A Mother’s Plea to the Store Clerk

One major road block when it comes to planning a trip to the grocery store is children. Bringing them along means detours. You avoid certain aisles, end caps, and then find your final destination (the checkout line) stocked full of My Little Ponies, Pokemon cards, and sugary sweets.


If you think this is about the meltdowns and the “gimme-gimmes,” you are wrong.

This is about creating a secret code between parent and cashier.

You may recall a moment like this: you are at the checkout with your child(ren) in-tow, and one or more items in your cart must be purchased without your child(ren) noticing. Your wide eyes and stern look seek the clerk’s immediate attention. Look at me! Don’t let my kid notice this one! Handle with quick care.  You hope that the clerk and bagger have received training in the area of telepathic communication. This is a mother’s silent yet screeching request: This item must be purchased at this very moment, but my child cannot see it.


I found myself practicing my best magician’s sleight of hand skills with a book my son picked out at Barnes and Noble. He and his sister had already picked out one book each. As we were leaving he found one more that he just “had to have.” I thought it would be the perfect gift to give him for Valentine’s Day, so I slipped it to the bottom of our stroller. I knew that as a busy mother, I could not fit a solo trip back to the store into my schedule. The book had to come home with us that very day, unbeknownst to my son.  I practically gave the poor woman on the other side of the counter a paper cut. I muttered a hushed and rushed, “This one’s a secret.” She recognized my lingo and her secret agent skills kicked into gear. After paying, she slipped me two separate bags, her actions punctuated with an understanding wink.

If only there were some kind of official code word parents could use at the checkout. I find myself back in this familiar situation, wanting to give it a label. Most often, it occurs right before a holiday: birthdays, Christmas. However, it isn’t always associated with a gift-giving occasion. There may be certain foods that trigger an immediate give-it-to-me-now response from your child. For my toddler daughter it is fruit, specifically things like blueberries. Yes, I am going to buy her a package of blueberries. No, I will not open it up and serve it to her right then and there. I do not want to get into the habit of dishing out dinner while driving the cart.

So when we have these items that we bury at the bottom of our carts, how do we get them home, unnoticed? Let’s orchestrate a plan. Picture this: you make it to the checkout line with your concealed items, as well as your very intuitive child. You do your best to distract your kiddo. You hand over the prized possession to the cashier and whisper that secret code. Let’s call it “Code Kiddo” for now. The cashier nods, scans the product, and slips it into a protective bag. Can we make this a thing? In a perfect world, yes.

Occasionally I have the opposite problem. As an educator, I often run into a former student behind the counter. There are times when I have to purchase a bra or pregnancy test and do not get to pick my cashier. Hello, I am human and yes my bra could be worn as a hat. Just please don’t Tweet out my bra size. Bring on the self-checkout!

One final, serious note is a thank you to all who help mothers get through the checkout. There are days when my son is whining for one of those tempting toys at the checkout. My daughter may be screaming and trying to finagle a way out of the cart’s front seat. Sometimes all it takes is simply saying hello to my kids in order to divert their attention. You may take the time to give them a sticker, a sucker, or even something as simple as a smile. If you are able to catch my drift when I have a “Code Kiddo” moment, you have saved me a trip. In my world, that is a big deal. You may feel underpaid and underappreciated. You should know that in this mother’s world, the work you are doing is meaningful.


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