Going to the grocery store is a frequent adventure. They want to help, but they also want to run down the aisles and coast on the cart, and see how fast they can go. They want to see how many different ways they can hang on to the cart while it goes. My littlest one likes to climb onto the bottom rack and "spy" the other shoppers. Twice...TWICE...we have tipped the cart full of groceries over in the store. Now, you may think this is crazy and wild. It is, I suppose, but its not done in a destructive or completely careless way. They are very kind to other shoppers, and careful of older people. They talk to babies who are riding, and they delight in making them laugh. They like to see if they can find the jam I want; low sugar, organic, 16oz., seedless (10 points), or if they can get the right oatmeal; old-fashioned, rolled, organic, stove-top, round canister (15 points).
I am tired after shopping, and I often prefer to go alone so I can go faster because I see grocery shopping as a chore. They see it as just another opportunity to play and learn. So it is better if I choose to make that shift when I am with them, and when I do, they show me the rich possibilities in an otherwise laborious task. Helping them take turns pushing the cart. Discussing the importance of weight distribution on the cart!! (Why did it fall over?) Noticing the patterns on the floor that are good for a game of walking challenges. Talking with them about why certain foods are on my list and others are not. Honoring their food choices and their desire to try new things (What's meusli?) They read labels and check prices of different sizes. They like to see if there are free samples, and they remind me to get things I would have forgotten, like the dried mango and the kind of bacon that Dad likes. They unload the cart, and my oldest likes to run my credit card through the machine and sign my name on the electronic screen.
Just the process of writing this is a reminder that I need to chill out more at the grocery store. And that's just one example. Museums, movies, visits with relatives, medical appointments...I can get anxious about how they are going to act, and ahead of time I often discuss etiquette for different settings. I worry too much, and sometimes forget to become a part of the process with them.. I get too caught up in preventing arguments and hoping they don't seem too wild and loud to everyone else.
It is probably a Buddhist saying, but I'm not sure. I don't remember where I first read it, but I come back to it frequently when I am feeling perplexed about my parenting skills:
Don't try to steer the river.
So, even though I feel that we are going through some whitewater rapids in our journey together, I need to remember to steer the boat (or occasionally the shopping cart as the case may be), but not the river of their boy-ness.