Yes I am one of those parents who take their kids out to do the grocery shopping.
I’ve trained them pretty well over the years, especially my 5 year old, Liam. As long as he has a little treat (a cheese bun, for example) and is allowed to sit in the shopping trolley… he doesn’t nag me to buy things, he doesn’t tear open packets or boxes, and he doesn’t cause any fuss at all. Plus he’s patient enough to wait until we have paid for the items before he asks to eat anything.
However there are days where I want to RIP ALL OF MY HAIR OUT AND STAB MYSELF IN THE EYE because I am so frustrated by Liam’s supermarket antics.
And that day was Saturday. It was the mother of all bad days.
We were on a holiday weekend in a small country town. We were staying with friends. I wanted to thank our hosts for letting us stay with them, so I planned to cook them a big delicious meal.
I took my 5 year old to the country supermarket. Of course, it was completely different to our usual supermarket. The aisles were different. The trolleys were different. The checkouts were different. It didn’t phase me at all, but my 5 year old was very disorientated. It was as if I had taken him to a new fun park. He completely forgot how he was supposed to “Behave In Supermarkets”.
The first problem. There were no trolleys for him to sit in! I had to use a basket. So while I was stacking items into my basket, he was roaming wild and free like a bored and hungry shark.
Second problem. He started to sample things. He opened a packet of fruit cake to nibble on the pastry, he peeled back the cling wrap and licked a watermelon, he played slamming games with the freezer doors, he rearranged the honey jars but they fell to the ground (they were plastic)… oooh it was so annoying! I was constantly growling at him and pulling him away from the shelves.
Eventually I finished selecting my items and I walked to the checkouts to pay. Being the holiday weekend, the shop was really, really busy. The queues were soooooo loooong and we had to stand and wait. I stood at the end of the line with SEVEN people in front of me. Grrr.
After what felt like an eternity, it was FINALLY my turn… I loaded ALL my shopping items onto the checkout belt, then my 5 year old shouted, “Mum, I have to go to the toilet!”
“Aww, babe, are you sure? Can you hold on for 5 minutes?”
“No mum I have to go RIGHT NOW!” He jumped about with his legs twisted in a knot.
Argh. DAMN! Ok. This is all part of being a parent right? I had waited close to 15 minutes in the queue, and now I had to put ALL my items back into my basket, and start again. The queue had built up behind me, and was now seven people deep again. They all looked at me with shock. They were all openly sorry for me. One young guy directly behind me, who was maybe nineteen and probably had NO experience with kids, was utterly gobsmacked, going, “WHOA! How shit is that? Kids suck big time hey? Poor you!” I just shrugged at him, but inside I wanted to explain to him (ie. SCREAM IN HIS FACE) that in these circumstances, the appropriate response is to shut the f*$# up, and not draw more attention to the embarrassment and pain of the parent of the kid thank you very much.
The checkout person quickly explained to me where the toilets were. Thank you!
I raced to the toilets with my child, who was hopping along holding his crotch like a Michael Jackson impersonator. There were only two unisex toilets and both were locked. So I had to race back to the cashier counter to get the toilet key, only to be told that the toilets didn’t need a key! So we ran BACK to the toilets with one of the staff, to find that the toilets were not locked, just occupied, and we just had to wait.
We also found that while I was trying to get the non-existent key, a queue had formed for the toilets. But after seeing my 5 year old’s Oscar-worthy performance of wee-holding, everyone in the queue decided that they could “hold on a little bit” and let us jump to the front of the queue. Thank you! They all thought Liam was very cute, and commented on his unusual red hair. Usually, when people comment on Liam’s hair, he grins like an attention hungry celebrity, but his time, he ignored everyone. That is when I realised he was REALLY in need of a toilet.
FINALLY when one toilet was free, my kid and I dashed in, I tore off his pants and threw him on the toilet. Then to my surprise, I discovered that not only did he need to do a wee, he also had to do a NUMBER TWO! Number One and Number Twos came out at the same time, closely followed by Numbers Three and Four and Five, all with slightly different sound effects, which must have been audible from outside.
Thankfully he didn’t explode all over his underwear and shorts!! My mind flashed back to the days of having a new born. Exploding dihorrea, leaking nappies, soiled clothing, watery poo all over the baby’s clothes, pram and ME! So I was able to console myself at that moment – things were not that bad. I began to relax.
I looked around the toilet room. It was a huge, empty, white room with a single toilet, a sink, and a toilet paper dispenser, but… there was NO TOILET PAPER! ARGH!
I peeked my head out of the toilet… and asked the sympathetic queue waiters (about 6 of them)… Did anyone have tissues in their handbags?
Nope, no luck. So I quickly asked the lady who was first in the queue to watch my kid on the toilet while I ran to the service counter to get some toilet paper. I left the door wide open! Poor Liam. He was in this huge, empty room, sitting on an unflushed toilet, with no pants, with 6 people looking at him.
While I was sprinting to the counter, I COULDN’T BELIEVE that I had just left my child, alone, on a toilet, with no pants, in a care of a total stranger!! I was wondering what was the chance of someone kidnapping a pooing, red-haired child? What if he started to scream? His cries would echo in that big empty room and reverberate through the whole shopping centre! What if he panicked and fell INTO the toilet and… oh god I just couldn’t think.
I reached the service counter, and I half screamed and half spluttered “TOILET PAPER!!!?!?” The man at the counter smiled and pointed me to “Aisle 11”.
NO NO! I had to explain my whole story to the staff member. Which went a bit like… MY CHILD! ON THE TOILET! THE SHOP TOILET! THERE IS NO TOILET PAPER! HELP! With big, simple, sign language, hand actions that communicated the sheer gravity of it all.
He slowly pulled out a roll of paper from under the counter, giving me a lazy smile, and passed it to me slowly and ceremoniously like it was the freaking Olympic torch. I snatched it and ran, calling out behind me THANK YOU!! Perhaps that was a tiny bit rude of me.
I arrived back at the toilet. Phew. Liam was still there, and he seemed to have been happily and un-embarrassed-ly chatting with the nice lady who was watching him. Thank You!
Liam cleaned his bottom. I flushed the toilet. We washed our hands. And we got a cheer from the waiting toilet queue. I smiled weakly.
And so we recovered our basket of groceries, and got in the queue for the checkout.
Liam seemed completely unaffected, and nagged me to buy him chocolates that the supermarkets purposely put at child-eye-height in the checkout entrance, so kids will nag their parents to buy them chocolates. I was so shattered that I gave in. By the time we got to paying, the checkout person didn’t give any indication that she had ever seen me before. Perhaps they witness this kind of drama everyday, like doctors, nurses and police officers. No big deal. Life had already moved on, even while my heart rate was still pounding.
And then we went home to cook dinner in someone else’s kitchen.
Note to self: I must remember to carry tissue paper in my bag!