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Teaching Moment on Aisle 8!

Did you ever think that your endless trips to the store would turn out to be opportunities to enhance your little darlings’ life skills?

It’s true.

On your next shopping venture, seize the opportunity to teach them that running down the aisles and tripping little old ladies is not appropriate; hiding in racks of clothing and jumping out at unsuspecting shoppers is not appropriate; grabbing the store microphone and shouting, “Straightjacket on aisle three, please. Straightjacket on three!” is not appropriate. Oh wait, that was me.

And then there are the character-building experiences: If your child is a bit shy, the security cameras at the Target entrance provide a wonderful opportunity for self-expression. What kid doesn’t like to jump up and down and see himself on TV? My boys like to pretend they have their own variety show. I won’t bore you with the plot; suffice it to say that it is similar to any episode of The Three Stooges.

Responsibility is another big lesson. I give the older two a list of their own – easy stuff like finding a few boxes of cereal. That will occupy them for quite awhile, due to bickering along the lines of:

“I want Cocoa Puffs!”
“No, we got Cocoa Puffs last time!”
“Did not!”
“Did too!”

I do my shopping on the other end of the aisle, pretend they’re not mine and make sure a fistfight doesn’t break out.

We’ve even had lessons in health during our trips. My youngest likes to check his blood pressure. He’s only 7, but better safe than sorry. He sticks his arm in the machine, presses the button and watches the numbers. As the cuff closes in and gets uncomfortable, he starts to screech like a banshee. One would think that he would know where the emergency release button is by now.

And, his literacy skills are now advanced enough to read the panty-liner box while we are in the checkout lane. “Long, thin and thong!” he sang out. Adroitness in reading but thankfully not in comprehension.

Communication and initiative are perfected while I’m in the checkout line. My middle kid will use this time to apply for a job via the computerized kiosk in the lobby. He enters our address and always remembers to include my cell phone number. Albertsons is hiring, by the way. The youngest enhances his phone skills on the ATM. Who knows who he is talking to, but at least it isn’t a 911 operator.

All of these newly enhanced skills come together when we shop at Sam’s Club. Going there with the boys takes more planning than a large-scale military operation. First, we get the flatbed and my oldest son begs to drive. Three strikes to my Achilles tendon and he’s out. If those are the best driving skills he possesses, he will never get behind the wheel of a car.

We scramble up and down the aisles, as I bark out orders:

“Chips for lunches. No, not the Cheetos. Mommy will eat them all. Get barbecue. I hate those.”
“Juice boxes. No, not those. You know those are high-fructose corn syrup with a straw!”
“No, we do not need a five-pound tub of cookie dough. Yes, I am the mean mommy. Didn’t you get the memo?”
“No, I’m not buying $14 worth of toilet paper so you can wrap Madeline’s house.”

Two hundred and sixty-seven dollars later, we hustle home, unload the car and realize that I have nothing to cook for dinner. But at least it was a learning experience.

Linda Marie Ford is a columnist for DallasChild and the founder of It’s Good to Be the Queen, an online forum for moms of boys.