Before I had kids I would do my grocery shopping blissfully unaware of the moms soldiering through their midday errands. I would peruse the racks and wander aimlessly through shampoos, shoes, picture frames and markers. Can you guess where I love shopping? It’s okay; I know you love it too. Shopping was so random and carefree. Maybe I’d see a friend and we’d chat mid-makeup aisle for 15 minutes about concealers or eyeliner. Important stuff you know. Then I’d spend another 45 minutes checking out which DVDs I surely needed. Now, let me wake up from my dream and do a current run-through of said shopping trip. Dollar bin grabbing, baby eating my scribbled shopping list, toddler eating puffs and yogurt bites in the bucket seat of the cart. I see my friend in the makeup aisle but run in the other direction so she won’t see the baby poop on my shirt or my mismatched socks. There's also a white cake line of dry shampoo that I didn't get fully dissolved on to my scalp. I shopped solo so long ago that they don’t even sell DVDs anymore. I think. Who knows? The only TV shows in existence I know of have talking trains and puppy law enforcers. Long gone are the days of grazing the deodorant brand labels to decide which scent offered the greatest appeal for my armpits. It’s pretty obvious I had too much time on my hands. Who am I kidding? I’ve used the exact same scent and brand since the Backstreet Boys were on the radio. Nowadays, I listen to BSB on #tbt satellite and jam out when I’m in the car alone. Nothin like a 90's hot jam to get my car bumpin hard. If I am lucky enough to be alone for one hour you better believe I’m headed back to my shopping sanctuary. Ah bliss. Grab a coffee. Phone on silent. Shop time ladies-Bout to drop some dough up in here! The other day I was at said store and happened to see a fellow mom trucking it through the dollar bins with three kids in tow. She too had her coffee in one hand (mom life!) and pushing the cart with the other. I nodded and gave her my mom salute. You know the one. The silent, kind of half smile with a shrug. We may be strangers but you understand I have kids at home and I feel your grocery pains my friend.

Before I could grab a set of chalkboard stickers, the oldest of her darling trio is ransacking the shelves and demanding some toy I had never heard of before. I mean I get it kid. I want every toy in those dollar bins too. But do I throw a tantrum every time I can’t buy a fall décor pennant banner or new pink plastic cup with a lid and straw? Okay, okay, sometimes I do but man that store knows its audience. I’m frozen in my tracks waiting what will happen next. Do I stay? Do I go? What do I do with my hands? Tantrum ensues. The kind of tantrum that starts making heads turn. The man in the checkout line with nothing but socks is surely hurrying through his checkout to get back to his quiet lunch break. Another older woman scurries away. At what point do people forget they’ve been in this exact same situation? (Boggles me.) Now this boy has decided he needs these crayons like a MOFO. At this point, I’m trying not to make eye contact and pretending I can’t hear this fight escalating. I hear her trying and pleading. “NO, we’re not getting that toy today.” He cries louder. “You have two like that at home.” Louder and throwing now. “If you don’t stop crying we’re not going out to lunch.” Oh man, this is going nowhere fast. Then I hear it. Her voice is getting slower and steadier. Her eyebrows are rising to that I mean business level. He's in for it now! “Don’t make me count to 3.” Abort, abort!! “1. 2. 3.” Total standoff. He’s holding the toy. She’s glaring. (I’m hiding.) The other two snackstealers are just watching and taking mental notes on how to pull this trick the next time they’re at a toy store. The younger two are certain their oldest brother is some sort of genius sent to guide them through their childhood years by a toy manufacturing fairy godmother. The mom tried to put the toy back on the shelf only to have him fully erupt in tears. Past the point of reason and bless her, she gave in and they went on their merry way to the clothes section. Let me tell you guys, those tears dried up QUICK. The screaming was over faster than I could pull my phone out to snapchat this ordeal. The boy, full of smiles, holding his cherished new possession that will no doubt be tossed into a heap once he’s home. The mom, looking defeated, but alas, she’s just trying to buy herself some milk, a bottle of MidolPM, or heaven forbid a new hair dryer in some peace.

Now, I have caught myself from time to time in this same loophole of doom. The count to 3 hole of darkness if you will. Listen friends, you don’t want to go there. Why you ask? You’ll never get out. Ever. Those numbers will chew you up and spit you right back out. Do you remember when your parents used those numbers on you? Those numbers meant nothing to you right? Well, guess what. They mean even less to your kids. It’s 2016.  Kids are warriors these days. They pretty much come out of the womb knowing how to write code. What did that boy actually think was going to happen when she got to 3? Was she going to spank him? No. Was she going to take the toy, throw it two aisles over, and make a run for it? No. Was she honestly going to do anything? No. The biggest downside to “counting to 3” is that all it really does is give the child the power. It's about as effective as the undereye cream I know isn't helping these mom bags. They get to decide what they are going to do once you get to 3. They get 3 whole seconds to decide how they’re going to play you. And play you like a fiddle they will. I know, I know. Sometimes it’s easier to let the kiddos win these little battles because we’re sure we are going to win the war. But, are we? We think to ourselves that next time will be different! We will be stronger! When in reality, all we’ve done is perpetuate a cycle of toy greediness. Next time they go shopping who wants another toy and knows how to get it? Who knows how many buttons to push and how many octaves to yell before mommy folds? Children are like pack hunters. Pushing us into just the right spot before they get what they want. This poor momma had no idea she was walking into the velociraptor cage on Jurassic World.

We have to stay on the offense. Be strong. Truth be told, the whole situation could’ve been avoided if she’d walked straight by those bins and hauled that cart to the back of the store. Or, held really strong at: we’re not getting that toy today. She for real lost him once they started volleying. Say no and push that cart with all you got. Done and done. Once you start bargaining, pleading, and power struggling it’s like trying to run your first 10K. It’s hard. Real hard. You won’t have the momentum like you did at the beginning and you can’t get it back. I know she meant well. Hey, we all do! She tried to tell him no and then pulled out the -get ready for it- big guns with threatening to count to 3. Which had about as much weight to it as the feather floating in the opening credits of Forrest Gump. Mommas, you’ve gotta be strong. Hold your ground. Say no and move on. Literally and physically. The best way to end those tantrums is to move to a new location or abandon ship altogether and try the store another day. Out of sight out of mind. Kids have a crazy rebound rate and they’ll be better off for hearing the word: no. They like to know their limits. They like to know their expectations. As parents, we have to set those limits and expectations. Children thrive in an environment with choices and natural consequences. This helps them feel safe and secure. Grocery shopping will always be there. Toys will always be there. We don’t want to dread the store for 18 years do we? This best course of action is to warn them in the car. We are not buying toys today. Here is our list. This is what we need. Maybe next time. When I load up both kids for the grocery store I have to mentally prepare for the toy fight that I know is coming. But I know where I stand and know that if my kids can handle hearing no when they are children, then by golly they can handle hearing it when they are adults. 

This is the first post in our parenting series. Stay tuned!

Photography by target.