Before I had children, I used to leisurely stroll each and every aisle of the supermarket, picking things off the shelf absentmindedly. I didn’t bother with a grocery list. There was only two of us and if I forgot something then I’d return another day. No big deal. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought of this simple act of necessity as being an enviable task. I mourn the days of languid and uninterrupted meandering, just like how I wish I had appreciated sleep-ins.

Nowadays, I go to the supermarket with either one or two kids in tow and the most pleasurable part of the experience is getting the kids back into the car and going home. I don’t know about other parents, but to me having two pipsqueaks continually saying, “Mummy, can we buy this?” and “Mummy, can I get that?” drives me insane.

I almost never leave home without a grocery list, and I speed down aisles to collect items like I’m on a My Kitchen Rules cook-off. 

I obviously pass the chip, chocolate, and soft drink aisles because seriously, who needs the drama of wrestling contraband off a toddler?

Normally, I go through self-serve because it’s the quickest way out of the store. With a toddler that can drop a tantrum like a hot potato, it’s best not to procrastinate in a place with too many temptations.

On this one particular day, I had too many things in the trolley to go through self-serve and seeing a calm Henry, I opted for the manned checkout. I methodically place items in groups that I hope get bagged together. The young man at the register begins packing the bags, arranging items in particular positions like he’s a Tetris prodigy. Simply perfect for my anally retentive grocery packing personality. I can appreciate good packing skills. No one wants a dirty tango between raw meats and fruit.

As he continues to pack at the rate of one item per minute, Henry starts to grumble about wanting to hop out of the shopping trolley. I try to placate him with a yoghurt and silently pray for the dude to hurry up. Henry’s about to throw down and no one will be ready for the impending Hiroshima-like explosion that will be unleashed. I twiddle my thumbs, glancing nervously at Henry’s whining and thrashing about. I give checkout dude one more minute for good measure but my eye twitches at the sight of him taking out a punnet of tomatoes and replacing them with the punnet of mushrooms. They are the exact same size! 

“Mummy!” Henry wails, his little fists gripping the bar and shaking it furiously. 

I suddenly jump into action. I grab the tomatoes off the dude and shove them into a bag. “How about you scan and I’ll help bag,” I tell him with a smile that’s too wide to be considered normal.

He recoils at the sight of my crazed look and starts quickly scanning. I shove items left, right, and centre into bags, practically arm sweeping them in. I work at a rapid pace and only pause for breath once I hand over my credit card to pay.

I stand back and take stock of my surroundings. The people behind me and the checkout dude are giving me strange looks. I start from the realisation of my erratic behaviour. Embarrassed, I quickly leave with my screaming toddler. It’s a sobering moment of self-awareness at how different my life has become.

Do I regret having kids? Definitely not.
Would I change anything? Probably not.
Oh, wait. Yes. Avoid the Tetris guy.

By Kathy Ha. Kathy is a creative writer, storytelling enthusiast and Melbourne mama of two, sharing snippets of her journey through life and parenting on her blog, KN J Tales and Snippets. She aims to inspire, empower and ignite laughter, with every word that she writes.