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Posted on Mon. Oct. 03, 2011 - 12:01 am EDT

Life … without bumper pads: A hard lesson in creative multitasking


Editor's note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.

As two busy parents, my husband and I are always searching for ways to increase the quality time we spend with our kids. Over the years, we have found that successfully accomplishing that in the midst of our myriad of responsibilities often means engaging in “creative” multitasking.

Take lawn work for example. Our sons truly enjoy helping with it, and jump at the chance to run around in the yard with their father. Similarly, our daughter seems to find satisfaction in helping me tackle the laundry. As she and I giggle over piles of towels, the boys shout and laugh from the backyard. It's the ultimate win-win.

So, as my husband and I reviewed our to-do list one weekend afternoon, we decided we could apply our successful multitasking model to one dreaded weekly task: the grocery store.

“You think the kids will enjoy that?” my husband asked me.

“Sure!” I responded enthusiastically. “We can play I Spy or something in the aisles. They'll love it!”

As we arrived at the store, we marched inside like a line of ducks. When the greeter spotted us, she gave us a dubious look. I sniffed. Sure, we had all three kids with us, but they were well behaved and this trip would be a piece of cake.

We left the baby in the stroller, put our youngest son in the cart and instructed our eldest to walk beside us. We made our way down the first aisle with no problems, and I mentally congratulated my husband and I for turning a tedious task into a fun family outing.

And then, my son spotted the snack cake display.

“Brownies!” he yelled, running over and grabbing the box. His exclamation captured the full attention of his brother, who began an attempt to climb out of the cart. Then his sister began a similar escape route out of her stroller. I looked at my husband, who was busily surveying eggs. I had to think fast.

“OK, put the brownies in the cart,” I told my son while I secured my other two children back in their respective seats.

“Can I have one now?” he asked.

“No, after lunch,” I responded.

All three kids burst into tears. Incredulous — and with my husband now immersed in the cheese selection — I tore open the box and felt my face redden as fellow shoppers surveyed the chaos. Yes, I was bribing my children. But we were only three aisles into this trip, and I was desperate.

The brownies bought us 10 minutes of peace. And then it was the cereal and candy aisle.

“Pop-tarts!” my youngest son exclaimed.

And in the cart they went.

“Gummy snacks!” my oldest son announced with glee.

And in the cart they went.

When we arrived at the produce section, I exhaled. I knew my kids wouldn't be begging for extra vegetables. I grabbed a small watermelon and placed it in the cart, and as my husband went in search of green beans, I turned to select bananas.


I closed my eyes, afraid to turn around.

“Mom! He dropped the watermelon!” my oldest child yelled.

I pivoted slowly, and sure enough, there was a watermelon mural on the floor of the store. Now thoroughly humiliated, I grabbed the paper towels out of the cart and wiped up the mess as my husband came running over.

“It's time to check out,” I said through gritted teeth.

“But we didn't get –,” he began.

It was too late. I was already headed to the checkout lane. As I watched the bill climb steadily from the “treats” my children had accumulated, I felt beads of sweat on my forehead. I paid the bill as my husband loaded bags in the cart and then we were finally back in the car, groceries and children securely loaded. My husband looked over at me.

“How about a family movie night on Sundays?”

“Great idea,” I responded with a nod.

And just like that, the weekly grocery trip was scratched off the list of multitasking family activities.

This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. To read other columns, go to and click the left-side link for Columns.

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