When I was younger, child free and lived in London I never noticed children per se - a bit like in movies they just weren’t seen, let alone heard. That is, unless they became the focus of attention.
In London this would be brought painfully to my attention especially if I was late for work. I would find myself caught up in the school run trapped between dark blue Volvos and sleek grey Mercedes as they cruised shark like for the elusive parking spot closest to the school gates slewing from either side of the road as I cycled furiously so as not to be squashed into the kerb.
At other times I would find myslef having to brake and veer wildly as the Mummies opened their car doors oblivious to other road users while they businy hauled out a well scrubbed and matching pair of blonde bobbed juniors to plonk them with a sigh of relief at their corresponding educational establishments.
On other occasions it would be the screaming child at Peter Jones in the glassware department near the spiral staircase right next to the front entrance or horrors in the middle of Sainsbury’s at Nine Elms. How I stared, how I tutted and shook my head or else averted my gaze so as not to embarrass the poor lone mother already heavily weighed down with a paraphernalia of parcels, plastic bags and for good measure another mewling infant on the verge of eruption.
The poor mother would have to cope in ever growing isolation and you’d hear pleadings, sobs, and bribery all in a desperately hushed whisper. Occasionally mother would explode startling children and shoppers alike but it had the desired affect. To be honest I have no idea what is the best policy in those situations. I think in myself satisfied single life - as it was then – I believed that of course I would do it better. Today I was well and truly hoisted by my own petard.
It all started off so well, we found a space to park, we got a trolley, we got into the store and we even started to get shopping but from then on in it was an unmitigated disaster.
The Boy: I’m hungry!
Me: You’ll have to wait darling…
The Boy: I want a banana
Me: I said you’ll have to wait - it won’t be long
The Boy: Look Mummy a pineapple – I want a pineapple!
Me: No love we don’t need one of those
The Boy: Why not?
Me: They’re not ripe yet (and they’re too expensive.)
The Boy: Look Mum! Strawberries!
What strawberries in January? English??!!! Oh from Peru
Me: How lovely Darling but we’re not having those…
The Boy: Why not?
Me: They have come too far love we need to get food that is grown in season
The Boy: But if they’re here they’ve grown haven’t they? So they’re in season…
Can’t fault the logic can you?
It carried on like this wanting things, whining about things because he could not have them until at last frustrated by the fact that for some unknown reason there was no milk I told him to be quiet or there would be no Gingerbread Man treat for him.
OH FOOLISH, FOOLISH WOMAN!!!
The Boy stood there and dissolved into the most heart-rending picture of an angel being told it would never get to heaven. The sobs tore at your very soul right there in the dairy aisle slap bang in the middle of Waitrose on a busy Wednesday afternoon.
I was dumbfounded, out paced and totally out of my depth. I began to wonder if I had been a little too harsh - perhaps I was a little rough when I said the big N.O.
I put my arms around him only for the sobs to get worse and turn to wailing nay keening. The Littlest stared at his brother in awe and catching my eye silently held out his arms for a cuddle pleading for reassurance as the wails got more and more wild and his brother’s shoulders started to quake – it was all getting rather out of hand and the crowd was getting uncomfortably large. I was furious, the little bugger was making a total show I longed to give him a short sharp slap across his behind and everyone was starting to stare and mutter I glared at them all and then back at the source of it all who was now beginning to hiccough uncontrollably. So I started to clap and holler: “Oh well done lovely, marvellous darling – the show’s over now and we’ll collect your Oscar at the checkout!”
I don’t think The Boy quite expected that and I have no idea where it came from but snatching an opportune moment I grabbed his arm and stormed off past the cheese and round the corner into the frozen aisles where it was a little less crowded. Hissing at him I warned him that if he ever tried that on again… but faltered what would I do? Luckily he had been taken by surprise and had gone very quiet. We were given a wide berth, which annoyed me even more.
I marched purposefully around doing the last bits of the shopping trailing a quietly crying child overhearing the occasional snuffle and mutter from him. The Littlest was silent taking it all in clutching his Jelly Cat in one hand and my sleeve with the other.
Dignity just about intact I made it to the cashiers’ desk and out of shop – oh the relief!!!
We were all very quiet on the journey home.