I admit it. I have a goldfish addiction, similar to that of your average 4 year old. Not the kind of goldfish that swims in a bowl; I’m talking about those little bits of baked cheddar crunchiness that you pop into your mouth one after another without a second thought. Parmesan is my favorite! I do not buy them… period…because I could easily eat an entire bag in one sitting. I do buy the whole grain cheddar goldfish sometimes, but even that is very rare since I feel they’re a seriously pricey snack food (at least for my budget). So I’m always on the lookout for cheaper goldfish alternatives.

Last week, I found just that at The Country Store, a local bulk food store that sells many “odd” things you can’t find in chain grocery stores. The store boasts a huge assortment of spices in various forms, canning paraphernalia, raw milk, lard, therm flo, clear jel, etc. On this particular visit to the store I was looking for some produce and snacks to take on our upcoming weekend get-away when I found “Cheddar Ducks Quackum’s,” a fun goldfish alternative for almost half the price of the real deal. Ian wasn’t overly happy about this find because we had already picked up a bag of Baby Goldfish (family trip splurge) which I put back, but he was intrigued enough by the ducks not to care too much about the returned fish. Cheddar ducks quackum’s did not let me down either. Both my kids happily ate almost the entire bag (along with some help from myself) over the course of the 7hours in the car this past weekend. (I could even pronounce all of the ingredients.

Fast forward to today, on my way home from some morning errands I stopped at The Country Store for some clear jel to make a sour cherry pie since I had pie dough at home I needed to use up. We were also low on cheddar ducks and chocolate milk (another one of my guilty pleasures), which has become Ian’s addiction as well. I knew I was pushing Ian because it almost 12:30pm, and my boy takes after his mother. He gets VERY hangry (low blood sugar -hunger- leads to intense anger and unreasonableness). But I had given Ian a cereal bar at the stop before in hopes that it would stave off his hanger, and I only needed 3 items in the store…. how hard could this be?

On the way to the store, I told him what we were getting… duuummmb, d-d-dumb! Immediately he starts whining/demanding goldfish instead of ducks. Now I recently read a blog discussing discipline tactics, one of which is repeating what your child says in order to let your child know he/she is heard instead of feeling like the parent is steam rolling the kid’s desires. I’ve been trying this with Ian recently, and I feel it’s been helping him not to escalate so quickly. So I dove into my mantra… “I hear you want fishies, Ian. I know you want fish. I will get you fish when we go to Weis. I’m getting ducks here.” This abated him a little, although he declared up and down he wasn’t going to eat ducks. “That’s ok,” I said, knowing full well that he would quickly change his tune when he saw his sister chowing down on them.

Ian's blankets which he loves very much and usually go everywhere with him.

So as I’m unbuckling Ian’s carseat, I asked him if he wanted to take either of his blankets inside the store. “No,” he answered quickly and firmly. I got him out of the car, shut the door and locked it at which point he decided to go back to his whining/crying state similar to his fish-fit earlier. “I want my blanket. I want my blanket,” he cried over and over. Now for whatever reason, my kids do this a lot. They say they do or don’t want something and change their minds 20 seconds later. This drives me CRAZY. Maybe they do it because they’re kids. Maybe they do it because they know it drives me crazy. Maybe they do because we’ve given in to them too many times, but I’m very tired of it and have been cracking down on this dynamic recently. My response to his blanket whining went something like this – “Sorry. You said you didn’t want your blanket. You may have it when we come out.” Looking back, this wasn’t the right battle to pick given the time of day, but I wanted to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Instead, I set myself up for the longest three-item-grocery-store trip I’ve ever had. The whining continued in addition to the arrival of alligator tears, which quickly went to semi-shouts as Ian stubbornly refused to come into the store with me.

What could I do? Sit him in the car and wait until he stopped screaming? This would take more time than just dragging him through the store. Leave the store? – stories of other parents leaving stores because their kids were throwing fits rang through my head. But this seemed to punish me more than it would Ian. This is only store I know of that carries clear jel, so I would have to make a special 30 minute roundtrip drive another day in order to get my pies made. I did the only thing I could think of, which I have done many times before. I picked up my flailing, crying little boy and headed for the store entrance turning all the heads in the parking lot because his cries were getting close to frantic. For some silly reason, I just knew that he would calm down once we got inside where I could distract him.

“Would you like to walk or ride in the cart?” I (surprisingly!) calmly asked him. “I’m NOT coming!” he stated over and over while standing in the corner behind the carts. I picked him up and put him in the back of the cart, which only elicited louder wails. For some reason, I kept thinking he would see the pettiness of his cries and abruptly stop this ridiculous show, so I pushed on ignoring the other customers in the store judging the poor mother who didn’t know how to control her son’s behavior.

Ian’s sobs were approaching hysterical as we approached the chocolate milk, and I knew if we weren’t making a scene before, we had definitely reached that level in the dairy aisle. But I only needed 5 minutes in the store. Please, please, please calm down, Ian, I inwardly begged. I pulled the chocolate milk off the shelf and put it in the cart while Ian decided he was going to stand up in the cart and yell his lungs off. “Ian, you need to sit down and stop crying, or I’m going to put the chocolate milk back,” I found myself (still calmly) saying as my face began to turn multiple shades of red. But my “threat” had no apparent effect on my boy, and I knew I had to carry through with my consequence. I put the chocolate milk back on the shelf… and that was it.

The End.

The you-know-what hit the fan, and I quickly exited the store with cart and child – the only time in 6 years of parenting I’ve had to do that. Once outside I sat Ian on a bench until he was calm enough to hear me even though he continued to blubber on about chocolate milk. “Ian, if you can be calm and ride in the cart, we will go back into the store, get ducks and clear jel. If you are still calm after we have gotten those things, I will get the chocolate milk.” The tears ceased. The crying halted to sniffling. He took my hand, and we walked toward the entrance for the second time today.

An older gentleman was standing near the door. (I later realized he had come out of the store to find me.) I forget his exact words to me, but he wanted to offer me parenting advice. He told me he had raised five kids so he knew what he was talking about. He told me that when his kids started to throw a fit, he would pretend to cry and throw a fit too until they stopped and asked him what he was doing. I knew he was trying to help me in the way he thought best. I appreciated his advice as much as I possibly could at that moment and told him I would try that next time (even though I’ve tried this many times already with very mixed results). Embarrassed, defeated and red-faced, I walked back into the store and got the three items: first the clear jel, then the ducks, and finally the chocolate milk. Standing in line at the check out, an elderly lady was behind me. Ian must have caught her eye because she leaned close to him and smiled a beautiful smile. “Are you having a bad day?” she gently asked Ian. “I had two little ones too so I know exactly what that’s like….. Poor Mommy might be having a bad day now too.”

The rest of the day has been relatively normal. I fed my boy his favorite chicken nugget lunch, and he returned to his normal, mostly happy self. We’ve had some very smallish meltdowns, but nothing out of the ordinary. I even tried throwing a small fit to one of Ian’s small meltdowns, just like the older gentleman with five kids suggested . Uuummm – that didn’t work so well. The thing that remains imprinted in my mind from the whole experience was the sweet, kind lady who sympathized with my situation. If I knew who you were, I would call you up and say: “Thank you. You were my angel today. Thank you for your words, your understanding, your grace, and your compassion. They meant so much at that moment.” May my words be just as kind and caring to those around me today (and my parental advice be minimal unless asked for it).


Pulling the bike trailer with his trike.
Pulling the bike trailer with his trike.


Happy Fall!



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