Anyone who has children can attest to the healing and restorative powers of a solo trip to the supermarket.
Devoid of rogue products being propelled at significant speed in the direction of the trolley, a symphony of whining and a sweat inducing dash around the store, it becomes a veritable oasis of calm akin to a five-star star luxury spa retreat.
This may well be an overly florid description for what is essentially a badly lit, cavernous warehouse – but I have come to look upon these rare and soothing solitary excursions through rose-tinted glasses.
True, with the luxury of online grocery shopping a firm fixture in the life of many new parents (shout-out to the legend of a delivery man who on arriving at my door when I was deep in the trenches of the new-born phase, would bring all of the shopping downstairs and unload it onto the kitchen table), those initial solo trips are few and far between. But there comes a time, when not only will you be able to leave the house without children but you will begin to relish those leisurely strolls down the aisles.
I am a different person during my supermarket jaunts. In fact, I am a far nicer one. When I bump into people, I take the time to chat and equally listen. Safe in the knowledge that I do not have a toddler currently attempting to bankrupt me by throwing a full-scale tantrum over a comic with an overly inflated price tag and enough single use plastic attached to it to sink another glacier.
I have, on occasion, even caught myself humming a little tune beneath my breath such is the peace of mind to be found beneath the unsightly glare of yellow-hued strip lighting.
Therefore, as I approached the checkout, with my trolley and a serene and magnanimous attitude, I noticed a woman in front of me with a cherubic toddler who gazed blankly in my direction. I am not one normally to engage with strangers’ children but his expectant head-bobbing towards me indicated that he did indeed want a degree of acknowledgement, highlighted by his furious bouncing in the seat of the trolley.
So, I threw some of my best work at him; jazz hands, crossed-eyes, blowing raspberries… you name it, I served up a smorgasbord of antics which would have put the most seasoned children’s entertainer in the shade.
He enthused his approval by emitting a long, high pitched and joyous shriek. Which in turn caused his mother to glance over her shoulder as she loaded the last of her groceries onto the belt. Eager to show her I was a zero-threat, functioning adult; I uncrossed my eyes and said, “Oh, he’s a dote”, followed by the gold medal clincher of Small Talk-Parenting 101, “How old is he?”
“He’s 26 months.”
Awkward pause. Mainly due to me as I totted up on my fingers…
“Oh, he’s two?”
Cue testy glance,
“That’s what I said.”
Even the child looked uncertain. He threw a glance at me as if to say, “Why did you have to push it? She’s had a rough day. You got to leave your kids at home and swan around here all smug. You could have let her have the 26 months bit. I don’t care.
“I’m only concerned with whether or not she’s going to let me mainline the punnet of blueberries on the way home. Which is probably not going to happen now because I’ll have to listen to her bang on about that judgy woman from the supermarket. Thanks for nothing.”
Disclaimer: the child never said any of the above. But I feel he conveyed that sentiment through his eyes and expressive use of his eyebrows. And you know what? That silent and sage child was right. I was judgemental.
High on my solo trip superior throne, I had forgotten what a gargantuan task it feels to attempt the weekly shop with a toddler in tow. Or how, even if it grinds my own personal gears, that a mother may just want to hang onto her baby being a baby for that little bit longer by referring to their age in months as opposed to years.
How we are all so different as parents; that we all have varying coping mechanisms and that we are all just trying to get to the stage where we can leave the house to saunter along the aisles in the supermarket alone without sweating and shouting at our offspring to not touch the enormous display tower of tubed crisps.
But honestly, if you are referring to your eight-year-old as being 96 months? We need to talk…