Remember when I said I would never participate in mom-shaming? Well, call me Judgy Mc-Know-It-All, because I just thought of something.
There are 2 types of people in this world: 1) those who return shopping carts to the cart corrals in the parking lot, and 2) BUTTHEADS.
There are several sub-categories of buttheads, but in honor of National Shopping Cart Awareness Week (that’s a thing, right?), let me zero in on one kind in particular: the bustling butthead mommy–not be confused with trashy butthead mommy (e-cigarettes at T-ball games, an abundance of driver’s seat selfies).
I’ve casually mentioned before my disdain for loose carts in parking lots and received strong backlash from opposing sides, the most opposing side–actually, the ONLY opposing side–being conscientious mothers of young children.
Let me break it down for you: Shopping carts. They help us tote multiple bags of food and heavy things to our vehicles. They’re made of metal, or, if you’re at Super Target, some sort of indestructible bomb-resistant plastic. They are meant to be convenient, and, to further improve our convenience, many stores have strategically placed approximately 1000 cart stalls throughout parking lots so that WE DON’T HAVE TO WALK OUR BUGGIES BACK INTO THE STORE FROM WHICH THEY CAME.
Life in the U.S. is an awesome thing.
I’ve seen feeble little old ladies walk carts to corrals. I’ve watched handicapped people with crutches walk carts to corrals. I’ve watched working women, business men, and college kids all walk carts to corrals. And I myself, with an infant in an infant carrier in one hand and a pre-schooler in the other, have also miraculously managed to return a shopping cart to its proper location in a cart corral in a crowded parking lot on a hot/rainy/freezing/windy/busy day.
Newsflash: Long ago, when carts and the subsequent cart stalls were first invented, stores were not in the practice of employing people for the sole purpose of chasing carts around 5 acres of asphalt just so lazy people did not have to walk 6 feet to return their buggies. Nowadays, they do, however, designate employees to regularly retrieve carts from cart corrals.
“Safety is my number 1 priority!” moms say with a confident smile in defense of being a habitual abandon-er of metal missles on wheels. Well, I’m calling complete and utter BS on this excuse by stating this with my own confident smile: “Thanks A-hole! I love the dents your stupid buggy left on my driver’s side door! And good job teaching your kids how to clean up after themselves!”
Unless you’re at a sketchy Walmart at midnight in the pouring rain with newborn triplets and a motorcycle gang full of menacing thugs known as “The Parking Lot Rapists” rolls up next to your minivan? I assure you, you can return your cart to the stall and still be safe.
I know. I know how it is. I get it. I do. I’ve had 3 little kids of my own–and I’m about to do it all over again with a baby who, I have a feeling, is going to give me a long hard run for my money–grocery stores suck. The parking lot after the grocery store with screaming children? Sucks even worse. But instead of sticking your kids in their seats and abandoning your buggy in the space next to you to roll into the car across the aisle, may I humbly submit a 10-step plan of action designed to keep your kids safe AND teach them to respect other people’s property AND take pride in their community–all at the same time?
HOW TO RETURN YOUR CART TO A CART CORRAL WITH KIDS IN TOW:
- So. You’ve decided to take the kids to the store. Well, chances are you haven’t decided to do it–it just worked out that way because you’re out of Tylenol and mozzarella cheese, and your husband is at work and dang it, you’ll be in and out as fast as lightning and this is only the millionth time this week you’ve taken the kids grocery shopping by yourself. Breathe deeply. Find a parking spot close to, if not immediately next to, a cart corral. (But if it’s August in Oklahoma, score a spot in the shade at all costs–no matter how many miles to the store entrace you have to walk.)
- Shop. This presents its own set of challenges that I won’t get into right now. But you know. Lord KNOWS you know. Bless your heart, Mommy, and keep on keepin’ on.
- Pay and exit the store. Chances are that in addition to mozzarella cheese, you have picked up “The Lego Movie”, a pack of boys’ socks, disposable razors, some frozen biscuits, greek olives, and 2 boxes of zebra cakes. You forgot the Tylenol but are willing to suffer through the headache and/or kill yourself rather than go back in the store.
- You have reached your vehicle and unlocked the doors. One kid is securely strapped in the buggy seat and the other is teetering dangerously on the brink of either bolting through the parking lot or mercilessly clinging to your leg for no stupid reason at all except clearly to pull down your skirt in front of the whole wide world. It’s 100 degrees outside. They’re sweating. You’re sweating. You hate your life.
- THIS IS A CRUCIAL POINT IN THE PROCESS, so ask yourself: What would Nanny Deb do? Safety is still a priority! (What? Did you think I didn’t care about safety? I’m a mom, and I do actually love my kids.) Get your growly-bear mom face on. (If you don’t have one, I suggest you practice a few times in the bathroom mirror before your next outing with children. It involves rumpling your eyebrows and clenching your teeth when you talk.) Say these words to any child who is able to walk on their own two legs in your meanest mommy voice: “Do not let go of my skirt/shirt/belt loop/purse/hand. Stay right here by me while I put these bags in the trunk.There are fast cars in the parking lot and we have to be so careful and safe.”
- Be ready to snag them by the arm or ponytail if they do indeed step more than one foot away from you. This should only happen once. If you have a chronic bolter, GET A FREAKING LEASH. Sound harsh? Safety first.
- Alternative plan: Go ahead and strap them in their carseats if you are convinced they cannot follow directions. Be prepared to get them back out when you’re done loading groceries so that they can accompany you as you escort the buggy to the cart corral. Don’t leave them in the car while you step away, even for just a second. Because, bad guys.
- Other Alternative plan: Keep the kids in the buggy seat while you put bags in the trunk. It’s so brilliant it just might work.
- Your groceries are loaded into the trunk. Your antsy kids are by your side. There is an empty parking space next to you, but there is a steady stream of cars zooming between you and the cart corral which is two-thousand feet away. Get a straw, and suck it up. If you have more than one child with you, hold hands with the youngest one (if he or she is too big to fit in the buggy seat). Instruct the older ones to hold hands with each other, or die. Now start walking, pushing the cart with one hand AND staying to the side of the parking lot aisle.
- If you are so motivated, discuss with them as you walk the importance of safety, and of returning things where they belong, and tell them how, when people work together, they can make their town nice and keep things clean for everyone. Tell them that when people let their carts roll around in the parking lot, they can dent other people’s cars, or take up parking spaces that little old ladies could have used. Tell them that what you all are doing is part of being good citizens.
- Then try to explain what exactly a “citizen” is, remember your headache, and drop the subject.
- PUSH THE CART ALL THE WAY INTO THE STALL. Say a prayer of thanks, take another deep breath, re-threaten your children, and make your way back to your vehicle. *Life is easier now that you have the luxury of using both hands, and as all moms know, you can do the work of 11 people with 2 hands as opposed to one.
- Unlock your car again. Load your children in their carseats. Tell them they did great and that you’re so proud of them for helping you return the cart to its home.
- Leave the store, vowing that, next time, your husband is staying with the kids while you grocery shop.
- Return to the store with kids that afternoon for Tylenol.