Isn’t there some old maxim about â€œhe travels the fastest who travels alone”? Â At the risk of sounding like a real misanthrope, I think it’s one of the truest statements ever made. Â I also believe that you could put just about any verb in place of Â â€œtravels,” and it would still make sense.
Moms — especially moms of young kids — know this better than anyone else. Â Try these variations:
â€œShe shops the fastest who shops alone.”
â€œShe folds laundry the fastest who folds laundry alone.”
â€œShe bakes cookies the fastest who bakes cookies alone.”
At the same time, though, I’m constantly in a mental tug-of-war over whether I should invite my kids (especially the oldest, four-year-old Matthew) into my errands and tasks. Â Yes, I’m exponentially more efficient when I grocery shop alone, which is why I often roll into the supermarket parking lot at nine o’clock on Friday night, a time when most normal people are home with a celebratory weekend drink. Â But I can’t deny that the kids love running errands with me, and that they often soak up valuable new experiences when I let them help (or “help”) with tasks around the house.
The other morning, for example, I wanted to go buy some flowers and a new terracotta pot for the patio. Â I could have gone alone; Scott was home to watch Matthew, who was happily ensconced on the sofa with some Â computer game. Â Maybe the sight of him playing it was the tipping point for me. Â Even though we ration his screen time pretty carefully, he still spends more time on computer games than I’d like. Â I realized that I could be the super-efficient solo shopper, or I could be the mom who prys her kid away from technology, takes him to a place with rows upon rows of colorful flowers, Â and helps him learn something about the beauty of the natural world.
When I framed it that way to myself, I couldn’t not invite him along.
And we had a great time. Â We went up and down the aisles of the nursery, looking at the flowers and the garden statuary and the lawnmowers. Â We picked out some white impatiens and some blue-violet violas and snapdragons the color of a sunset, vivid orange fading to coral fading to pink. Â We also bought a pair of Matthew-sized, bug-printed gardening gloves, for future planting sessions together.
At the checkout, we were helped by a kind elderly gentleman who was a dead ringer for Clarence the Angel from It’s a Wonderful Life. Â He thanked me repeatedly for Â my honesty when I told him that he’d forgotten to charge me for one of the snapdragons, and I thought: This is a good conversation for a little kid to hear.
And yes, the outing took longer than it would have if I’d gone alone. Â But it was very sweet to have my little helper there, exclaiming over the fountains and the flowers for sale. Â And on the way back out to the car, as Matthew sat in the shopping cart with a potted snapdragon next to him, one of its floppy stalks brushed against his cheek.
“Mommy!” he said joyfully. Â â€œThe flower is kissing me!”
Efficiency isn’t everything.