A few years ago, my youngest went through a stage of pretending to be a dog. I thought it was sweet at first. I humoured her, pretending her dinner was dog food, asking to shake her ‘paw’ etc. Then it came back to bite me on the arse when we were in the middle of the shopping centre and she insisted on crawling in and out of shops on all fours and barking. I had to shout ‘WALK ON YOUR HIND LEGS’ just to get her to stand up. Unsurprisingly we got a few odd looks, and I was tempted to claim that actually this was all perfectly normal because we were raising her not so much without gender, as without species.
This is not the first time my children have embarrassed me whilst shopping. There was the time that my then toddler was in her pushchair and wanted out. She was struggling with the straps, and then grabbed hold of a passer-by’s arm and pleaded ‘help me lady, please help, I need to go home’, making me look at best heartless and at worst, a kidnapper.
Fast forward a few years and the same child saw a woman across the Tesco car park who looked a bit like me. She made an instant bee-line for this complete stranger calling out to her ‘you’re my mummy, wait for me mummy!’ Wtf? It turned out she’d recently seen the film Tangled and so naturally assumed that I was an evil witch who had stolen her as a baby but that she’d finally spotted the real deal. I’m sure it happens to everyone.
However, they’re a bit older now and I can tell you that shopping has finally become an easier experience. If easy means soul-destroying. Food shopping is by far the worst. Within seconds of arrival at the supermarket, World War Three becomes an alarming possibility as the kids fight it out over the trolley. There’s no point in me suggesting they both push it, because that just means watching them turn purple with the effort of inflicting as much damage as possible using only their elbows. I could tell them to take it in turns, but then I’d have to walk round the entire supermarket counting to 60 on a loop and forgetting what I came in for just so that they have equal trolley time.
It’s therefore a given that after a few hissed threats, I will step in and say ‘I’M pushing it’. That doesn’t work either though, because as soon as I turn my back to pick up the first item, one of them will decide that carrying food is merely a trolley’s secondary use, and it can be much better employed as a giant roller skate. I always hear the crash before I see it.
And what visit to the supermarket is complete without Finger Russian Roulette? Will they get it stuck in one of the airholes in some plastic packaging and rip the entire thing open in an attempt to break free? Plunge it into a random piece of fruit? Poke their sibling in the eye? The possibilities are endless.
At some point, usually when I’ve just finished ordering one of them to get out from behind the loo rolls because a) she’ll break the shelf and b) I will kill her, I spot the Best Mother In The World. She is walking beside her three immaculate and perfectly behaved children, teaching them about food groups whilst simultaneously getting them to practise Maths by working out the total cost of 3 packets of quinoa. My kids on the other hand will be smeared in the remains of the Nobbly Bobbly ice cream I had to bribe them with and arguing over who can stick their finger furthest up their nose without making it bleed. ‘Never mind’ I tell myself through gritted teeth, my kids have spirit, personality, they will forge their own paths, be individuals etc. etc. The fact that the aforementioned spirit is currently making my ears bleed, is neither here nor there.
By the time we actually make it to the tills, I don’t even care that they’ve disappeared into the photo booth and will only come out on the 28th request, because I’m too preoccupied thinking about the sweet release of death.
Once home, I resolve to only do online shopping from now on. Then when one of them gets the urge to ask in ringing tones why that man is wearing a dress, or whether I’ve just farted, we’ll be in the comfort of our own home. But then I remember that the last time I did that, I forgot to complete the order and Mr Tesco showed up with just a bag of apples and charged me a fiver for the privilege.
At least I can take solace in the fact that these experiences are precisely why wine was invented.
And in the meantime, Bring on Bedtime!