30: A Priceless Privilege

30: A Priceless Privilege

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

A Priceless Privilege

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

~William James

“If I had one million dollars, and I paid someone half that amount to do the grocery shopping, how much would I be paying?” I asked my six-year-old son, Andrew, whom I’m convinced is a math genius.

“Mom!” he said with exasperation. He knows when I make up word problems like this, they are not completely hypothetical. He answered anyway.

“Five hundred thousand dollars.”

The truth is that I dread grocery shopping like I’d dread a migraine. If I suddenly became independently wealthy, I’d still clean the house, cook all the food, and care for Andrew and his sister, three-year-old Gracie, because I find joy and fulfillment in those tasks. But grocery shopping? I’d hire a personal shopper in a heartbeat. There are so many things I’d rather do than shop, like weed the yard, scrub the toilets, or clean the oven. I’d willingly have a mammogram, Pap smear, and root canal all on the same day to avoid shopping.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. I hate cleaning the oven, too.

One reason I detest grocery shopping is the time it takes on a Saturday when I would rather be playing with my kids. Another is that it is the most underappreciated task I do for my family. The only time they notice my effort is when I forget something. Or so I thought.

On my latest shopping trip, I pushed my cart through the aisles and tried to push away my bad attitude. Because we had recently moved, I wasn’t familiar with the store’s layout, which only made the task more frustrating. And I was having a most forgetful day, even with a list. I wheeled from the side that had the toothpaste to the side that had the pork roast, and then remembered I needed shampoo. After getting the shampoo, I realized I needed a meat thermometer. After that I rolled back to the food department. Then I remembered I promised to get Gracie some hair accessories. I rolled back over to the health and hygiene aisle, and picked out ponytail holders, barrettes, and a neon pink and orange brush and comb set. It was a little loud for me, but perfect for Gracie.

At home, after I put all the groceries away, Gracie came into the kitchen.

“What did you get for me, Mommy?”

I showed her the hair accessories, and her face lit up like sunshine.

She opened all the packages immediately, brushed and combed her long ringlets, and begged for me to fix her hair. After I pulled her hair up into a bouncy ponytail, she wanted to wear the new barrettes — all of them, all at once. I dutifully obliged, snapping them into her hair above the ponytail holder.

“You look beautiful!” I said.

“I’ll go get ready for the park!” she announced, flashing me a brilliant smile.

Gracie quickly dressed in her turquoise shirt, purple leggings, hot pink tutu, and ladybug shoes. I kissed her on top of her head, on the one spot there wasn’t a barrette. Even a Scrooge-like shopper like me had to admit Gracie’s excitement over the barrettes felt pretty good.

As Gracie and her purple and pink barrettes zoomed, jumped, and danced all over the park, I reevaluated my view of shopping. Why did I hate it so much? My husband, the safety expert and Consumer Reports reader, buys toys and products that require research, which helps me immensely since I’m always pressed for time. But that means he brings home Legos, Barbie dolls, and awesome gizmos like the family camera, flat-screen TV, and a cool new telescope. I bring home scintillating items like bread and toilet paper, which are very important, but not exactly backflip worthy.

Gracie’s barrettes reminded me that sometimes my weekly purchases do matter to my family — the occasional box of Froot Loops, Spider-Man and Hello Kitty Band-Aids, Colombian coffee for my husband, Batman pencils for my son’s schoolwork. Every week, I bring them these humble offerings and, hopefully, a little brightness. Maybe shopping wasn’t such a burdensome chore after all.

Later that night, after the kids were bathed and in bed asleep, I crept into their rooms. I wanted to see their angelic faces one more time before going to bed myself. As I tucked Gracie’s pink and plum butterfly blanket under her chin, I noticed she was holding something. I pulled the blanket away. Her plump fingers clutched her new hairbrush to her chest. She held it close so it would be there first thing in the morning when she awoke.

From then on, shopping for my family would be a priceless privilege.

~Janeen Lewis

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