grocery shopping with a swarm of bees

Imagine a warm June day. Suppose you are granted a few moments of rest. You pour yourself an ice-cold glass of lemonade and select a comfortable seat outdoors near some flowers. You close your eyes and raise your face to the sun. One or two bees dance lazily around the nearby blooms, and their quiet humming is a soothing background music that you hardly notice.

Now suppose that, instead of one or two bees, there are five or six or more. Each bee is meandering along, bobbing over and around the same flowers. But the buzzing is louder since there are so many of them. Their music is no longer in the background but commands your attention. You open your eyes. You consider relocating your chair. You remind yourself that they are just bees, that they pose no threat, that if you mind your own business they will mind their own business. But you don’t close your eyes again. You aren’t as relaxed. Your moment of rest is disturbed.

This is grocery shopping with all the kids in tow. Each child, considered alone, is his own hub of energy and is busy attending to the business of being a child (which means observing every person, product or display to determine it’s intrinsic worth; reporting that intrinsic worth to me; making recommendations for purchases based on what commercials have informed them are the main advantages of the product; and attempting to follow and keep up with me while looking in a different direction). Every other child in the store is behaving in much the same manner. Yes, a few are throwing fits, a few are silent and abnormally well-behaved, but most kids are just going through the store being kids.

But unlike that mother over there with one toddler and one preschooler, I have a whole swarm of bees. You can’t ignore us. You hear us coming and are distracted from your shopping. You stop and count. You pull over and let us pass. You marvel at my bravery and/or insanity or perhaps you feel sorry for me and think my husband is an ogre for oppressing me and turning me into a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps you remember those days and your own brood of children and wish you could go back.

I haven’t noticed you. I, the beekeeper, am busy blowing smoke and keeping order. The bees aren’t dangerous, but you need to be careful lest you get stung (toddler has a melt-down, baby begins to howl, preschooler knocks over some items, a child walks backward in front of every other shopper in the store). But I know you’ve seen me. You stop me to tell me your thoughts. Yes, I have my hands full (better than empty). Yes, I will treasure every moment as best I can. Yes, they grow up fast. And then, like those bees, we’re off to other gardens.

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