Let’s talk about those little “Customer in Training” carts at the grocery store.

If they weren’t so short, they’d be perfect for quick trips ’cause that plastic basket gets heavy on your arm when you overload it with more than 20-items-or-less like you know you do.

I’m tempted to grab one of those training carts sometimes but just reaching down for it makes it obvious why those things are for kids. Now we have the smaller but full-height carts in some stores, but apparently those are too rare to have more than a few on hand?

It can be fun to let your kid do the grocery cart thing—we could all use the help, after all.

When one of my little angels was in grade school she’d get one of those and be our cart pusher that day. As an actual future customer, she’d get serious and arrange her little cart carefully, just the way she liked it and not the way things would land when I’d toss them in.

She’d criticize me for not being careful with the produce and the bread. This was clever reverse psychology on my part.

Of course, you know when someone’s pushing a grocery cart, they think they can put what they want in it—I’d have to be watching for what my little shopper would grab from the shelves when I’d be too busy checking my list. More than a few times I’d find and remove things like frutti-tutti pop tarts or a can of rainbow frosting.

If it was more than a quick trip and we needed more than the little cart, she’d have her little training cart and I’d have my fully licensed cart. And we’d both be filling those things up—this would be no amateur shopping trip.

True to the real-life shopping cart experience, my shopper-to-be was sometimes inconvenienced by the wheels on her cart—squeaky wheels, sticky wheels, wheels that make the cart roll funny or lurch sideways. You and I know this cart well.

She’d complain. I’d keep a straight face and say, “It’s part of your training.” She’d roll her eyes.

Here’s where having two carts is especially helpful, though: when it’s time to check out.

Since she was in training, I tried to let my junior shopper know how to choose the right line, which we all know is not as easy or obvious as it appears—there can be real strategy. And self checkout is too damned frustrating, so my philosophy is to avoid it if you can.

So I taught my junior shopper to work the two-cart angle, where one of you jumps lines just as it becomes obvious which is the right line that will take you to the finish more quickly.

And of course you know I taught her to hang back a little and look for a line opening up at any moment when they call an extra checker out from the back—and how to leap over there past the shoppers who have no idea what just happened.

But once when the new line opened, another shopper jumped in front of both me and my kid in our two separate lines, having beat us both in the watch-for-the-new-line game. My budding shopper was both dumbfounded and offended.

I’d been there before, though, and was only momentarily deflated.

At that point I joined my kid in what may or may not have turned out to be the better line on that crazy busy Friday afternoon and said, “You win some, you lose some—it’s all part of your training.”

Then I grabbed a magazine for each of us and said, “Take this. Looks like we’re gonna be here a while.”

So glad they invented the customer-in-training cart—I wouldn’t want my little future adult to miss out on the experience of pushing a cart with an irritating wheel. Or any of all the other fun grocery store times.

So there you go—just another day on the parenting beat.




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