one less thing to worry about while running errands with your kids…

Jun 27, 2013

A few weeks ago I wrote my “summer shock”post. About how I had all these productivity expectations…and “making memories” expectations for the summer months and the reality turned out to be a lot more chaotic and disorganized than my vision.

But, you know what? I’m happy to report a month into summer we’ve settled into a “bit” of a groove.

There is still one part about summer I haven’t adjusted to.

they keep eating food.

My family needs food. Every day. And I don’t grow food in our backyard. So this requires me to go to the grocery (yes, I just say “grocery”…dropping the superfluous “store”…it’s an Indiana thing).

The problem I’ve been having is this…

During the school year I use Sunday afternoons to buy groceries. But this summer with weekend trips and family in town my typical Sunday shopping has been hit or miss. I also used to go to Costco on every other Tuesday with Price & Knox, while the other two were in school.

So when everyone got out of school in May I attempted to take all 4 boys with me to Costco.

We barely made it out alive.

All was going decently well until we hit the meat department. That’s when the wheels came off. Big boys running circles around the cart (not even kidding). Knox managed to get my purse and preceded to empty it on the floor item-by-item.

As the boys laughed and ran and jumped up on the refrigerated cases of salmon, I felt like an outside observer (yet still emotional connected to the scene). Feeling heat rise in my face as others’ passed by and watched my boys perform their circus act.

An inner voice started the negative monologue, “Why do I have so many children? Why are they so energetic? Why do they eat so much food that we have to come to Costco? Why did I think I could actually bring them all here to shop?”

Then it hit me.

They all are my children. They do eat a lot of food. I’m already at Costco. We just needed to get back on track and get the job done.

So I kicked defeat in the pants and rallied the troops.

Okay guys. We are almost done. We need to grab some fruit, some detergent, eggs & milk and then we will be all done. I’m gonna need your help picking out the fruit. Let’s put our hands in and on the count of 3 shout, ‘Go Team MacFadyen’…one, two, three.

Fortunately, on that day, that’s all it took to get us back on track: a change in my attitude and a recasting of  our trip’s purpose.

shoe shopping wake-up call

Then a few weeks later I needed to get Fathers’ day presents for Bruce and my father-in-law. Given my Costco experience I decided NOT to take all the boys to Sports Authority with me.  So around 8 pm (with all boys tucked in and Bruce home) I left the house to shop.

Since I didn’t have the boys with me, I decided to make a quick stop at TJ Maxx next to Sports Authority.

“Somehow” I ended up in the shoe department (like a moth to a flame). That’s when I overheard a mom calling her little guy to come back and stand by her. This sweet, sharply dressed little man (not quite 4 years old) turned the corner holding a single high-heeled shoe. And said, “Try this one on, mommy!”

To which she distractedly responded, “No I don’t really like it and it’s not my size.”

Of course, my big mouth had to bud in,

I’ll try it on for you! Oh this is a princess shoe! Do you think your mommy is a princess? Oh wow I love it! I didn’t even know I wore this size, I guess my feet are growing. I bet with all your sleep & the food you eat,  your feet are growing too.

And that’s when the mom “saw” her son. She came over and gave him a big hug and said, “You are growing up so quickly.”

Of course, you know that little guy brought me 4 more shoes to try on. And of course I tried on each one.

Now if I had been shoe shopping with my guys, I probably would have responded just like she did. So focused at the task at hand and worried about them staying out of trouble, there’s no way I would have considered trying on shoes for them. I probably also would have been apologizing to the stranger that my son was bothering her. 

My shopping experience that night made me realize something I’d kind of noted before but had never let sink in.

one less thing to worry about

As I shopped and saw other moms with their kids, my focus wasn’t on how the kids acted. 

Because I expected the kids to act like kids.

They are “in training” after all. And someone once told me running errands is not the training ground it’s the test. So when I see a child out in public I give them grace…because we all can slip up on a test.

My next thought (which I pray doesn’t ruffle feathers)…was “I don’t care how the kids act, but I am noticing how the moms handle their kids.”

this article I read made me think maybe I’m not alone & maybe it’s not just a “mom” thing. 

Often when I’m out with the four boys, I am consumed with how they behave, how they look, how they treat others, etc. Sometimes when they make a mistake I get all “hot & bothered”…maybe using a more frustrated tone or pulling a boy close in a little harsher manner than I’d like.

But I’m worrying about the wrong thing. 

Really, most people expect kids to be kids. And they expect adults to act like adults. To be the adult.

Don’t you love when you see another mom enjoying and loving her kids? Even if the kids are misbehaving…don’t you notice when a mom responds with love instead of harshness? With gentle correction versus shame?

Here’s my new errand goal: Don’t worry if the boys are noisy & active in public. I need only worry about my reaction. To be as patient and loving as His Spirit can equip me to be.

Yes, I’ll continue to train my boys in how to behave & how be kind (even if they don’t always choose to) and they’ll get consequences.

But my focus will change when we’re out in public. Controlling what I can actually control–myself. 

What do you think? When you are out running errands do you notice other kids’ behavior or how the parent handles that child? 




  1. Patricia

    What a great reminder for this summer season when we are all together all of the time! As a mom of boys, I could feel exactly what you were feeling at the shops(spent the last 15 years in Oz and now live in Norway, so I no longer say grocery or grocery store!) and you’re right, I do notice the parents more than the kids…unless they are screaming out of control! Then I notice both..:-).

    • Heather MacFadyen

      so thankful to find a fellow “grocery” user. 😉 thank you also for your agreement with my thoughts. honestly didn’t know anyone had commented on this post until today!! so relieved to know I’m not alone.

  2. Joy

    So so true!! Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Carol wright

    Ugh yes. I bit more attention on the mommy behavior might do me wonders as well. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      don’t we all need this reminder. Even after I wrote it I was all up in my little guy’s face when he asked “why’ when I asked him to get out of the pool. oi vey. work in progress over here.

  4. alice

    I loved this post, Heather! Thanks!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      thanks alice…means a lot coming from you. seriously.

  5. Jo

    Remember, you are never going to see most of those people again. Who cares what they think. Your kids will be in your life forever. Let them know they matter!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      such good truth. Have struggled with “approval of man” my whole life. I totally agree with your thoughts…now to implement them!

  6. Emma

    Love this post! Got my other son three weeks ago (the older one is 3 years old) and I’m still in shock how stressful it is to have more than one child to love and look after. Makes me feel better to know that other mums have gone through the same thing.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      congratulations emma! yes, once you move past one children and your attention is divided…the game changes. I was at the pool yesterday and a mom came in with her ONE son. There was this part of me (as she stared and judged my boys fighting) that I wished I could give each son my sole attention. How much better would they behave? But alas, there are 4 of them and one of me. We are a big family…for better and for worse. 😉 blessings.

  7. kate

    When in a supermarket I am reassured that they are not my children so I do not have to deal with them (a bit like hearing a baby crying through the wall, I just go to sleep!). You would not dare say anything to a parent as you would have hated it when you were in their situation. I just give the parents a resigned look and a wry smile. If you think it’s expensive now, I’m warning you that as they hit age 10 they begin to eat twice their bodyweight and you have to shop more often as they stand at the fridge door and just graze their way through the contents. It is only getting worse now I have a 13 and a 10. I pray daily for patience and extra funding, and read Power of a Praying Parent regularly.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      great advice Kate! And yes I cringe thinking about future grocery bills. EEK! When they are 11, 13, 15, & 17? for reals. I’m confident (and hopeful) we are the home our boys want to bring their friends…so add 4+ boys to the eating crew. I love any book that gets me praying for my boys. Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. Jennie

    love this! yes taking 4 to the store/target is like you described at the beginning…everytime! made me laugh! 🙂

    • Heather MacFadyen

      thanks for the camaraderie, jennie. we should plan a trip at the same time and see what happens? maybe we could get on the news? 😉

  9. Alyssa

    I definitely see kids and moms in public differently now that I have a baby who will one day have the capacity for tantrums. I definitely love when I see parents choosing kindness and patience, but I am also less judgy of “bad” parents because I know it’s hard to always see your kid(s) in the right light when you are in the middle of not getting anything done. Ever.

    Love your perspective and the reminder that others see us differently than we might expect, thanks!

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