Guest blogger Stuart Smith talks about the highs and lows of a visit to the supermarket with his toddler. Read PART ONE of the blog here.
The trolley comes to a silent and smooth halt between the security barriers that were invented to embarrass those whose child has silently thrown a tagged item into the trolley to awake them from their daze.
Right. Time to get this show on the road. Toddler is unceremoniously but safely dispensed back into the trolley, but of course not the seat, no never the seat – Toddler is instead in the main section standing up and wobbling around like a commuter on a packed bus hanging onto the grip handles!
We head to the fruit and vegetable section and I manage to bundle at least a couple of the “five a day” into the only space now available, that weird bit at the front where you put baguettes. I grab grapes and throw them in the general direction of the baguette section then it’s on to the actual real food shopping, the colder than outside fridge aisles and the aisles of doom with shelves laden with breakables at toddler eye level.
As we glide gently and serenely out of the fresh fruit section Toddler decides that being a lady of leisure is no longer for her and I return my glance from the aisle end special offer of house sized pieces of cheese to find Toddler with one leg over the side of the trolley, the other hanging inside and arms flailing around not knowing whether to grab something and pull to escape or to slump back into the trolley. People look on aghast that I could look away for 3 seconds and allow such a life threatening thing to happen. Trying to look nonchalant and in control I ask Toddler what she is doing and whether she would like to get out or to stay like that until we have finished, because I think the latter might be uncomfortable, I pick her up and swing her round in an arc causing a chuckle from Toddler and apply her legs to the floor. It almost looks planned.
We head into the dairy aisle and the bright colours of the sugar laden desserts swing into view of us both. Trolley is abandoned as Toddler almost sprints to the desserts (I’ve never seen her actually run, we get a power walk out of her occasionally but this was something else). Realising what was to come I jump in front of her and try to ward her off by standing in front of the fridge, she tries to dodge to one side and I follow blocking the way, another dodge and I block. I look down and smile and say “No Toddler, we don’t want anything here, we already have a fridge full of this stuff at home” as I peer down I see her bottom lip start to go and before I have chance to say “but OK maybe we can have some anyway”, she falls to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Time slows down, the shop goes quiet.
Oh dear this is going to be a big one!
They will hear this cry at the other side of town.
“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA A WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”
Shoppers step over Toddler as if she were a discarded box of unpacked Babybels. There’s ‘the stares’ (you know the ones I mean), and today is one of those particularly lucky occasions where I’m the subject of a helpful comment from a stranger; ‘can’t you control your child?’ followed by ‘in my day…’ and then something I couldn’t quite make out. Well in your day a boy on a bike brought your food in a wicker basket on pushbike, nowadays we have to do it ourselves!
While the miserable shopper berates me and I fiercely avoid eye contact, a lovely lady casts me a knowing smile. She understands my plight (either that or she just feels awkward), a young couple with a baby fast asleep in a car seat eye me up and I can see their thought process of a vision into their future. At this point I contemplate bribery by reaching for anything within an easy distance which I could pay for at the till (surely cheese strings contain one of your 5-a-day and some calcium?!)
I pick Toddler up and give her a big hug, tears stream down her face and my frustration melts: adults find this tedious and stressful, I wonder how it must feel for a Toddler. We stand and cuddle and I kiss her blowing a raspberry on her neck and get a giggle/sob and I know I’m onto a winner. Tickles follow and a break out into a couple of whispered versus of “twinkle twinkle little star”.
Clutching Toddler in one arm, nuzzled into my neck I grab the trolley with my free hand and make a gentle dash for the top of the aisle where the freshly baked brown bread with seeds and definitely no cake, pastries, doughnuts or cookies reside. As the melodious strain of my singing subsides Toddler decides my singing is now more odious than melodious and wriggles free dropping to her already moving feet with her top riding up exposing her midriff like a teenager on her way to a party. Trolley abandoned Toddler makes a start towards the doughnuts and cookies , I trot after her bending down trying to pull her top down and not managing it until she comes to a complete stop. YAY! Top comes down and I look up to see Toddler eyeing up the doughnuts like a dog outside a butcher’s window. We are only ¼ of the way in and I’m beaten, I reason with myself that she can get some cookies/doughnuts and I can pretend they are a post lunch treat or as more likely just buy them to eliminate further commotions and eat them in the car on the way home.
We wander along the back of the shop being the cute daddy and daughter I dream about, she pushes the trolley, I eye up the pizzas the size of truck wheels, she chirps “iya” to the lady in the funny hat serving up hot chicken nuggets and we take a lovely right turn into the spices section. Once upon a time I’d have spent time pondering what spices weren’t in the cupboard and what I needed to go with the lamb or chicken I’d randomly grabbed and flung into the trolley. Nowadays it’s just grab some packet mix and jar or sauce plus the usual random items (ghost chilli chicken marinade anyone?) that Toddler chucks into the trolley.
Packets of flavouring wanged into the trolley including the aforementioned ghost chilli mix and randomly and rather nicely a dauphinoise potato mix we head into The Aisle of Doom.
Now I’ve always been of the opinion that taking and consuming something before paying for it is tantamount to theft at the worst and at the very least just not the done thing. But since Toddler came along anything for an easy life, I’d still judge you if you were an adult with a sausage roll protruding from your lips but a Toddler with a bag of sugar, a banana or quite frankly anything is a different story…so I tell myself.
We slip gently into the aisle and progress down it like it contained nothing of interest whatsoever. Doing so well I leave Toddler pushing the trolley sideways and jabbering away down the aisle while I jog on a few steps to grab a couple of bags of “treat size” chocolates. Not finding my favourites right away I become immersed for…. 45 seconds? Grab the bags and return to find Toddler sat in the middle of the aisle, trolley crashed into an array of chocolate biscuits in a state of what can only be described as Kit Kat mayhem. Her beautiful white top with butterflies on it looks like its been used as a goal post in the worlds muddiest field, her face is covered in chocolate, her hands and forearms covered in melted chocolate… How long have I been away?!?! How did she open those stupid new plastic Kit Kat Wrapper?!?! How does one bit of chocolate go so far?!?!?!?!?! How am I now the person I so used to judge? I look down and see the happiest smile I have seen all year…. Yeah ok, I’ll pick you up while you rub chocolate up my clean shirt, on my face and in my hair AND not paid for chocolate at that.
We reach the bottom of the Aisle of Doom, carrying Toddler, dragging trolley and glance to the right…. The promised land… what it is all about…. The alcohol aisle. I daren’t even risk being seen with a toddler clutching a bottle of Lambrini so I resign myself to missing out on exotics gins or vodkas and will go to the local shop and buy a generic “guaranteed to give you a hangover after one glass” gin.
We approach the tills with trepidation. Oh goodie, there’s a big queue! Toddler is now back in the trolley (but not in the seat, obviously – at least the cashier will check the eggs and send a hapless colleague to get some more if they find they are broken with a small suspicious footprint on top of the box.). Toddler now decides sitting on the conveyor belt would be a much more fun place to be. I weigh up the friendliness of the cashier and contemplate how much I can realistically get away with. I feel myself blushing as the cashier scans an empty kit kat wrapper as Toddler licks her lips.
Could we manage queuing for a lottery ticket? Pfft. It’s a non-starter. We will not be millionaires this week nor any week given my luck come to that but I just can’t.
We arrive home, having “shared” the doughnuts on the way back before Toddler falls asleep now covered in chocolate and cookie doughnut toppings, not sure how I will explain this one away. I manage to get all the bags into the kitchen before Toddler awakes with a start and “DADDDIEEEEEE” emanates just as I’m grabbing the last bag. At least I’ve got the car unpacked, the rest is gravy….. Toddler is deposited in the lounge with Bing Bunny to keep her occupied for 2 minutes while I dump the shopping into the fridge and cupboard.
The last of the cold stuff is rammed into the fridge when I’m interrupted by the sound of 8000 crayons crashing onto the kitchen floor.
At least it isn’t eggs or an opened packet of spaghetti like last time.
The phrase ‘never again’ springs to mind together with ‘ohh least I can have a nice lunch now I’ve been shopping’
I sit down and my heart sinks as I realise I forgot to buy nappies, nice bread and Pastrami. Oh well, stale bread and ham it is…
Same again tomorrow? “It will be different next time”.