A vague memory of Friday night, pre-kids, is still clinging to a few of my brain cells.
Every kickoff to the weekend was different, but usually involved some form of celebrating at the house/apartment or with friends elsewhere. Sometimes there was live music. There was usually food. There was usually drink.
When no plans materialized, however, I was enjoying one of my favorite de-stressors: grocery shopping.
I assure you, no sarcasm here.
Grocery shopping reduced my stress. It got me out of the house and into the right frame of mind. Also, how great is food? Am I right? And before you cast me as a lame, no-fun geek, let me assure you… that you are correct.
Regardless, I was a lame, no-fun king, free to gallivant about the kingdom as I pleased on these nights.
This kingdom, however, has grown by two court jesters. And while I still enjoy my food-based pastime, the journey to the grocery store can take on the stressors of a mystical quest that would make King Arthur consider another line of work.
Some nights are fine. We drive to my favorite store. We more or less come home with a reasonable assortment of food from my carefully constructed shopping list.
And then there are the other times.
They are the times when exhaustion has crept in early, and tolerance for anything less than a cart filled with candy is unacceptable to Cooper, 5, and Milo, 2.
Damn the torpedoes and damn the reasonable assortment.
Forget the cross country trip. Friday nights to the grocery store with just the boys and I are the adventures that dreams are made of.
A look at my typical adventure…
6:25 p.m. After getting kids in jackets, hats, etc. look for toys that they can easily carry and will not break when dropped from the height of the shopping cart handles.
6:30 p.m. Depart with now-sobbing children, who cannot believe you left the house with only three toys apiece. Side note: You monster!
6:35 p.m. Remind kids we are not there yet, but will be soon.
6:38 p.m. Ditto.
6:41 p.m. Ditto Ditto.
6:45 p.m. Arrive to triumphant cheers that the long, arduous trek is finally over (until…you know…we have to go home later).
6:47 p.m. Place Milo in shopping cart seat facing you. Remind Cooper if he wants to walk, he needs to pay attention and not touch anything. He swears to walk entire grocery trip.
6:48 p.m. Yank Cooper away from bread display he started walking into while trying to grab a muffin package. Re-state verbatim what you said at 6:47 p.m. Side note: He is not even interested in the muffins.
6:50 p.m. Endure full-scale onslaught of kids’ prayers that we get the spheres of white cheddar affectionately known in the Farnsworth household as “circle cheese.” Decide to use circle cheese as reward for good behavior.
6:52 p.m. Decide to spend extra quarter on the cartoon-themed mac n’ cheese. Soak in cheering from kids, whose very livelihood rested on the shape of these noodles.
6:53 p.m. Allow Cooper to pull ticket from deli ticket machine and Milo to put ticket stub back in the small ticket receptacle. Shower deli worker with praise for offering to give kids piece of cheese.
6:55 p.m. The infamous rack of toys at the end of Aisle 5 approaches. Try to distract boys by talking about other items I will allow them to pick out later. It almost never works. Firmly, yet lovingly remind them that we are here for food. If they persist, explain that you are not above calling an Uber for them to get home the rest of the way.
6:57 p.m. Put Cooper in carriage after he has discovered he has no more energy to walk.
6:59 p.m. Watch in awe as Cooper builds an intricate fort out of the contents of the cart.
7:00 p.m. Comfort him after taking the corner to the next aisle and his fort has imploded.
7:05 p.m. As we finish gathering produce, both kids break into impromptu singing of their favorite movie theme. Side note: See, Josh. You still DO get live music on a Friday night.
7:10 p.m. Under exasperations from Milo, explain that trying to climb into freezer will be cold.
7:15 p.m. Give encouraging nods to lady behind us in line who is openly flirting with my two-year-old and how blue his eyes are.
7:18 p.m. Thank cashier for adorning children with stickers as we finish checking out. Ask if s/he is available to babysit (if so, tell cashier to bring plenty of stickers).
7:20 p.m. Deposit groceries and children in van after returning cart. Call for compliance by threatening to withhold circle cheese.
7:21 p.m. Cave in and give them circle cheese after realizing the car ride home will be better for everyone this way.
7:37 p.m. Arrive home. Bring kids in first, who tell my wife of their adventures. Bring in groceries and put away.
7:38 p.m. Deny children yet another circle cheese, remind them that they have already eaten their weight in dairy products this evening.
Those pre-kids Friday nights were fun.
But watching Cooper excitedly unfolding an unprecedented third small wheel of cheese from its packaging, and Milo screaming in wild celebration at our conquest of choosing the theme to the gummy snacks, the difference was clear: I got all that time listed above with my two dudes.
Tired or not—even with several trips down Aisle 5—that time together trumps all things.
And now our castle was stocked. There was food. There was drink. If there were two court jesters riding with me, all was right in the kingdom.
9:05 p.m. Upon checking refrigerator, make a note that we are officially out of circle cheese. Plan next adventure to the grocery store.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.