Things I would rather be doing than grocery shopping with my kids;
The secret whispers of parents everywhere
Sometimes I have really shit days of parenting where I shout, I bribe, I really loose my shit. I am no longer cool and rational and in control. I have been pushed too far. I do not want to explain for the fifth time why we don’t have chocolate for breakfast or to utter the word ‘put your shoes on’ AGAIN. I just want stuff to happen and not to physically do everything and verbally explain each movement I’m making. I don’t want discussions or negotiations around apple juice or how long is five minutes or why I’ve hidden the play doh. I don’t want to be reminded I’m not paid for any of this and that I’ve made a lifelong commitment. I don’t want to use all my human force to control my emotions for every second of the day.
But, when you’re out and about in public you have to TRY. Especially if you shop in Waitrose or visit the Home Counties. Everyone is so polite. You never see parents yanking their toddlers arms or shouting down aisle number 5 to STOP THAT YOU LITTLE SHIT. Everybody elses baby seems to behave so nicely in a shopping trolley but mine simply don’t. They have to be bribed or sung to or bought stuff. I’m on a ticking time clock with the baby in the trolley. I scan the shopping list and immediately try and prioritise.
Ok we NEED bananas, we get through about five a day (I’m not joking), grab two bunches of those, that should see us through half the week
Avocados. At the beginning of every week I try to make the house vegetarian, inevitably I cave by Tuesday, but we’re not at Tuesday yet, we’re at Monday. So it’s all about avocados, pitta and hummus (the kids only eat the pitta, when will I accept the inevitable). Anytime anyone complains I put on conspiracy documentaries on Netflix and preach from my altar until they’re all bored enough / hungry enough to accept defeat against the roast chicken.
We’re five minutes into the shop and the smallest starts moaning and reaching his hands out to me.
NO! We haven’t even made it to the bags of overpriced watercress. I rummage in the nappy bag for something, a bag of crisps, perfect. I contemplate if I eek each crisp out to increase the amount of time it will take smallest to eat the whole packet, but I look at the list of my shopping list and decide I need both hands for trolley control to make it round all 30 aisles in this mile long walk around Sainsburys (when did they get so big!).
Baby takes the bait and sits quietly chopping on foods I’d promised myself I would never give my kids.
My daughter is squished into the seat next to, even though she’s four, she if stubbornly determined to do everything WITH him. She spies his snacks and is affronted the baby has acquired more privileges than her. I bribe her with a comic if she’ll leave youngest alone with the crisps.
She considers this for 3 minutes whilst I grab watercress – hurrah, and a bag of ready chopped stir fry – I’m winning!
Oldest says she wants a comic but only if she can get out of the trolley to choose.
I debate this whilst I buy three family size tubs of yogurt (we go through an absurd amount of yogurt)
As eldest thinks I’m not looking she goes to reach for youngest’s crisps
NO! Alright, off to comic book aisle, which is back tracking from my carefully planned route, but alright. I use all my upper body strength to take eldest out of her seat in the trolley. She still complains that I twisted her leg but moments later she is overwhelmed with the twenty five comics on offer, all with a selection of useless but colourful toys in single use plastic. I have no idea when comic books got so complicated but it’s all about the free toy so she debates her options endlessly. As per every time I’ve ever bought her a comic I threaten to not get anything if she doesn’t choose in 5.4.3…
but Mum I want this one but it doesn’t have stickers…
But I want the necklace from this one, Mum
Ok. And she grabs the nearest one not caring what the toy or sticker count is, but knowing that I’m true to my word with my countdown.
I want to hold it, she says
Fine. As long as you sit back in the trolley (contained, I think)
I heave her four year old weight back into the trolley. Youngest starts clawing at her new sparkly magazine. They fight whilst I stock up on a variety of cheeses.
We are only a quarter of a way through my shopping list and I have broken a sweat. I start prioritising. Ok, we can do without butternut squash, I’m not hunting for Oxo cubes, I’m not looking for Craker bread or using the deli counter….I’m going to stick to easy to find items.
Sausage rolls for lunch. Wait! We’re vegetarian. Oh sod it, I’ll be able to give them in the car and that’s lunch sorted if I cut up some apples when we’re home.
I park the trolley around the corner from the sausage roll counter so the kids can’t smell the pastries but they’re onto me
SAUSAGES! – they shout in unison
Not until we’re home, I say
The smallest starts crying and throws the last remaining crisps from his packet on the floor.
I hand them back to him
He throws them back on the floor. People start looking. It’s always at this point I wonder where I’m going wrong with my parenting.
I wheel the trolley to the sausage roll counter and pretend to ignore my wailing child even though I now have sweat patched under my arms.
Three sausage rolls, please
The fifteen year old serving me takes his time bagging them up and sticking the labels on incredibly slowly.
He passes them over to me and I immediately open the bag and break one sausage roll in half for the kids to share. I can’t save the planet today.
I will have three minutes, possibly four with the silence the sausage rolls buys me. I get the rest of the fruit and veg, I remember to buy ketchup – three bottles because this contraband substance means my kids will eat most things if I put this on the side. I buy nappies until they’re overflowing the trolley. My daughter complains about the following over the next four minutes; why can’t she have a new Barbie toothbrush?Why can’t she open her comic book? Why does youngest have a bigger portion of sausage roll (he doesn’t), she’s thirsty (the water bottle is in the car), she wants to get out of the trolley (no way).
The rage that boils inside of me as I have to 1. discipline my kid when they’ve JUST wound me up and 2. do it discreetly . It’s enough to make you want to stay at home all day and shout at your children judgement free.
I make it to the check out. No one offer to help me pack. There is no ‘screaming baby’ queue I can join to make this pain any less. Instead I just feel piercing glare of most of the supermarket. I have at this point often smelt a dirty nappy, run out of snacks for my kids, mistakenly chosen the aisle next to the Ben and Holly musical car so that all I hear for the next five minutes is ‘muuuuuuuuum, I want to go on the Ben and Holly car’.
Instead I ignore both my kids and scroll through Instagram at mothers preparing vegan feasts for their unfussy children and parents who live on Bondi beach, and mothers who’ve had five children and look like I did 8 years ago. I see stylish mothers and working mothers and mothers who socialise and drink tequilas and mothers who start their own amazing independent businesses and I think yes, I’m definitely doing something wrong.