As a harried, often dishevelled, and occasionally desperate mother of two, it has to be said I don’t get much time to just mooch around the shops anymore.
I’ve never been one of those women who could spend hours looking at shoes, bags, clothes and accessories, but I used to enjoy the odd trip out to update my wardrobe, and could easily wile away an afternoon in a junk shop or bookshop. However, ‘going shopping’ now has an entirely new meaning, and it’s one that strikes fear into my heart, as my beautiful girls turn into demons the minute they go through the double doors of any supermarket…
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have been close to tears in most of the major supermarkets of East Belfast – tears of frustration, embarrassment, fear and sometimes just plain exhaustion. I’ve tried all the tricks of the trade: promising rewards at the checkouts if they’ll be good on the way round, feeding them carefully selected snacks as they sit in the trolley, giving my elder daughter little tasks to do to keep her occupied… Nothing seems to work.
Before the last thing on the list has been crossed off, one or both of them will do something that makes me feel like a bad mother who can’t control her kids. My eldest has had to be stopped from climbing into the freezers on a number of occasions. She’s also spent some visits crawling along the floor underneath the trolley, despite being perfectly able to walk, and forced me to buy a lot more carrots than I actually needed after she licked about 6 of them in the fresh veg section. The little one usually goes into meltdown about two thirds of the way round, either because I’ve run out of snacks for her, or because she’s seen something in the trolley that she absolutely MUST EAT NOW.
Then there’s the constant requests for items we definitely don’t need that are far too full of sugar or fat for little girls, and the subsequent tantrums when I refuse to buy them. But by far our most horrendous moment whilst shopping occurred earlier this year. Distracted by the little one trying to climb out of the trolley seat, I turned my back on the four year old. And she disappeared. Never have I known such fear and panic. I scoured the aisles for a few minutes before an announcement over the tannoy asked for me by name to come to customer services, where my little girl was standing wobbly of lip, having told a staff member her name, my name and where she lived.
The relief was huge, and as I hugged her close, I realised that I’d rather have her misbehaving beside me than behaving herself with someone else.
So for now, I’ll endure the weekly hell that is the grocery shop. Or I’ll take my husband’s advice, and start shopping online.