I don’t take my kids shopping, ever. I don’t take my bloke either. I am a solitary shopper and I like it that way.
But, having extra tag-alongs was a necessity today. The kids needed stuff for school starting tomorrow and the man needed to be there because at the moment he is my chauffeur. That is, until I pluck up courage to take to the Swedish roads. It only took 4 years last time, so I hoping to break some records this time around. So, with unwilling participants in tow (and believe me, they were as unwilling to accompany me as I was to have them with me), we head to the shopping centre. First stop, trainers. Within 30 seconds, even before finding any shoes to try on, my youngest was whining that he was bored. The type of whine that 6 year olds are so good at. The type that makes me you wince at the pitch. The type that makes your eyes feel as though they will pop out at the strain of keeping yourself together in front of other people.
This was when Pretend Mum joined us. She’s my alter-ego. In her world, a sing-song voice is used (when I really want to scream like a banshee), the kids’ hair gets ruffled in a “oh, you are misbehaving, but you really are the cutest little button” (when really I want to man-handle them out of the shop as quick as their little legs will carry them). She’s great is Pretend Mum, but she takes it out of you. If you’re in a state of Pretend Mum for too long, the danger is that your head will explode with all that internalised pressure.
So, my youngest doesn’t want to play ball, he wants to go and sit in the little car at the front of the shop. Ah, a carrot! A nice juicy carrot to be dangled in front of his nose so that he will co-operate. From then on, every sentence begins “If you don’t stop doing (insert whatever he is doing), you won’t be able to go in the car. It works for all of 30 seconds.
My eldest, quickly following is his younger brother’s footsteps, is having a fit because we can’t find any slip on trainers in his size. At nearly 9 he hasn’t yet learnt to do his shoe laces (well, I say learnt – what I mean is that we haven’t taught him. Bad parents). He flings his arms around like a rag doll on acid and refuses to stand up to see how the shoes we’ve picked fit. Ah, it is going to be a long morning.
Trainers all sorted, we quickly move on and I can see bribe number two on the horizon – cakes. However, this doesn’t go entirely to plan because my youngest is no longer bored. He is hungry. So hungry, in fact, that if he doesn’t eat his doughnut right now he is going to die of starvation. Cue over-dramatic facial expressions and legs too weak to stand. My boy’s going to win an Oscar one day, I’m sure of it.
Thankfully, sooner than anticipated but not quite soon enough. we were able to beat a hasty retreat. I let the kids eat their doughnuts on the seats in the shopping centre (one because I couldn’t face any more whinging and two, because I had used it as a bribe and I pride myself on never going back on those), but caught myself wondering if this is what Swedes would do. It’s what I would do in England, but here? H adds to my worry that we were standing out as foreigners (something that I think about constantly) because he refuses to eat his doughnut (and he is the doughnut king). It makes me feel like the fatty-fat-fat English brigade and I imagine everyone thinking “look at those English savages. Stuffing their faces in public because they’re too greedy to wait until they get home”. Ridiculous, I know, but I can’t help it. Got a lot of insecurities me, in case you hadn’t guessed!
One of my greatest fears is standing out in a crowd. I try to be as inconspicuous as possible. And that’s in a country where I feel comfortable. So, it stands to reason that it is going to be totally magnified when in reality, we probably do stand out here, at least on some level.
In the car I told my kids that they would never accompany me again. That next time, they would be locked in the cellar.
Only kidding! There are no locks in the cellar. It would have to be the shed 🙂