For some, the simple act of grocery shopping can traumatize

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Simple acts of heroism often go unnoticed, and that is particularly the case when it comes to shopping at Costco with a small child. The store is full of mammoth carts, distracted shoppers and stacked merchandise. Every time parents make it through the Costco checkout line they deserve a medal for patience.

But the shopping trip is only the first half of the heroism. Loading the groceries into the car — sometimes in the rain, and then unloading them at home is hard work, too.

When my son was a baby, we lived in a condo on the third floor of our building. Unloading the car from a Costco run meant riding up the elevator over and over again. I’d strap my baby in his backpack and carry the heaviest box possible. I couldn’t leave my son unattended or be rude to my neighbors by monopolizing the elevator, so the whole process took half an hour.

No amount of cheap toilet paper is worth that sort of agony.

It’s easy to offer the advice: “If grocery shopping with children is so difficult, don’t do it; just leave the kids at home.” In reality that’s not always possible, which is why we’ve all seen a toddler implode in the produce aisle or a 4-year-old whine her way past candy.

Conventional wisdom says that kids will eventually outgrow their grocery store issues. Someday they’ll be able to wander around Costco and do fine. But is this necessarily true?

In my life, I know several adults who are such horrible grocery shoppers, that they almost never do it. Send them to Costco, and they are overwhelmed by stimuli. Lights, noise, free samples, an overload of choices and not knowing where favorite brands are located or how much they are supposed to cost, can all contribute to a stressful experience.

Were these adults the same children who caused their moms grocery shopping drama when they were little? I don’t know, but I’m fascinated by the question.

Adults with difficulties grocery shopping have alternatives. Many grocery stores deliver. Meal kit services ship fresh dinners every week. Restaurants make it easy to order takeout with smartphone apps. Some people have husbands or wives who step in and handle the shopping for them.

But kids with difficulties grocery shopping don’t have any options. They are trapped in the cart, bombarded by stimuli and then hauled through the freezer section. Everywhere they look adults scorn them for their still-developing ability to regulate their emotions.

Judgment, ire and wrath; that’s all we give stressed-out children in grocery carts. What we should be doling out is compassion.

Simple acts of heroism often go unnoticed, and that is especially true when a child endures shopping at Costco with Mom. By the time they make it to the exit, the kid has really earned the smiley face that the employee draws on the back of the receipt.

Bravo, shoppers. Well done!

Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.

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