Anyone who thinks housework, chores and errands are never-ending should try tackling the same tasks with a toddler in tow. It’s nearly impossible to get anything accomplished in under 10 minutes.
Let’s take a trip to the supermarket, for example. Before my husband and I could head to Publix last Sunday to do our weekly grocery shopping, we had to get our 15-month-old ready to leave the house. That routine involves making sure she’s had a snack and a drink, changing her diaper, putting her in clothes and shoes that come close to matching and aren’t stained, and loading up the diaper bag with supplies and toys for Reese and my own wallet, cell phone, store coupons, lip balm and sunglasses. My husband definitely holds the record in our house for getting ready the fastest. He simply slips his shoes on, pockets his wallet and makes his way to the door.
Once we made it to the car, I had the pleasure of buckling Reese into her car seat, which was a little like trying to corral an angry octopus that’s had too much to drink. After that battle, I pried strands of my hair loose from Reese’s fists and stood by the car for a moment to straighten my rumpled clothes and long, tangled locks. Before I could shut the door, she took her shoes off and threw them on the ground. OK, shoes aren’t necessary, I reasoned. She’ll just be riding in the cart, not walking around.
We made it to Publix’s parking lot and “unpacked” the car, making sure to grab Reese, the diaper bag and our shopping-cart cover, a useful piece of equipment that provides a nice, cushioned barrier between the shopping-cart seat — which may or may not be coated in germs — and my squirming toddler. After selecting a cart at the store’s entryway and securing the seat cover to it — inconveniencing at least four or five shoppers in process — we started down the first aisle.
Most kids enjoy grabbing packages off shelves and putting them in the cart when Mom and Dad aren’t looking. Reese has this a little backwards. Since we keep the cart far enough away from the shelves that she can’t grab anything, she prefers to reach behind her and pick up the items we’ve just put in the cart. Depending on what she’s able to get her hands on, she’ll either chew on it or launch it across the aisle and giggle.
When she’s not hurling food, she’ll point at colorful products and babble loudly and excitedly, wave and shout, “Bah!” (bye) at other shoppers, or try to climb out of the cart seat. When Reese gets particularly impatient, I resort to making funny faces and strange noises, which seems to amuse her. I used to worry that other store customers would think I was weird. Not so much these days.
When we’re checking out, our little busybody has a good time punching buttons on the debit- and credit-card reader at the register. When the cashier waves bye, Reese refuses to reciprocate. It seems she’s only willing to wave and say “bye” when no one asks her to do so.
At home, putting up the groceries is a challenge. One time, Reese plucked a half-full box of cereal from the pantry as I was stocking the refrigerator. By the time I noticed, she was in the living room, trying to pour the cereal out so Abbie, our golden retriever, could eat it, yelling, “Daw daw! Daw daw!” which is her word for dog.
Shopping isn’t the only task that is much more complicated when a small child is involved.
A friend of mine who has a 17-month-old tells me that transferring laundry from the washer to the dryer now takes the better part of an afternoon since her daughter insists on helping her carefully move each piece of clothing from one appliance to the other. My friend’s little assistant also is diligent about cleaning up after bath time, taking time to tell each of her tub toys goodbye before slowly stacking them, one by one, in the basket where they belong.
I used to get frazzled when red lights didn’t turn green fast enough. I sighed in irritation when the person checking out in front of me at a store took time to write a check instead of quickly paying with a card. I glared impatiently at restaurant hostesses when the wait for a table was longer than five minutes. Now, I’m thrilled to accomplish anything — anything at all — in less than 15 minutes.