It was a lazy Sunday. All of us were tired. No one rushed to do anything. My husband made oatmeal for breakfast. My son walked around in his favorite Spiderman costume all day. My daughter was comfortable in her leggings and favorite t-shirt. The babies watched two movies, I watched a Little League World Series game and my husband tinkered away on a ‘Do It Yourself’ project. I mustered up the energy to start dinner; baked barbecue chicken, mashed sweet potatoes and some veggies. The only problem was I was missing one ingredient. Don’t you hate that? I mean, you’ve prepped the kitchen and the meal. You’ve pre-heated the oven and can now taste this meal only to figure out you’re missing an ingredient. In my case it was evaporated milk for the mashed sweet potatoes.
One of the best things about where we live is the proximity to stores. My grocery store of choice is in our neighborhood and about one mile from our front step. I can drive there in about 5 minutes. No stoplights, no major streets on the route. I have on a t-shirt, some workout shorts and a baseball cap and I have NO interest in changing. My daughter who’s 8 years-old, in the 4th grade and very bright loves any kind of shopping and was up for the quick run. For a split second I remember how often I went to the store independently at her age. I was 6-years-old the first time I walked to the corner store with a list of stuff for my grandma. I’m sure I will age myself when I tell you that I didn’t need any money. Mr. Sam was the owner and he knew all the neighborhood kids and our families. My grandma and granddaddy had a running tab.
But, this ain’t the 80s and our grocery store is a lot bigger than Mr. Sam’s corner store. So, no my daughter had never been in the store by herself. But when I mentioned the possibility, she lit up. “I got this momma.” I know exactly where it is. Let me do it. I can do it momma. You stay in the car and I can run in and get it.”
Now, to be honest I know she CAN do it. She goes with me all the time. She helps me cook and she’s very mature. So, I reluctantly agree.
In walks FEAR. We pull up to the grocery store and the parking spot right in front of the door is occupied. I look around and I see a spot within eyeshot, BUT I’ve decided I’m not ready for this and as I turn off the car, I renege on my offer to let her experience a small dose of independence.
“I’m sorry Morgan I’m just not comfortable letting you go, there’s a lot of things to consider. We’ll go together.” “Come on mom,” she says. “I got this. RELAX. We come here all the time, they know me.” I take a minute and remember that the same cashier works their almost every Sunday and has known my baby since birth. She asks about her when she’s not with me. “How’s your baby?” she asks. “Is she in dance this year?”
I look at my baby’s face and I reluctantly agree. I write a quick note: EVAPORATED MILK (Baking Isle). I hand her a $20 bill and tell her she can also get a bag of icees for her and her brother. I write on the note, Icees (Cheese Isle). I remind her not to talk to strangers and make sure she counts her change.
“Got it,” she says as the car door slams behind her. “Be right back.”
I see her walk away at 5:07 p.m. and in walks INSECURITY. People will think I am a bad mom. Lord, folks are going to think I have lost my mind. But before I could finish my insecure moment, in walks FEAR again. What if she talks to strangers? What if she gets kidnapped? What if she gets lost in the grocery store? What if I didn’t give her enough money? If she’s not back in 10 minutes, I’m going in. I roll down the window and what do I see? A fellow mom and community member coming out the same door she went in.
Lord, now it’s out. I’m a bad mom and I let my baby go into the store by herself. I wave frantically, cause I’m like at least let me let her know I’m RIGHT HERE. She doesn’t see me and keeps walking. The time is now 5:11 p.m. and I know I said I’d wait 10 minutes, but this must be a sign I need to go in.
I roll up the window, turn off the car and open the car door. As I am getting ready to jump out I remind myself how smart she is. That she makes good decisions. I think back to when I was her age and I grab my phone and begin to glance from the phone to the window, phone to the window and low and behold, it’s 5:18 and I’m out the car on my way in cause it’s now 11 minutes and who do I see sashaying out with a small cart with the biggest Kool Aid grin I’ve seen her with in a minute?
I don’t tell her I was on my way in, but I do ask “What took you so long?” She says “I’m sorry I had a little trouble finding the right brand. I grabbed one that looked familiar and then I thought let me hurry up, I know this is killing my mom.”
I tell her she did an awesome job and I am really proud of her, but I’m just not ready for all of this. She gives me a big hug and says, “well I was hoping you’d let me go back inside and get something sweet to celebrate my victory.” My face must have told her my thoughts because she immediately starts fast talking about how she wanted to come out and ask first because it wasn’t her money and not on the list. “I know exactly where it is and it won’t take me but a second,” she pleads.
I hand her $10 from the change and remind her to pick up something for her brother and I hold my breath for another 3 whole minutes.
I’m not sure there’s a magical age, where this would ever had been okay, but I can say that any second thoughts I had lessened when after telling me blow by blow what happened and what she witnessed she gave me a tight squeeze and said “Thanks for trusting me with such a big job mom. I know that was tough for you.”
She’s right, but I also know there are two gifts we should give our children, one is roots and the other is wings. Let’s just pray I don’t have a heart attack watching them learn to fly.