SIMPLY kc Magazine – June 2012 issue

PARENTING:  by Stacey Hatton

When was the last time you enjoyed taking your young children grocery shopping? The day before never?

Little kids are not wired for this mundane activity.  You have them strapped into a shopping cart, facing you, and expect them to sit quietly and not whine when you aren’t entertaining them? I know there are a handful of über parents with their Photoshopped babies cooing and posing while allowing them to perform price comparisons, sorting of coupons and use their barcode scanner apps, but this is NOT the norm.  Most parents need to consider how to improve their shopping trip by keeping their children safe, planning ahead, and building up the child’s self-esteem.

General Safety Stats                                                                                                             According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “Every year, thousands of children are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for falls from shopping carts. Falls from shopping carts are among the leading causes of head injuries to young children and most often occur when children stand up in the child seat or the cart basket.”  Usually, this is because the safety equipment on the cart is not being used correctly, or when parents are looking away, the kids are able to “Houdini” their way out of restraints. The CPSC continues, “Children can also fall from the shopping cart seat even when an infant seat, infant carrier or a car seat is placed in the cart seat.”

Preventing shopping cart falls: (Source: CPSC)

  • Use seat belts to restrain your child in the cart seat.
  • Stay with your child at all times.
  • Don’t allow your child to ride in the cart basket.
  • Don’t allow your child to ride or climb on the sides or front of the cart.
  • Don’t allow a child to push the cart with another child in it.

Planning is Essential                                                                                                                        

The Nemours Foundation suggests “setting rules about (your child’s) behavior before you go.”  Trying to establish rules at the market is not the best place to get your child to focus on your instructions.  There are too many distractions for the child to participate in a successful errand.                                                                                         

Infants – A full tummy and dry diaper before the errand are necessary.  If you can get a sleeping baby in her carrier placed into the large portion of the cart, you are as good as gold.  Granted you don’t have much room for groceries, but there are too many accidents of carts and infant seats to chance it.  Toys or a bottle can save you when her patience runs low.

Toddlers – If you have to bring your toddler, make sure you follow the tummy/diaper advice from above.  (Actually, don’t we all do better at the store with a full stomach and empty bladder?)  Make sure to have your child belted securely into the cart.  One quick turn of your head and they will dive for the fruit snacks.  If they are continually impatient or fussy, pull out the sippy cup and your prepared container of Cheddar bunnies or their vice of choice.

Preschoolers – This age is easier for public adventures.  Most enjoy helping and playing games.  You can have them locate certain fruits and vegetables to build their vocabulary.  A game of “I Spy” works well in the inner aisles, and having them find colors and shapes, can keep them entertained.  Educating your child instead of having to say “No!” the entire trip can be fun and stimulating.

Heidi Prentice, an Overland Park mom of two, makes grocery shopping time a festival of fun for her kids. “…each gets a balloon and that distracts them through the fruit and vegetable aisles. A cookie keeps them good through most of the store, until they get to the deli area where they have their cheese course.”

Follow-up Instructions                                                                                                                      When leaving the grocery store make sure to thank your children for their assistance and/or good behavior during the errand.  Making them feel as if you couldn’t have done the job as successfully without their help or company will make the trip a positive experience for them, and odds are they will behave better the next trip. Or if you would rather bang your head against the meat freezer instead of take your child to the market; you can always opt for a sitter, your spouse, a family member, or trade with another struggling parent to watch your kids while you go alone!


Maxed out moms need answers and compassion

previously published in The Kansas City Star newspaper on Saturday, 9/24/11


I am one of those phone calls that every police dispatcher or DMV receptionist dreads picking up. “Ma’am, you want what?” Then I repeat my inane question in another fashion, hoping it will make sense a second time.

It is at this point that I wonder whether using an exotic French accent or increasing my volume every other word would make a difference, but I usually talk myself out of that and politely ask to speak to a manager.

However, the problem remains: My questions are serious, and according to the aforementioned departments, have never been asked before. So either I am moronic or, as I like to think, creatively wired.

After my normal repartee with the phone triage person at Overland Park’s Police Department — who, by the way, is a lovely human being, and we should do lunch — I was put in contact with my buddy in O.P.’s Traffic Safety Department, Capt. Mike Imber. He doesn’t treat me like I am crazy for asking questions that every mother with multiple children has thought in the parking lot at the grocery store at some point.

I asked him:

“How can I get all of my children safely strapped in their car seats, get the groceries put away in the back and return the cart, without leaving my kids alone in the car or risking dragging them through the lot with cars whizzing by while returning the cart?”

Now I know all of you “problem solvers” are trying to figure this one out. It can be done easily if you do this, or have you thought of this?

But, Bucko, hear me out. Try it in the rain, or try it with multiple-birth infants, or give it a whirl with a posse full of ADHD kids ranging from 2 months to 4 years. It can’t be done. Only with a large supply of duct tape followed by a knock on your door from the division of children services, can you successfully manage this feat of iron.

So I pleaded with the law over the phone. Help us struggling mothers get through the day without anyone getting injured or incarcerated!

Capt. Mike found my question (once again) to be not so easily answered, so he referred to “the books.” And the most disturbing piece of information he discovered was this: “Minors should not be locked in an unattended car by any adult, unless such child has present ability to be released from such vehicle.”

Say what?

So, basically, if you securely restrain your infant in the car seat so she is not able to get out of the seat by herself, and then you walk away from the car, you are breaking the law.

If you strap your sleep-deprived, screaming toddler in his 5-point-harness car seat for him to chill out while you get the groceries in the back of the minivan in the pouring rain and lock the door because you are afraid he will get out of the harness and throw himself into oncoming traffic, and then you push the cart to the cart barn, you are breaking the law!

If you stow your smarty-pants preteen in the luggage rack above the vehicle and lock it securely with a padlock and key while you place your frozen items in a cooler so you can go next door to get a mani and pedi, you are breaking the law! (As a registered nurse, I am required by law to say I don’t recommend this.)

I guess the moral of the story is that you should watch out for those moms whose nerves are maxed out and for those who don’t have enough hands to grab onto their kids to get them safely from Point A to Point B. (I’m not recommending running up behind them and grabbing one of their kids and carrying them to the curb for her because Mama Bear can be ferocious!)

But if we all watch out for each other, take off the blinders, show some compassion and just stop to offer a few seconds of your time to a parent in distress, our community will be stronger for every helping hand. Our kids just might learn from these actions as well.

Stacey Hatton is a pediatric registered nurse, writer and public speaker. Her humor blog can be found at