How to Shop at Target with a Toddler and No Money in 31 Easy Steps (A Not-So-Foolproof Guide)


how to shop at Target with a toddler

© 2015, Elizabeth Laing Thompson. A version of this article was first published on Scary Mommy’s The Mid .

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

1.Have a stern talk with yourself beforehand: I am only going to buy a package of coffee. Only. Coffee.

2. Take a child along. A 12-year-old boy dragged away from video games would do the trick, but the ideal choice is a toddler, preferably a potty-trainer in the thick of the Terrible Twos. (No longer have a toddler of your own? Borrow one from a beleaguered young mother—she’ll kiss your feet in gratitude.)

3. Enter Target. Feel something warm and tingly light up inside of you. Good thing you brought a toddler to keep you in check, because you recognize the symptoms: the beginnings of Target High.*

(*Target High: a euphoric state in which you gleefully buy everything you see at Target. Symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, giddiness and compulsive credit-card swiping.)

4. Strap the child into a cart. She starts whining, a Toddler Time Bomb already ticking. Hand her a cereal bar to buy yourself eight minutes.

5. Decide to take the long route to the coffee aisle, to avoid the temptation of the home decor section. Right away, you realize: This was a mistake. You have to pass the purses on the right… your eye wanders. No! Force yourself to look straight ahead. But then you hit…

6. The shoe section. Feel yourself sloooooowing doooooown, your eyes skating across sandals, sneakers, and—ooh! clearance boots! Surely a quick look at clearance boots wouldn’t hurt. (Glance down at the toddler. Half a cereal bar to go.)

7. Leave the shoes sadly, because they didn’t have your size. Brush wistful fingers across a beaded sandal. Whisper a promise: “You, me, next paycheck…”

8. Walk away with purpose toward the—ooh wait! A happy red sign over the juniors’ tees shouts “Sale!”

9. Five foggy minutes later, you wake to find yourself in the family-size dressing room. You’re not sure how you got there, but your toddler is still in the cart, licking an oozing jelly blob, and your cart is piled high with 36 items from the juniors’ department.

10. Blink to clear your head. Well, since I’m already in here and the baby is happy, I might as well try on these things. For next time I get paid.

11. Ten minutes later, shuffle out, feeling like an enormous cow. Remind yourself you have not fit into juniors’ sizes since… well, there’s no need to count years. Hand the attendant 35 of the 36 items; ignore her death glare.

12. Wipe smashed cereal bar off the toddler’s face as you steer past the exercise clothes. Pause. Maybe if you bought some cute exercise clothes, you would be motivated to work out, and then you’d feel better about yourself the next time the juniors’ department has its way with you.

13. The Toddler Alarm sounds, shrieking, “Me go potty nooooow!”

14. Sprint to the bathrooms. When you get there, sucking wind, it’s too late. She’s soaked. As you’re changing her outfit, it occurs to you: She really could use another pair of pants… I mean, as long as we’re here…

15. On the way to the baby and toddler department, you justify this detour by mentally itemizing all of your children’s stained hand-me-downs, and by making a pact with yourself: This is just a walk-by. I will only stop if I see a sale sign.

16. Arrive at the baby and toddler section. Gasp with delight: the tutus, the lace, the floral raincoats! Your ears start to ring.

17. The toddler squeals, “Let gooooo!” (In toddler speak, this means she has spotted something from Frozen.) Still gawking at raincoats, you hand her a stuffed Olaf to keep her busy. She’ll scream when it’s time to leave and you take Olaf away, but right now, all that matters is those glorious raincoats.

18. Toss 18 toddler outfits into your cart in 3.6 seconds. Tell yourself you will make up your mind when you get to checkout.

19. Head toward checkout, past the organization department. Blink. Chevron-striped bins! Just the thing for the gazillions of cell phone and laptop cords floating around your house. Drool gathers in the back of your mouth. Really, the bins would be an investment in your home and your sanity, because they would keep the toddler from chewing on the older kids’ cords… Toss three bins into your cart. You’re feeling shaky now, slightly buzzed. It’s official: You have Target High.

20. Round the last corner. What’s on that end cap? Mismatched bowls that look like Anthropologie dishes! Just yesterday your son destroyed your last snack bowl in a science experiment. Snatch up a set of eight, your heart humming with happiness.

21. Glance down at the toddler, busily gnawing on Olaf’s carrot nose. Oh, good. That nose-munching will give you three more minutes, because you just spotted…

22. An adorable serving tray! Just last week you were telling your girlfriend you need one, and this one is only $12.99! Trays usually cost $30, so really, you’ll be saving money if you buy now. Into the cart it goes.

23. The toddler makes a gagging sound. Panicked, you dig half of Olaf’s nose out of her mouth. She starts screeching, full voice—the Toddler Time Bomb has gone off. The entire store turns to raise judgmental eyebrows at you. Time to go.

24. Place the screaming toddler in a football hold and jog to checkout, pushing the cart with your free arm, sparing only a side-glance for the shiny blur of kitchen appliances flying past.

25. Pause before getting in line, suddenly noticing that your cart is overflowing. Where did all this come from? I don’t remember grabbing a paisley broom and a set of decorative hooks!

26. Dig around in your purse, find a lollipop and hand it to the toddler, who stops crying and starts licking.

27. Pull out your phone and check your bank account balance. Gasp in dismay. There’s no way, I could have sworn…

28. Reload your bank app. Same pitiful number.

29. Stand there debating. You get paid in six days, which means if you don’t go out for Starbucks and you pack the kids’ lunches… you can afford the raincoat and two of the little bowls. Oh, and Olaf with his bitten-off nose. Now you have to buy Olaf. Poof goes your Target High.

30. Push the cart into the checkout line (past three other women, also staring unhappily at their smartphones). Mumble to the cashier, “Um, we changed our mind. We’ll just take the raincoat and the bowls and the snowman.”

31. Shuffle outside. Strap the toddler into her car seat. Realize you forgot to buy coffee.


If you liked this post—first, my sympathies, fellow Target High sufferer—but then, you might also enjoy:

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“I’m a Big Kid, No Wait, I’m a Baby” Syndrome


getting rid of pacifiers via @lizzylit

Don’t let the title fool you: this isn’t exactly a parenting post.

Two weeks ago, we got rid of pacifiers for the last time at our house. (Sniff sniff…I can’t believe we’re almost through the baby stage forever—it’s killing me.) The first night went swimmingly—not a single cry or complaint, just an angelic “Night-night, Mommy!”—all thanks to Sawyer’s initial thrill at getting to sleep with a toy for the first time. She gave me her pacifiers, I gave her a giant stuffed Olaf to sleep with. That’s our rule, by the way: No toys or stuffed animals in the bed until you get rid of pacifiers. This simple policy has given us some leverage in convincing our little pacifier addicts to surrender their passies. But back to our story.

That first morning, two-year-old Sawyer woke up all smiles and bragging rights: “Me a big girl now! Me give up my passies!” The first nap also went beautifully—not a single cry. So for about 23 hours, we were like, “Whoopee! We got off so easy! What an angelic child! Lucky us!”

We spoke too soon.

The second night, I put my daughter in her bed and tried to tuck her in. She did not lie down.

Instead she handed me Olaf and said, “Here, Mommy, take Olaf. Me want my passies back.” When I attempted to explain in two-year-old terms that the pacifiers had a no-exchange, no-return policy, her little face melted. There was a long pause, the calm before the storm. And then the wailing started… and nine days of sleepless misery began. (To add to our joy, my husband’s back went out the same day, leaving him in excruciating, debilitating pain. Isn’t that just the way of it?!)

The next afternoon during “nap time” (a.k.a. “scream-until-you-lose-your-voice-and-then-dig-down-deep-and-find-a-way-to-scream-some-more” time), I went in to check on Sawyer, and found her lying naked in a naked crib. Everything was on the floor: pillows, sheet, blankets, clothes, Pull-Up, even poor Olaf. Sawyer just lay there, a pale little girl on a stark white mattress, and gave me a tired, watery smile. In a pitifully hoarse voice she croaked, “Me pooped in my crib.” I stared down in dismay at the tangle of sheets and blankets, wondering where, exactly, the poop was hiding. Wondering where Carson and Anna and all of my household staff were when I, Lady Elizabeth, needed them. Wondering why oh why we had ever decided we needed to get rid of pacifiers when they are the most blessed invention ever granted to sleep-deprived parents.

And as I began the world’s grossest-ever scavenger hunt, Sawyer supervised my work (still naked in her crib) and announced, “Me not a big girl anymore. Me a baby.”

getting rid of pacifiers via @lizzylit


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I had to walk out of the room so I could laugh-cry at her (you know those moments: the I’m-so-exhausted-and-this-is-so-revolting-that-I-can’t-decide-if-I-should-laugh-or-cry-so-I’ll-do-both moments), and somewhere mid-laugh-cry, I started laughing at myself. Because the truth is, I’m not so different from my daughter. It’s not her fault she’s so stubborn. I’ve done something similar many times in my life—only I’ve done it to God.

Some days, life is good: Things are… not exactly easy, because life is never easy, but they’re manageable, pleasant, and as predictable as life can be with a visionary preacher-husband and four crazy kids in the house. And on those days I’m all gratitude and smiles. I’m like, “Thank you, God! You’re the best! I love my life. I love being a Christian. I love knowing that you guide me through my days. ‘Your rod and your staff, they comfort me’ (Psalm 23:4). Thanks for all the ways you are helping me to grow and mature.” I’m a big girl, God!

And then something changes.

Maybe it’s something big: a friend’s serious illness, a major financial setback, a heartbreaking disappointment. Or maybe the change is on the smaller side, one of those things that isn’t catastrophic, but ruins your plans and steals your joy nonetheless: hurt feelings, a sick kid (or two or three or four), a broken-down car.

All of a sudden, life isn’t so shiny anymore. I don’t want to be a grown-up anymore. I’m not a big girl, God. I’m a baby! I stop short of stripping off my clothes, but even so, I know that God sees me as I am, in all my unadorned glory:

“Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139:2)

I toss all my toys out of the bed and give in to dark thoughts. When God comes in to check on me, he finds me lying there pouting: “This is harder than I thought. I wasn’t ready for this. I want to go back to the way things were, when life was simpler. I didn’t realize what I was getting in to—you tricked me, God!”

And in those moments, I have a choice to make: I can scream and fight God until I lose my voice (knowing full well that I’m wasting my time, and God’s), or I can give in and let him guide me through the change.

Like Sawyer, it usually takes me a few days to work my way through it. I have to cry and complain to God a little. I have to wrestle with the Scriptures a lot. I have to talk to friends who are wiser and more rational than I am. I have to write about it and process it on paper. I might have to apologize to my visionary preacher-husband and four crazy kids.

But in the end, like Sawyer, I end up giving in and quieting down. I let God have his way with me. Eventually I admit, “Okay, you win. You’re the dad, I’m the daughter, and you know what’s best.” I’m a big girl again. Eventually I find joy in experiencing my own growth, knowing my heavenly Father is proud of me. And at long last, like Sawyer, I sleep peacefully through the night, knowing God is watching over my dreams.

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In case you missed it, here are the first two videos in the new LizzyLife YouTube channel: Building Family God’s Way, and First Comes Love! (In spite of my crazy eyes in the thumbnails, I think you’ll enjoy the videos!)


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When Kids Know God Better than We Do


helping children know God @lizzylit

 

“God paint trees, Mommy.”

My two-year-old beams up at me, pointing a chubby finger at the thick trees shading our front lawn.

Her word choice surprises a laugh out of me. “You know what? You’re right! God did paint those trees.”

I swirl the word paint around inside, exploring the delightful image of God the great Artist, paintbrush in hand, painting trees—a touch of green, a knot in wood, a crooked limb.

But my daughter is not done expounding. Her finger sweeps the yard. “God paint wow-ee.”

“Yes, and the flowers too.” A fragment of scripture flits across my mind: Lift up your eyes . . . who created all these?

Again the little finger searches, points. “God paint grass. Pink grass.”

I laugh, not bothering to correct her colors when she’s in the middle of a theological epiphany. “Oh yes, God painted the grass!”

She tips her honey-and-sunshine curls back, squinting up. “God paint sky. Clouds. Sun. Moon.” She casts me a smug grin as if to say, Aren’t you impressed that I know so many “sky” words?

“Oh, yes, you’re right. God painted all of those things,” I say. “Aren’t they beautiful?” I glance up at puffy clouds drifting on a sea of blue. The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Hazel eyes dancing, my daughter flings her hands out wide, the grand finale: “God paint me!”

I am struck speechless. I catch her up in my arms and bury my face in her sweet baby-soap smell.

She pushes me back and insists: “God paint me! Mommy tummy!” Pudgy fists pressed against my chest, round eyes locked on mine, she awaits my response.

At last I find my voice. “Oh, yes, darling, God painted you in Mommy’s tummy.”

She snuggles in and squeezes tight.

Even now her words echo inside me, a gorgeous refrain: God painted me. Such profound insight, from one so young, so fresh from heaven. God made us, yes, but more than that: he painted us.

I can just picture it: The great Artist takes up his paintbrush, selects his canvas, lays out his paints—a thousand hues of possibility—and ponders: What to create today? Oh, I know! Humming happily to himself, he dips his brush in paint and begins with just a single stroke: conception. Another stroke, a pause for inspiration—she’s taking shape now. A dab here, a curve there. He stops, debating: What color eyes to give? He mixes shades—a hint of green, a streak of caramel, a few golden flecks—there. Just right. He chuckles to himself, picturing those perfect eyes lit with wonder the first time they see a rainbow, a dandelion, a puppy. Now for the hair. He thinks for a moment, tapping his brush against his lip. I’ll borrow a little curl from her grandfather, a touch of auburn from her great-great-grandmother, a cowlick from her mother . . . oh, yes. Beautiful. On and on he paints—fingers, toes, crooked nose (because as any great artist knows, it’s the imperfections that make it perfect)—and when he is finished, he steps back, eyes shining. Even more beautiful than I imagined, he thinks. Oh, yes. This is good. She is very, very good. In the corner, he signs his name.

 

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

(Psalm 139:13–16)

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helping kids know God @lizzylit


Watch the first video in the new LizzyLife YouTube channel: Building Family God’s Way!


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Before you leave, don’t forget to sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter. Recent newsletter topics have included 5 Ways to Help Siblings Become Friends and 6 Simple Ways to Teach Kids to Walk with God. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a free download: 7 Two-Minute Devotions to Do Around the Breakfast Table with Kids!

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20 Things that Do Not Go Together in the Parent-Kid Universe


things that don't go together via @lizzylit

I usually write lists of 13, but when it comes to the parent-kid universe, there are sooooo many things that don’t go together—eventually I had to make myself stop at 20.

  1. Motherhood and white pants.

  2. A wad of toilet paper and the washing machine.

  3. Carpet and Play-Doh  Kool-aid  milk  children.

  4. A five-month-old in your arms, and dangly earrings in your ears.

  5. A grumpy baby and a crowded airplane.

  6. A child with a runny nose looking for a snuggle, and your best black shirt.

  7. A trip to Target and a barely-there bank balance.

  8. Potty trainers and public bathrooms.

  9. Poop and Pull-ups.

  10. Poop and swim diapers.

  11. A potty trainer who needs to poop (but can’t or won’t tell you they need to poop), and a nice relaxing bubble bath with their sibling… Okay, I’ll stop with the poop theme now. Sorry. It’s just, some days it seems my entire life revolves around poop. @lizzylit

  12. A bowl of apples on the table, and a hungry toddler who has learned to climb.

    IMG_4525

  13. Pacifiers and babies with stuffy noses.IMG_1736

  14. Toddlers and food.@lizzylit

  15. Toddlers and sand.things that don't go together via @lizzylit

  16. Toddlers and “no.”Strategies for dealing with whiny behavior in children

  17. Toddlers and paint.toddlers and markers

  18. Toddlers and crayons.When plans go wrong

  19. Toddlers and makeup.Baby Gaga

  20. Toddlers and pens.when you give a toddler a pen

See what I mean? We could go on like this for days. The point is: Babies and toddlers and the real world . . . a messy, dangerous, but hilarious combination. No wonder we’re so tired. Let’s all go take a nap.


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Before you leave, don’t forget to sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter. Recent newsletter topics have included 5 Ways to Help Siblings Become Friends and 6 Simple Ways to Teach Kids to Walk with God. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a free download: 7 Two-Minute Devotions to Do Around the Breakfast Table with Kids!


Is It Time for a Showdown with Your Kid?


winning the battle of wills

The first part of this article applies best to young preschoolers (ages two, three, and four); the questions in the second half will be helpful in parenting older children as well. 

The scene: a middle-of-nowhere McDonald’s where our family has stopped for a bathroom-and-snack break while traveling.

The surface issue: a bib.

The real issue: Who is in charge—me or my 2-year-old.


Me to my 2-year-old: “You can have some ice cream like the big kids, but you have to wear a bib.”

2-year-old: “NO! No bib!” (Begins crying and tugging at bib.)

Me to myself, glancing around at all the McDonalds customers who are pretending not to stare at us: Okay, I have a decision to make. Do I let her take off the bib, or do I stick to my guns? I could just make her start over and ask calmly and respectfully if she can take off the bib, and then let her take it off, but . . . sigh. This time I need to stick to my guns. First, she’s been fighting me a lot lately. Not good. Second, I don’t want her getting ice cream all over her shirt before we get back in the car. Third, she needs to know that she doesn’t get her way by pitching fits. Fourth, she needs to learn that she doesn’t always get her way, period. 

Me to 2-year-old: “Okay, fine. You can take off the bib, but that means no ice cream. If you keep the bib on, you can eat your ice cream.”

2-year-old, loudly: “Me want ICE KWEAM!”

Me: “Okay. Then keep your bib on.”

2-year-old: “No no no no no bib!” Tugs even harder at the bib.

We are definitely getting some looks now. I’m beginning to wonder if we need to take this little confrontation outside.

Me, reaching for her ice cream: “Okay, then no ice cream.”

2-year-old: Throws head back and cries halfheartedly at the ceiling. Not a full-on fit, but she’s thinking about it. I brace myself for the worst. But then she looks at me and I can see surrender in her eyes. “Me want ice kweam.” She stops tugging on the bib.

I hand her the spoon and she digs in, all smiles again. I breathe a sigh of relief. Minor skirmish resolved. Score one for Mommy.

I call this a “minor skirmish,” because in the grand scheme of parenting, it wasn’t a huge deal. This wasn’t a make-or-break moment…not necessarily.

But it was important. It was important because it showed my 2-year-old who is in charge. It taught her that Mommy and Daddy mean what we say. We allowed her to make a choice and gave her a sense of control in her own life, but within the rules we had set for her. It taught her that she can’t get her way by pitching a fit or being stubborn. She can’t wear us down.

In the middle of moments like this, we can feel ridiculous: I’m in a McDonald’s, arguing with a two-year-old over a bib. You start to feel like a two-year-old yourself.

But don’t underestimate the significance of these little confrontations. Small parenting victories like these do matter. Why?

Are there times when we can decide not to turn a little moment into a battle of wills? Of course. Are there times when we can (and should) be flexible for the sake of peace? Definitely. (Keep in mind that more flexibility is often in order with older kids. We need to parent them differently than we would a two- or three- or four-year-old. For more on that concept, read How to Raise Respectful Children and When Your Kid Won’t Stop Whining.)

Here are some of the criteria I use when deciding if it’s time to have a showdown (major or minor) with one of my kids, or if it’s time to pull an Elsa and “let it go”:

  • Do I have frequent conflict with this child? Do they constantly fight me on every little decision or rule I make? If so, it’s probably time for me to win some decisive battles.

  • Does this child always insist on getting their way, or is this an unusual situation (maybe they are tired or hungry, or they just really, really hate this particular bib)? If that’s the case, maybe I can make an exception.

  • Am I giving in just because I want to avoid a confrontation? (Bad idea.)

  • If I change my rule or give in right now, will I encourage this child to pitch fits or argue with me to get their way in the future? (Bad idea.)

  • Am I giving in to my child because I am too tired to deal with them? (Bad idea.)

  • Am I giving this child their way because I’m not confident that I can win a battle of wills with them? Am I afraid I will lose? (This shows that I have some work to do on my own confidence as a parent.)

  • Am I being unreasonable, unfair, or unkind to my child by insisting on my way? If so, then can I find a graceful compromise that maintains my authority as the parent, but also acknowledges that my original rule might not have been the best plan?

I realize that moments like these are tricky. How is it that a preschooler can get in your head and have you doing all kinds of mental gymnastics, questioning everything you thought you ever knew about parenting? (Or bib-wearing?)

Just remember: A few well-timed victories in skirmishes with young kids will prevent major battles later. It’s much easier to win a battle of wills with an impressionable two- or three-year-old than with a six-year-old who has spent six years thinking that they are the boss. The earlier you establish yourself as the confident but compassionate authority figure in your child’s life, the happier their little life will be.

My son, do not forget my teaching,

but keep my commands in your heart. . . .

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord and shun evil.

-Proverbs 2:1,7

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You might also enjoy this video, on how to teach young kids to obey:

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