There are times when grocery shopping with my youngest is peaceful and productive. When he falls asleep on the drive, instead of waking him, I slide him into our ring sling. He continues to nap while I get a chance to look through the store ad and pick up the things on our list. 

There's nothing like wearing a sleeping baby... well, toddler... almost preschooler at this point. His head on my shoulder, hand on my chest. Body relaxed. Breathing deeply. Blissfully dreaming, unaware of the hustle and bustle around him... but with a two year old, these moments are not the norm.  

toddler in sling

Back in the baby days, I could make it through an entire shopping trip without him waking, gently bouncing him into a deep slumber with each step. Nowadays, if I'm lucky enough to catch him during a nap, most of the time I barely make it halfway through my list before he wakes. This was the case during a recent shopping trip...

I've nearly made it to the cereal aisle by the time he startles awake. Eyes wide, he looks around and suddenly realizes where we are… “I wanna walk,” he says. I tell him, because we’ve been here before, “Now you need to stay with momma and keep a hold of the cart.” He nods yes.

As I let him down, I can feel my heart starting to beat a little faster. I hope for the best, but I know what's going to happen. My toddler is not one who is content with following along or going with the flow... he blazes his own trail. I remember shopping with his brothers and sisters around this age. At one point, I had a two year old, a three year old, and a five year old, and shopping with all of them together was easier to shop with one of him! This child has a wild spirit. He's completely fearless, and fearless toddlers make for nervous mommas. The fear he lacks, I make up for.   

At first he walks beside me with one hand holding onto the side of the cart. Then he starts testing the boundaries... he lets go and runs a few feet away from me. I remind him that he needs to keep his hand on the cart to walk with momma. He's not listening. Again, he takes off. I try taking his hand and placing on the cart. He's not having it. Tears flow and suddenly his bones become jelly. In the middle of the aisle. No matter how many times I try to stand him back up, it's just not working.

I pick him up and try putting him back in the the sling. He arches his back, crying and repeating, "I wanna walk, I wanna walk!" I'm starting to sweat. I look around, just waiting for someone to make a harsh comment. "Take control of your kid"... "that child needs some discipline"... "shut that kid up"... Thankfully (and strangely) no one even seems to notice us. He finally calms down when I ask for his help putting groceries in the cart. This is good. He's learning and becoming more independent. I ask him for certain items and he grabs them and not so gently tosses them in the cart. Thankfully this keeps him occupied for a few minutes.

spilled strawberries 

As we walk down the aisles, he slowly makes his way around to front of the cart, and does that thing that we all used to do when we were kids... he grabs a hold, hops on with his feet on the bottom rack, and takes a ride. I cautiously push him down the aisle, trying to gain more ground with each step and get us through this shopping trip.

Yes, I know it's not safe. I know this. I watch him closely for any sign that he's going to make a jump for it or that his hands may be slipping. And while this does make me nervous, a new fear builds in me. I try to read each person who passes us. Are they judging me? Will somebody stop me and tell me that him riding on the front of the cart is not safe, as if I don't already know? Do they think I'm a bad mom?... Am I a bad mom?

sakura bloom sling

I stop the cart and tell him he needs to get down and walk beside me. And he does. For about a minute. Then he starts running a few feet ahead. I remind him that he needs to stay beside me, and he seems to be listening. All is good. Then, out of nowhere, he takes of like a rocket, laughing and singing, "You can't catch me!" He's wrong. I can catch him. Yes, I must leave my cart and purse and sprint, but I can catch him. I scoop him up, and he cries and arches his back as we make our way back to the cart. I put him down, and once again he squeals with delight and takes off down the aisle. 

toddler running

At this point, I'm beat. I catch up with him and thankfully he's ready for a break. He sits down on a wrapping paper display and smiles at me, with that cute as can be smile. I'm tired, he's tired. I just want to get out of this store. He reaches for me. I slide him back into the sling, and he lays his head against my chest. He starts tugging on my shirt, trying to pull it down so he can nurse. At first I try to stop him. "No, you can wait until we get to the car." He's persistent. I can tell he's tired and overstimulated. He just wants to reconnect with his momma. I'm torn. If we weren't in a store full of people, would I still deny him this comfort?

I look at the faces of the people walking passed us... can they tell I'm nursing my two and a half year old? Would they still smile at us if they knew? Would they think, "that baby is too old to still be nursing"? Is he? In my heart I know the answer. As much as I would love for him to wean, he's not anywhere near ready. I want this transition to be a gentle one for him. One day he will outgrow his need for nursing, but today is not the day. Why do I let people that I don't know and may never see ever again affect how I mother my child? I keep my focus on him, the only place it needs to be, and grab the last few things on my list.

I get to the checkout and start unloading my groceries onto the belt. The lady behind me reaches into my cart and says, "You've got your hands full, let me help." I thank her and tell her it's not necessary. The cashier smiles and chimes in, "Yep, she's got it. She's been carrying him like that since he was a tiny newborn." I think to myself, week after week she's watched my baby grow up. And that makes me smile. I pay for my groceries and we head out the door. We unload the cart, drop it off in the corral, and I buckle my son into his car seat.  

putting groceries in trunk

As I sit down in driver's seat, I breathe a sigh of relief. Thank goodness that's over. My two year old didn't get lost or hurt, and we got nearly all the groceries on our list. I'd say grocery shopping was a success. I come to the realization that my son is not the only one that makes grocery shopping difficult- I do, too. Stressing out and worrying about what others think is not helping in any way. 

This is what age two is all about. He is becoming his own little person. His job is to learn and explore, and setting the boundaries and keeping him safe is mine. Toddlerhood is messy, and I need to cut us both a little slack.   

toddler in sling

*Although I am compensated for my time writing, all opinions are 100% my own.



Stephanie Beck is a busy mama of four. She enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family. Stephanie started her blog, Apron Strings Attached, because she wanted to share her experiences with raising kids, breastfeeding struggles and success, and cloth diapering. She now enjoys blogging about life in cloth diapers for TGN.

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