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Why I Don’t Take My Kids Grocery Shopping

September 2, 2015

We were pretty much out of food.  I stalked up about a month ago, but we had dwindled and were out of most of the basics, so I had to go.  Today we have a driver, so I planned to go.  And I had no choice but to take the kids.  All of them.  This was something I haven’t done before.  There’s good reason for it.

Things in Congo take longer than you plan or can justify.  They always do.  It is the culture – your personal culture needs to be one of patience.  Kids are known for patience, right?  It is also starting to get warmer.  It’s not scorching yet, but it’s stuffy.  Today was more humid than it’s been.  Traffic this week is worse because the schools started either this week or next week, and everyone is rushing around trying to be ready…except no one is rushing anywhere in this traffic.

All of these things, and this is why I normally don’t take them to the grocery store.  However, I hate to bog down a friend’s day with babysitting for such a normal activity, and I haven’t hired a nanny at this point, like I had during our first year here.  So, this morning, at 8am, away we went.

Our first stop was the MAF office for cash.  The kids hadn’t been to see where their Daddy works, so it was a good first stop.  Except I totally forgot that Wednesday mornings begin with a devotional and prayer time with the office staff which was so rudely interrupted by some lady and her three kids.  Oops.  Actually, we were warmly welcomed to join in the prayer time and the kids did great.  (If great is Axel talking through most of the prayer time, then yes, great.)

After that stop, we quickly went through the store in town that has the most American foods you can buy…it is also quite expensive, BUT it’s the only place with boxed mac and cheese.  Judge me if you want, but seriously…and that one item is American prices!  So, yes, I make the special trip.  Because boxed mac and cheese (sadly, not Kraft) is my comfort food…and I bought eight boxes.  Whatever.  The kids fought over the cart situation and Pepe did his best to juggle them while I found what I needed, because they completely rearranged the store since I was there last month.  Of course.

Pepe keeps the kids entertained on the cart at our first stop.

Pepe keeps the kids entertained on the cart at our first stop.

Next was a stop for paint.  If you saw my Instagram yesterday (on the right side of the web site) we bought fabric for curtains and pillows…obviously we need walls to match.  It will be wonderful.  The kids sat patiently on a bench inside the paint factory (it’s not like Lowe’s, it’s a paint factory) and ate their ENTIRE snack.  I was out of food…out.  We still had four stops to go and they were all going to take longer…okay, we can do this, I thought to myself while knowing full well we probably could not.

Paint acquired, and lots of waiting done, we went over to the shiny brand new home store.  Think IKEA with five floors of beautiful displays, including an epic toy section.  Yaaaaaay, said no parent in a hurry ever.  I wasn’t in a hurry, really, but I knew how much we had left and their time limit (lunch) was approaching faster than I liked.

We wandered the store while I price checked some things and ruled things out, wanting mostly curtain rods.  We asked about the ones on display and she said she would get the ones we wanted and bring them down to the cash registers.  This is normal.  Cool.  Fast forward thirty minutes of waiting at the cash registers.  Finally, we give up and Pepe tries to find out what happened.  No one is really sure where she went, maybe the warehouse where she had to find them, but I was pretty much done trying to reign in hungry, bored kids.  So, we left.

Pepe knew another place to get the curtain rods, while I was in the next store.  So, I wrestled all three kids in the store, where the front door guys offered me a car-cart – you know the cart with the little cars on the front…for one kid.  But I had three, and there was much objection.  Axel was content, until he wasn’t, then there was more objection.  Also, that cart was extremely difficult to navigate.  Oh, such an adventure it was.  And, of course, I was having trouble finding what I hoping to find at this particular store, where I tend to get cleaning supplies, a certain cheese, and some pantry staples, including the cheapest eggs.

We checked out without difficulty and found a box of cookies on super sale during that process.  I pushed the awful car cart of doom out to the parking lot and Pepe wasn’t back yet.  Of course, the parking lot attendant and some random guy were very curious why I was without a driver and could not enter the vehicle myself.  Never mind, I began giving my kids the cookies and called Pepe.  He came back shortly, even though it felt much longer, without curtain rods because they were too expensive.

The next store is very tiny and cramped and really really not kid friendly, but I love it because I get the best deals on canned goods, pasta, oil, and other types of cheese and yogurt there, so it’s one of my most necessary stops.  But, we, Pepe and I, attempted an experiment: leaving the kids in the car with Pepe and me going by myself.  During that trip Levi and Amelia found super heroes in the car (it is borrowed from another MAF family, because, you know, we’re still looking for more people to partner with us in our need for a vehicle), so that was great because it held off boredom a little longer.  Plus, I was able to be in and out quite quickly without kids in tow.  Pepe didn’t complain, but the kids were obviously nearly their point of done-ness.

The next stop was our last and Axel cried the whole way there.  So, that’s where we started.  Once we got into the store (Pepe stayed in the car because he knew better than to be seen with us, I don’t blame him one bit) Axel escalated from crying to screaming.  In Congolese culture, a young crying child is usually met with a certain expectation that I should be doing something for him.  I feel like it is different from American culture, where it is assumed the child needs some sort of discipline or you, the parent, are met with an understanding look of “I’ve been there” from other mothers.  So, I took my tired, hungry and very grimy children (we went through so many baby wipes on their hands – they were black after every store no matter how little they touched – they actually did very well about not touching much, but the dirt is just part of the city and we embrace it and take lots of baths), including the screaming one, until we got to the cheap, pre-made sandwiches that are actually quite tasty and I ripped one open and tore it up and handed it out…surrounded by a display of curious onlookers.  I was over it all and really didn’t care, taking special care to put the plastic wrap with the barcode back in my cart so I didn’t forget to pay for it later.

I sped through that store.  Thankfully it is easy to navigate, very much like an American grocery store (it is a South African chain) and I knew what I wanted to get – everything else on the list, like meat, peanut butter, toilet paper and THEY HAD FROZEN PUMPKIN! YAY PIES!  It wasn’t pretty with four tired people, but we got through.  Axel didn’t scream the whole time…maybe half?  Oh well, victory…ish.

And then we came home, where I was scolded by my vegetable lady who had been waiting for three hours for me (!!!) and I told the kids to go play.  It was six hours and something I’ll likely need to repeat.  The title is “Why I Don’t Take My Kids Grocery Shopping” but I probably will do it again, even though I really don’t want to.  Next time, I’ll bring more snacks.

Taking in the city from one of the upper floors of the IKEA-like home store.

Taking in the city from one of the upper floors of the IKEA-like home store.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Leslie Foster permalink
    September 2, 2015 0829

    Woo! I feel a bit tired just reading that! I’m proud of you for persevering and getting done what you needed to. You’re a rock star, Lisa Lind!!

    In other news, I support the idea of a nanny. 🙂 I miss the days of being able to hire household help! But I don’t miss the days of needing 6 hours to grocery shop…


  1. Lisa the Quitter | The Linds in DR Congo with MAF

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