As a direct result of me being a stay-at-home Dad, I was called up from the reserves to fight in a combat situation. The grocery store.
If I were to describe my shopping method before having kids, it would be tactical with a pinch of OCD. Getting in and out of the store in record time is something I’ve always taken pride in. My next assignment was to do it with a wounded soldier (infant) in tow. I thought that instead of using the sometimes cumbersome Baby Bjorn, I’d go with the ultra-light Snap ‘n Go for quick recon and extraction of the groceries.
I served two tours of duty as a teenager, working at a Weis’ supermarket, stocking shelves through the night and had mastered store set-ups. I knew about the weather conditions in the freezer aisle and how to avoid the bouncy ball cage without setting them all free. I had the knowledge and the tools to complete this objective.
I hit the drop zone (parking lot) and landed (got Ava in Snap n’ Go) on my feet. As I made my approach on the cart corral, I realized one huge flaw in my plan of attack. If I was pushing the Snap n’ Go, how was I going to push a cart to hold the groceries? And how would I push a cart of groceries if there were no antiseptic wipes left to polish down my cart? All of the sudden, I was in the shit. It was too late to turn back. I was committed to this mission and found myself wishing I had called in a regiment of Bjorn reinforcements.
I spent a few minutes doing my best Benny Hill (cue music) impression within the opening of the sliding glass doors. In my first attempt, I tried to push the stroller in one hand and the grocery cart with the other. The double-wide method worked until I got broken up by the deli line, forced to go stroller in front, cart in the back. As I maneuvered through the murky waters of muffin displays and imported cheese islands, banging the backs of my heels on the front of the cart, I recognized that I wasn’t getting the stealth results I had planned for. Instead, the stroller-cart caravan of chaos had blown my cover.
Weeks later, as I learned from my previous tour, the Baby Bjorn was my new key to winning grocery hill. Once I had it on, I danced through the produce section like I was auditioning for ‘South Pacific’. My unencumbered motions, combined with Ava not having the arm reach to grab anything, allowed me to conquer the store in record time. As always in life, if there’s an upside, there’s probably a downside. In my case, it was the sneak attack. Having an infant strapped to your chest makes you a time-sensitive target for elderly women who will stop at nothing to advance on your territory and go for a cheek-pinch kill. NOTE: Best defense in this situation is ‘The Elderly Heisman’ (arm extension to face) or threatening them with pink-eye.
I never had an interest in being the guy carrying a 5 year-old around in a Bjorn, so we upgraded one more time to the Floppy Seat. It’s not the most slender weapon in your arsenal, but it gets the job done. It resembles a giant airbag shaped like a jellyfish with two leg holes and stuffs into a puffy pillow pouch that you can wear fashionably over the shoulder like an ammo box. It’s advantages include but are not limited to; keeping your kid’s leg skin from touching a contaminated shopping cart and padding the blow to their heads after you hang a wild left out of the chip aisle.
I’ve moved on from the old days of thinking that I might have a nice, normal grocery experience and have taught myself to expect the unexpected. Whether it’s kicking down a pyramid of peaches, throwing soup cans on the ground or losing my credit card, I know that in the end, it will make me a better soldier.