I realise that this is a rather embarrassing confession for a man to make, but before we had children, if we had a quiet evening, Mrs L. and I would pop out for a spot of retail therapy. Sometimes we would go to the supermarket for some groceries, but more often we’d just go to the mall to see if there was anything that caught our eye. Usually there wasn’t but it was a pleasant way to spend an hour or so, having a chat and doing a bit of people watching. On occasion, we’d finish the evening off with a meal from the kitchens of the golden arches. In retrospect, this was probably our version of date night. And they say that romance is dead.
Once you have children, even the idea of a “quick trip to the shop”, becomes laughable. For us at least, it would take quite a considerable time to get ready to leave. Getting into the car with all of our kids is something of an achievement, and that is only the beginning of an almost Herculean task.
If you have a baby, they will often fall asleep in the car en route to your destination, quite possibly for the first time in many hours. As a new parent, it is oh so tempting, to park the car, and join your wee one, in the land of nod. When you get them out of the car, they will almost certainly wake up and they will cry, and cry and cry. If not, (lucky you), they will wait until you get so far around the supermarket, that you will not want to abandon your trolley in the aisle, and then they will do, what is affectionately referred to in our house, as the “big red face”. Often this will be loud enough for your fellow shoppers to turn and give you a scornful look, as they incorrectly assume an angelic baby, would be too small to emit such a sound. Or odour. At this point you are given a choice. Do you flee to the safety of the car, or just carry on regardless? I would usually choose the latter, but the smelly nappy is often followed by more wailing and so you have to cut the trip short, and forgo some,or all of your groceries.
It must be said that the one major advantage of shopping with an infant as opposed to older children is that they are immobile. If you take a toddler out, you are in for a lot of fun. Chasing them down busy aisles, and bumping your trolley into the most terrifying looking customer in the shop is always good for blowing away the cobwebs. If you’ve managed to coerce your child into the trolley’s seat, you will probably get to the cashier, and discover a selection of brightly coloured products, or ones with cartoon characters on them, lurking in the bottom of your cart. Unless you are like me, you will not have selected these yourself.
A more serious activity that toddlers engage in is diving out of their trolley. I know, I did this myself, and made a real mess of the supermarket floor and my forehead. Come to think of it, that probably explains a lot. These days though most shopping trolleys will have a seatbelt, but given the ingenuity of some kids, I think that a crash helmet and bungee cord should also be considered by manufacturers.
We have found taking our five year old shopping to be quite an experience too. She is desperate to show how grown up she is, and will helpfully choose items for us. Most of the time she will get it right but occasionally she will be seduced by a pony on a jar of prunes (the packaging designers really know what they’re doing), or get completely distracted by something else. We haven’t had an episode of; “CanIhaveitcanIhaveitcanIhaveitpleeeeeease?” but I suspect it’s only a matter of time.
As yet I am unable to comment on any of the idiosyncrasies’ of older children, but my time will come, of that I am certain. In the meantime, there are two little words which could prove to be the saviour of many a parent’s sanity. Online shopping.