McSweeney’s: Five Ways to Help a Mother Whose Child is Having a Meltdown in Aisle 14

mcswlogo21. Travel back in time to the moment just before the mother is leaving the house to go to the supermarket. “Don’t forget to take Hunkerdoodle,” tell her, referring to the purple and green musical stuffed toy which usually puts Jonas into an agreeable trance. When she looks up from the floor where she’s kneeling down to put socks on Jonas and says, “‘How did you get in here? What the fuck are you doing in my house?” say, “You’re welcome.”

2. Travel back in time to 1930, when Michael Cullen opened the first King Kullen store, the grandfather of retail supermarkets. Point out to Mr. Cullen that every single element of the modern supermarket – the fluorescent lighting, the chromatic packaging, the character product tie-ins and the unrelenting candy – seems designed to drive most small children insane, and that when combined together they will inexorably lead to the worst moment of any SAHM’s day. Plant some alternative ideas in his head. “How about a soft-lit sensory room with fish projections gently swimming across the isles?” you might suggest. “Or a cozy tent?” When Cullen replies, “Why are you carrying a ladies’ bag?” just say, “Everything is about to get really bad. And then it will get worse. Also, the Wizard is just some guy behind a curtain.”

3. Travel back in time 10,000 years to New Guinea, where homo sapiens first domesticated sugarcane at the end of the last Ice Age. Tell them how ‘White Gold’ is destined to become the world’s most evil food, driving the transatlantic slave trade and leading to unprecedented, colossal human suffering. Tell them about the modern epidemic of obesity which is at least partially due to the fact that our Digital Age brains are exactly like theirs, and we’re still programmed to eat whatever we see in front of just us as hunter-gatherers did. Finally, tell them about Jonas’ tantrum which was triggered when his mother refused to place a box of multi-colored breakfast cereal, whose toucan spokes-character was making direct eye contact with Jonas, in the shopping cart. “Just leave it alone,” tell the Micronesian ancestors. If that doesn’t work say, “Look over there. Some taro!”

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