When you have kids, sometimes you just don’t want them tagging along with you. After I was divorced, I learned very quickly that grocery shopping with a couple of young charges required more patience than I possessed. They viewed the grocery store as one giant playground, and thought nothing of playing a spirited game of tag in the frozen food aisle. It was hard to corral them while searching for broccoli florets and trying not to squeeze the Charmin. As soon as they were old enough to stay on their own, I ditched them and the whole grocery shopping experience improved tenfold.
Nowadays, when Tara and I go grocery shopping, we treat the place like one giant playground, tossing bags of frozen broccoli and boxes of pasta to each other from across the aisle as if we were throwing around the ol’ pigskin…and I’m not talking about pork rinds. Hmm. No wonder my parents never want to go shopping with me!
But the grocery store is just one example. Maybe we want to go to the Saturday Market, or browsing through a record store. Perhaps we have brunch in mind. Often it’s just easier if the kids aren’t there. And no, “easier” doesn’t mean “less expensive.”
OK, “easier” totally means “less expensive.” So sue me.
At the same time, we don’t want to sneak out of the house when they have their backs turned. I have found the perfect solution to this dilemma: it’s a little phrase called “running errands.”
“Hey, kids,” I’ll say to Rusty and Audrey as we’re tying our shoelaces, preparing to head out. “We need to run a few errands. Want to come along?”
Ten times out of ten, they pass. Somehow, they associate “running errands” with a seemingly endless array of stops at boring places like Target and Ross and Fred Meyer. They think it’s adultspeak for “chores that do not appeal to teenagers.” And you know what? I’m okay with that. In fact, I’ve begun to use it to my advantage.
Take last Sunday, for instance. Tara and I wanted to go out to breakfast. We also knew this particular restaurant is trendy and popular, which means a 45-minute wait for a table. You know how 1 people year is equivalent to 7 dog years? It’s similar with kids. I don’t know the exact equation, and it varies with age, but every adult minute is probably equal to about three teenage minutes. When you’ve got a toddler every adult minute is more like twelve toddler minutes, so you definitely make progress as they age, but still. Throw hunger into the equation, and it’s more like 1 adult minute = 4.5 teenage minutes. Quite frankly, we just didn’t want to chance a 200-minute wait for a table.
“We’re running errands,” I told Rusty Sunday morning. He assumed that meant Target and Ross and Fred Meyer, when really it meant eggs benedict and bloody marys. I think he actually wished me luck before bolting from the room.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes “running errands” does mean Target and Ross and Fred Meyer. But it might also mean a stroll through the farmer’s market or an ice cream cone at Salt & Straw or a matinee at the local cineplex. Lest you think we selfishly never include the kids, nothing could be further from the truth. The day before brunch, we took them hiking and made a picnic lunch. And we regularly take them to the movies or invite them to go fishing with us. But they’re at the age where they are just as likely to want to stay home anyway. Somehow, they think we aren’t cool.
So yeah, “running errands” is our lifeboat. Or its cousin, “we have plans.” (But the kids have smartly figured out “we have plans” means “we’re stopping by the bar for a few drinks” so we don’t use that one as often, and when we do, knowing winks are exchanged all around. Nobody’s foolin’ nobody these days).
If you’re a new parent and wondering why this stuff doesn’t appear in any manual, don’t worry: it’s one of those closely guarded secrets that will be revealed as the years slip by. You’ll catch on. Mark my words.