I would like to start my story today by telling you that the thought of what I had to do today nearly made me pee my pants in fright. What was so terrifying? I had to go grocery shopping alone with both kids. Cue every social anxiety I have ever had in my entire life.
I have more social anxiety than I’d like to admit. Whether it’s from being a traveling sideshow all my life (I am proudly a twin, however, it makes it nigh impossible to have a normal social life), or being extremely self conscious during my teenage years and never really getting past the awkward part (let’s admit it, being a teenager is awful and awkward at the best of times), or from something I haven’t discovered yet, we’ll never know. Suffice it to say, I have social anxiety, and I have lots of it. Now that we’re all on the same page, I can now tell you that motherhood has not helped my anxiety in the slightest. No, we’ve graduated from being the purse-bearer and reluctant dancer in clubs to having small screaming things regularly attract attention your way. Not only that, if you’re me, you are acutely aware of weird things like how nauseatingly difficult it is to be graceful about getting a stroller through a non-automatic door, and even more aware that all the other moms seem to have no problem with it. Or how about a bus? Trying to park a behemoth stroller (even my umbrella stroller feels like this to me) on a bus while trying to fold up seats and put brakes on before the driver careens out of the parked position and spills the contents of your buggy, child(ren) included into the aisle.
Now that you have that mental picture, let’s put that behemoth into a grocery store with ridiculously small aisles, rude old ladies, and two arms with which to pull a shopping cart and the behemoth (whichever model it happens to be) at the same time. For me, that’s enough to make me wanna stuff my head back under my pillow, swallow a bottle of wine (of which I have none), and quiver in fright. Typically I relieve that fright by bribing an unsuspecting person to come shopping with me, in the name of coffee, or company. (In a totally surprising turn of events, that person happens to bear the title of My Mom.)
Carrying on with the picture in your head of my jelly-like socially inept self, please imagine the reaction that came this morning when my carefully planned morning ended with my mother having a head cold and my husband going to school. With no one else easily bribable in the time frame I required, that left me, in all my gelatinous glory, to do the shopping.
In an effort to push my anxiety away, I honestly can say that was the quickest out-the-door job in my history. It’s like ripping off a band-aid, right? Well sort of. I helped myself out, (although the jury’s out as to whether or not it actually worked better, because quite frankly, this was probably the first time I have shopped with two children in the entirety of, well, two children, and therefore have no other data with which to measure), and let Biggest walk, while I wrapped Littlest. Add a winter jacket, and my diaper bag that turns into a backpack, and we were on our way.
Biggest did well, he had ants in his pants this morning anyway, so I thought it would do him some good to stretch his legs and expend some energy. I didn’t plan on 2 things though. 1) It was a lot warmer than I gave it credit for, and 2) My backpack, as light as it was, did nothing in the way of easy maneuvering. Please remember that I also have a child on the front of me. Either way, we made it downtown. I did more breathing than I would care to admit, but Biggest helped because he enforces the “take it slow” philosophy.
Once we got to the grocery store, I discovered my first obstacle: how to get Biggest in the cart with T-rex arms (thanks to Littlest on the front). It took some finangling, but I finally settled on putting the backpack in the cart, and hoisting Biggest to stand on the seat, and holding him until he got his legs through the holes to sit down. It wasn’t until we were almost done shopping that I realized it was going to be way more difficult to get him out. (I was right.) I managed to let go of the anxiety until we were about half way through, at which point I realized that because of my front package, and my running commentary to Biggest, I was not spatially aware at all, and proceeded to spend the rest of the shopping trip dodging people. It’s still a fairly large procession even without the behemoth. Luckily I didn’t get any grumpy old ladies today. (If you’re wondering why I shop at such a small, poorly designed store mainly populated by angry seniors, it’s because they deliver. And when I say deliver, I mean they’ll cart all my groceries up all of the flights of stairs too.) Once I was in the cash line, I puzzled out how to remove Biggest from the seat, and almost had an anxiety attack. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t need delivery, because I could have pushed the cart outside, and saved the entire front half of the store from the awkward display of parenting I was about to commit. However, thanks to them requiring the cart for my groceries still, the parenting display commenced. I was surprised though, it only took 2 attempts, and the first one was because Biggest started a tantrum. I’m pretty sure the cashier thought I was nuts though.
Once we were done, we wandered around downtown. First stop though, the library, was a small victory for myself. Biggest had to pee, so I somehow managed to squeeze myself, Biggest, Littlest, and the Backpack into a tiny ladies stall, strip him down without knocking Littlest unconscious on the toilet paper holder, get Biggest on the toilet, and *drum roll please* we didn’t get any pee on the floor.
After visiting 2 other stores, we made it to Pappy S’s restaurant, at which point, I was able to relax. Three cups of coffee and lunch later, we were ready to go. Since I was visiting with Pappy S’s business partner, she let me go to the bathroom, and leave my children at the table with her, and subsequently take each of the children to prospective bathroom duties, thus saving me the awkwardness of the library.
One last stop, the butcher’s and I was home free. Or so I thought. At no point did it occur to me that with a Biggest pulling on one hand, a 20lb child on the front of me, and a diaper bag on my back, it would be impossible to take home my usual 15lbs of meat. At least, it didn’t occur to me until I was outside the meat shop with my purchases in one hand, and a repeat of that pee-my-pants feeling upon contemplating the walk back. Ingenuity prevailed, however, and I stuffed all 15lbs of meat into my diaper bag (don’t worry, it was in a plastic bag). It did make quite the long walk home though, as I had to stop and readjust multiple times so I could enjoy continued sensation in my fingers.
One hour later…
SWEET SUCCESS! Did we make it? Yes! Did I get over any of my social anxiety because I did it all by myself? No!
I would like to mention though, that regardless of how gelatinous I felt about the situation, I still got through it. (I’d like to thank the grit and determination provided by birthing for that, all the social situations in the world are not nearly as awkward as 48 people checking out your lady parts screaming YOU CAN DO IT!).
And with that, I’m off to dream non-anxious dreams, preferably about a lone cabin in the mountains (with internet). That should be the end of the anxiety for a bit, at least until Wednesday when I get to bring both kids to a vaccination appointment, and leave with both of them screaming, despite only one getting a shot.