idea!,” “Very lucky!,” “Yes we are blessed.” But there’s one response I cannot stand.
This one really bothers me. If you see a woman with her two children, do you ask, “Where’s Dad?” I try not to take offense. I know people are just looking for something to say, or to be friendly, but after a while , it starts to burn. Just because I’m a man, that doesn’t mean I cannot handle two toddlers on my own.
There seems to be a double standard. If a mother takes her kids out, and she’s struggling with them, or if socks don’t match, or hair isn’t brushed, I think there’s a feeling of solidarity, or sympathy for her. She’s doing her best, taking care of two all by herself. If the father is out somewhere with his kids, he has to have his ducks in a row! One kid crying, a bit of cookie crumb in their hair and the thought is look at that bumbling, incompetent father. Can’t he do anything without their mother around? Where’s mom?
I get a bit crazy when I take them somewhere by myself. Do their shoes, match? Is my little girls shirt the right shade of pink to match her pants. Is it OK for her to be wearing pink? Is my boy’s hair too crazy? Are their faces washed? Can’t give them anything but water to drink now, can’t show a bit of spilling.
Where’s their mother? Why does it matter? Am I being a bad father? Is it so unusual these days to see a man who knows how to change a diaper without gagging like a sissy? In a world where men are being asked to spend more time with their families ( and we’re glad for it!) why would it be so unusual ?
So, if you see me in the local Kroger, pulling a cart, pushing another, by all means say hello. My kids adore the attention. Wave, make faces at them. If you’re not sick and have washed your hands within the last couple hours, give them a high five. Any distraction that lets me re-check my grocery list without worrying about the shelf full of cheerios next to us.
Please, don’t ask about mom. She’s fine, I’ve got this. Just don’t judge me when their shoes don’t match.