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Learning Curve

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Just like the name of her blog, The Casual Perfectionist, Momma is an admitted perfectionist, but she’s trying to be casual about it. She and her husband have a little girl named Claire, who will be 3-yrs old at the end of November. Momma is a firm believer in the fact that if you haven’t laughed really hard today, you weren’t really paying attention.

Any parent will tell you that parenthood is full of surprises. There are joys and challenges. For me, as a perfectionist, I knew what a lot of those things would be going into this project. I studied enough books and various forms of information on the subject to complete a Master’s Degree in it. I gleaned as much knowledge as I could from friends and family members who had been there. And, I’m just enough of a perfectionist to know that I’d have to jump in with both feet, not look back, and go with the flow.

(Apparently my Master’s Degree came with a concentration in Cliché Usage.)

I couldn’t wait to experience the challenges and see if I could handle them.

There were the obvious challenges ranging from “how to maintain an adult conversation after having only two hours of sleep” to “how to take a relaxing shower when you’re home by yourself with the baby” to “how to carry a baby in a car-seat-carrier and the groceries at the same time” to “figuring out the best way to maneuver over kiddie gates without tripping yourself.”

But hidden beneath the surface are the things that you don’t read about; the things that make you question whether you’re cut out for this kind of work; the things that you only discuss with your best girlfriends, in a hushed voice, and you only talk about them if someone else brings it up first. These are the things that make you wonder if anyone can ever take away your real college degree, because there’s obviously been some kind of mistake.

There’s the morning at 3 a.m. when your wonderful just-a-few-days-old newborn is screaming her fool head off and you can’t figure out how to make the fancy swaddling cloth (complete with handy Velcro tabs!) work. The baby on the package looked so happy. You had laughed out loud at the fact that there were detailed instructions on how to use it. Who needs detailed instructions!? It’s so obvious…in the light of day…with a baby that isn’t thrashing around. And, will you ever learn how to concentrate in the midst of all the screaming?

There’s the afternoon you took apart the car-seat because you wanted to wash the cover and then took a good 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get the cover back on. The straps go where? Where does this metal piece go? Why is there an extra piece?

But, as with anything, things start to go smoothly, and all the challenges of the past fade away. You learn how to use the fancy swaddler and you pride yourself for being able to do it in the dark with your eyes closed. You’re a pro at installing, uninstalling, and taking apart the car-seat…and getting all the pieces right the first time. There’s the day you finally figured out how to open the kiddie gate at the top of the stairs without having to yank on it a couple times. Gone are the days of startling yourself as the kitchen cupboard door snaps back, being held securely in place by the kiddie latches you should know are there, because you installed them.

The only constant is change, and the swirling waters of parenthood are never stagnant.

Just as you get a confident footing, you’re faced with new challenges that you didn’t even know existed.

I’m in the middle of one of those now.

My nemesis? The blue race-car cart at the grocery store.

You know the one: the fancy cart with the faux steering wheels. It looks like a race-car, but it’s a grocery cart. The kiddo gets to go for a fun ride in a race-car, and Momma gets to shop.

It’s a win-win…right?


It took me about 30-seconds to realize I’d met my match.

Only, now the stakes are higher and the game has changed. Before, my foolishness was only evident to myself or my baby girl, because the game was played in the privacy of my own home. Now, the general population and my very vocal preschooler know that Momma is incapable of pushing a race-car cart properly.

“Momma! Don’t bump into that! That’s not good, Momma.”

“Thanks, Claire. I know. Momma is havin’ troubles getting this thing to go where it’s supposed to go.”

Who designed these things? Am I doing something wrong? By the time I get the monstrosity moving, I need to negotiate some kind of turn, which is practically impossible. They don’t turn the way you think they need to turn, and they certainly don’t go in a straight line. They stick out in weird places. And, if that’s not inconvenient enough, you can’t actually reach the basket from the handle-bar, so you have to walk all around the semi trailer-sized cart to put your groceries in it.

But, Claire loves it. She loves steering. She loves the novelty of it. She begs to ride in one, so I use this to my advantage. The odds of having a tantrum-free experience at the store are greater when the race-car is involved. So, in that regard, it makes the grocery shopping experience somewhat enjoyable…if you can overlook all of the near misses and apologizing to unsuspecting shoppers.

“Oh my gosh…I’m so sorry!” I say to another mother, her baby babbling away in front of a normal, wonderfully easy to maneuver, but boring cart. They are now trapped in an aisle because I can’t move my race-car. “This is so hard to move! Who knew?? It just does not want to go where I want it to go…” I say with the biggest apologetic tone I can muster through my laughter.

Because, really…if you can’t laugh, you lose.

“It’s okay,” she says smiling. “My little girl hasn’t noticed those yet.”

“Be thankful for that,” I say, longing for the day when Claire was oblivious to their charms. “Be very thankful for that. Avoid them as long as you can!” I call over my shoulder, having finally gotten my race-car to go where I wanted it to and without hitting anyone.

So, what’s the learning curve on the blue race-car cart? Will Claire be too big to ride in them by the time I figure out how to do it? Avoiding them is not an option at this point. She’s had a taste of what it’s like to ride in one, and there’s no going back.

I could convince her that it’s her fault that we keep running into things…I mean, she IS the one with the steering wheel. But, that would be wrong. Right? 😉

And, the part of me that likes to jump ahead and see what’s next is really curious as to what our next joy or challenge will be. But, don’t tell me. I want to be surprised.

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  • comment avatar cazza October 14, 2008

    I agree that is not easy to manouvre a race car especially if your on your own. It makes it easier when there is the two of you helping each other to race to where you want to go, and enjoy while you’re both laugh at the same time. I say trust your instincts there is no way you will miss. When it seems your travelling in the wrong side of the road just take a right turn, a uturn or any other way, until you get to back cruising on the right road. I think what you just said is true, there is no need to avoid things, it isn’t an option, just go for it head on. The way I see it – what else can happen now? You may just find the surprise of it all is the bond between the both of you can only become stronger, which is evident for other mothers and their daughters pushing a race cart to see, I mean steering a race car;).

  • comment avatar Mom to four October 14, 2008

    The real problem with those race car carts is not the hard steering and lack of maneuvering skills… If you have more than one child, just wait for World War III to break out over WHO gets to steer and WHO gets to ride, or WHO has to (the worst atrocity to all mankind) WALK by the cart.

    Besides all that….just wait until you go to the store and all of the race car carts are GONE….all of them are being USED by other people. Then you have crying, bawling kids (the younger ones) and pouting, arms crossed, stomping feet (the older ones) through the entire store. And they point and yell at each race car that goes by, saying they think the people are almost done with their shopping. Then they beg that we go back to the beginning of the store to see if they put them back…

    Ah yes…I’ve had to deal with that for many years now…That’s the true reason I hate those cars!

  • comment avatar Anonymous October 14, 2008

    The ONLY thing laughable about the red race car cart is….laughing at all of those poor parents who can’t yet use the excuse that their children are “tooooo big for them”. Wait a minute…that’s not funny…I miss those days. 🙁
    Great blog!

  • comment avatar Wendy October 14, 2008

    Coming from a professional travel writer, just think of the series you could write on traveling in one of those things! Thankfully they had not been invented while our kids were that age. They had to ride in boring carts.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson October 14, 2008

    This post totally resonated with me. How a relatively intelligent, educated person could get her butt kicked on a daily basis by two little ones. You really nailed the learning curve. 🙂

    And I HATE those cars. Namely because my little guy refuses to stay buckled in and gets in and out every 30 seconds.

  • comment avatar Jesschw October 14, 2008

    I hate those carts as well, I HATE the days my son has to ride in the car cart, but he only rides for the first 10 min, then he wants to be near me and ends up in the cart seat. but if I try and switch back to a regular cart its still the end of the word. He wants the race car cart but sometimes doesn’t want to ride in the car. Kids are so strange sometimes. I just avoid them at all costs!

    Mom with a 3 year old

  • comment avatar Becky October 14, 2008

    I wish we could start a petition to have those car carts removed from every grocery store in the country. I ran over a very angry senior citizen’s foot the first and only time I drove one. I just tell my daughter that there aren’t any left and that some other lucky little girl (and unfortunate parent) have it in the store somewhere.

    Now that I know that other people don’t like them, I feel much better about depriving my daughter the pleasure of riding in one. Thank you Casual!!

  • comment avatar Lori October 14, 2008

    I am now longing for the days when my kids fit comfortably in them. I should say I long for the days of containment.

    It’s only a matter of time before one of my hooligans knock down a big display. Hopefully it will not be a glass one.

    So happy to see you here, CP!

  • comment avatar trs October 14, 2008

    wow. what i wouldn’t give for that to be my problem.

    You moms are so lucky. Just make sure you remember that when you see some woman your age (or older) pushing the little single-girl cart around the grocery store – that she’d really like to have kids and a husband and you’re the lucky one who got ’em.

  • comment avatar A Grandma Now October 14, 2008

    I have seen the two-steering-wheeled carts, too, and also ones that look like other things than race cars (school buses, police cars, etc.). I felt particularly sorry for the one parent who had two fighting siblings furiously turning each of their steering wheels as
    they complained about almost everything their competing sibling was doing. I am sorry to report that I almost burst out in hysterical laughter when one said the other one was “looking at me!”…that statement really brought back memories of bygone times!

    Isn’t it remarkable how little minds work; isn’t it remarkable how adult minds survive how little minds work?! 🙂

  • comment avatar Momma, The Casual Perfectionist October 14, 2008

    Thank you for all the comments! It’s nice to see I’m not alone! 😉

  • comment avatar LuluMom October 19, 2008

    Too funny! Why do they make the aisles in grocery stores just narrow enough to pass another large cart? And why do they put all the colorful sugary candy and gum down low by the checkout? I hated shopping with the kids when mine were younger.

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