The School of Life

Kids learn important life lessons when they shop with their parents

This column appeared in 2020, Issue 4 of California Grocer magazine

By Kimberly Rae Miller

I still have the unicorn party supplies I bought for my daughter’s first birthday in a box next to my desk. A year ago, as I called the bakery to cancel her birthday cake, I took comfort in the fact that if nothing else, I didn’t have to go to work on my baby’s first birthday. Next year, I thought, would be different.

It’s next year and it’s not different…yet. The unicorn-themed plates and cups and party hats will have to wait one more year. As we gear up for her second homebound birthday, I can’t wait to expose her to all the normal life stuff she’s missed in the last year. At 22-months, she can’t remember ever going to a restaurant. She’s never had a play date, gone to a fair, picked an ice-pop from the ice cream truck or gleefully raced down grocery store aisles in a cart driven by her dad while I yell, “Stop, please don’t hit anyone!”  

Grocery shopping with kids is, despite the unavoidable meltdowns, something I miss. I miss seeing my son, who has never been much of an eater, get excited by food. I miss plotting our own baking projects as we roam the bakery section. I miss the way he tries to strike up conversations with everyone he sees. 

For most of us, shopping for food is just a part of daily life, something we have to do, but for small children, it’s an adventure. The grocery store is where kids get to exercise a small amount of control, helping to choose family meals. It’s where they learn about commerce. Where they learn about nutrition. It’s where they learn what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Where they discover foods from other cultures. Where they meet their neighbors. Sure, it’s where we buy food, but it’s also where we teach our kids important lessons about how to take care of themselves. 

I took it for granted before, but when as the world opens back up, I’m looking forward to including my daughter into our grocery store adventures. I don’t know how many more years I have that my kids will actually want to roam the produce aisles with me, sneaking unwashed raspberries into their mouths despite my protestations. The raspberries are a battle I’ll never win, so I’ll just savor it while it lasts.  

Mark your calendars, next year we’re having one “rager” of a third birthday party. I hope you like unicorns.