I think the best way to summarize my feelings about Costco would be to borrow from my daughter.
Today, in Costco, after she screeched from dropping her spoon from a sample of Indian lentils:
Me: “Arden! We do NOT yell in a store!”
Arden: “It’s NOT a store! It’s COSTCO.”
She gets it.
It’s not a store, it’s a planet; one teeming with food in mass quantities, offering samples right before lunchtime, otherwise known as appetizers, and feeding four of us two hotdogs for $3.23 that I would never otherwise eat.
We go about every other week, and it is always enjoyable, satisfying, necessary work. And I always go alone with three kids. That might sound oxymoronic, but alone really means “the only person over three feet tall in my party.”
I want to emphasize that I built up to this feat, doing it for the first time three months ago. Before that, forget it. I’d bring only two kids or another adult to assist. Also, the first time I did this I felt heroic upon completion, only to turn and see a mom getting hotdogs with a toddler in her cart and newborn twins wrapped across her chest in a Moby. I was knocked off my high horse faster than you can say free refill.
Like her, when I roll in with two kids in the cart and one on my chest, the stares roll right along with me. I am entirely accustomed to this and don’t mind in the slightest. We would be able to buy so much more food if only Costco gave me store credit every time someone said to me, “You’ve got your hands full!”
Friends and family are often deeply perplexed as to why I don’t go when I’m alone in the actual Webster’s definition of the word. The answer is simple: I love Costco, but I do not want to spend “my time” there. “My time” is evenings or naptime, or the occasional hour-escape by myself on the weekend. I want to go to Costco on “kid time” when I need something for us to do anyway, and I have food that needs to be restocked. Besides, they love it.
Should you venture there with one/two/three/baker’s dozen of your own progeny, my hot tips follow:
Get Gas First
Costco is a good time, but nobody wants it to continue once we’ve exited the building. Once we’re in the car, it’s time to go home, it’s not time to ask the kids to endure another errand. They like getting Costco gas on arrival, but getting it afterward is like asking for one of them to pee on the car seat after holding it successfully all this time.
Park by a Cart Bay
Even if it takes a minute longer to find a spot (and it nearly never does), this is essential for getting kids into the cart safely and returning it later without leaving them alone in the car.
Costco IS the Activity
The entire reason Costco works as a morning errand is because I am not rushing. I am not going to Costco on my way to a play date or an appointment. No – that would be masochism, which is not my brand of fun at all. I make a trip to Costco sound like a trip to the park and the kids are all in. This doesn’t take nearly as much work as it sounds; they already love going, so I just say, “Do you think we should go to COSTCO today?!” and they’re already squeezing their little feet into their Natives. (One of them can do this successfully, the other cannot, and I do not blame her; it’s hard.)
Make a List
There is enough to think about in a warehouse with three kids without having to ask oneself if there are eggs in the fridge at home. Or having to walk each aisle slowly to mentally assess if there’s anything one has forgotten. Make that list and then haul your massive cart across that shiny cement like you were born to do it.
Let Samples be Your Friends, But Discriminate Against Your Friends
Eating free snacks is a highlight for the little gremlins, because they share my genes and are predisposed to love anything that’s a snack and anything that’s free. Free snacks is a unicorn that must be ridden across the sky.
However, I take full advantage of the fact that the twins face me in the cart, and Hunter faces me in the Ergo, because then I can see what snacks are ahead before they can. Costco loves to push flavored yogurt, “cracker cookies” and other garbage, so if I spot those I steer clear or make an early announcement that our train will not be making a stop at that station. “Oh that’s yucky yogurt, that’s not the kind you like,” I assure them. For now they believe me; we’ll see how this goes when they’re old enough to read.
I think attitudes transfer pretty easily, not just to kids, but in general, and this applies here. If I’m stressed and annoyed at having to do this, they pick up on it. Instead I really try to have fun and let them feel like it’s a group endeavor. I’m constantly talking. “What else do we need, you guys? Let’s check our list. Shoot, we forgot your favorite salad in a bag! Back to the cold room! Do we need anything else in there? Oh and later let’s remember to get napkins.” They totally dig it, and – hand to heart – remind me of things I’ve genuinely forgotten.
Henry: “We forgot the quesadillas!”
He means raw tortillas. But he’s right.
Lunching There is a Double-Edged Sword
Eating hotdogs after shopping serves several purposes: lunch is done with no cooking or cleaning, it’s a treat for being well behaved while shopping, it’s a treat in general because we don’t eat hotdogs at home, and it’s $3.23 for two dogs, which feeds four of us, so it feels almost criminal to walk on by.
HOWEVER…it’s a little work to get it done. I make the twins stay in the cart so that they can’t mess around on the benches, fall, or run around. Hunter stays on my chest, and we get our hotdogs and then park next to the end of a table. I need a little table surface so I can put our hotdogs and drink cups down while I’m trying to hand things to each of them. I fill condiment orders, then hand them each half a hotdog while I fill the cups 75% with water and 25% with lemonade, which is possibly their favorite part of Costco. Then I stand in front of them and remind them over and over, “hold it tight with both hands!” because I recoil at the thought of a hotdog dying on the floor. All this while trying to feed Hunter and myself, and providing them sips of their precious lemonade.
People stare, and I just keep trucking, because once this is over, we’re home free — riding home with a car full of fresh groceries, full bellies, and smiles as big as the one drawn on the receipt.