There’s always a little old lady in Sainsburys who witnesses 3yo getting me to buy something & says “She has you round her little finger"
Today didn't start that well for any of us.
Horrid nightmares overnight had kept both children awake. Our three year old daughter has them occasionally. I suspect they are mostly to do with her age, but I can't help wondering whether deep inside there remain terrors associated with her past. Last night her distress upon waking from the nightmare was especially severe. It took both of us to calm her down and eventually sooth her back to sleep.
Our son also has nightmares and he too had woken during the night. Now he is seven he is able to rationalise them more easily, but even so they are sufficient to send him in to our room looking for the immediate, instinctive comfort required to banish such night terrors.
Tiredness and a cold combined to make our daughter even more grumpy upon waking. Our morning routine was therefore carried out to a background soundtrack of low level wailing. All attempts to discover what was wrong proved unsuccessful. She sobbed through waking, through her first cup of tea, choosing her clothes, showering and then wailed as she dressed.
All attempts at providing diversion or respite failed too. Tea didn't work, a good dose of Calpol (children's liquid paracetemol) had no effect whatsoever and even the offer of a second cup of tea was met with an increase in wailing volume.
Such was the noise that our son decided to go to his school's breakfast club to escape it, leaving with J to be dropped off on his Dad's way to work. I waved them off with what I hoped was the kind of scornful look reserved for those who desert their posts at the moment of crisis.
Our daughter settled down on the sofa, snuggled under a blanket watching her favourite Disney cartoon, looking pale and remaining unusually quiet.
Decision made then. Plans for this morning cancelled. Play school phoned and absence reported. I return to sitting room to inform our daughter of the plan. "I must go shopping this morning though," I tell her. Our lovely cleaning lady has arrived by this point and offered, bravely I thought, to keep an eye on our three year old while I pop out.
"You have to go shopping?" Asked our daughter. "I'm coming!"
"No, you're poorly," I say, stay here with A.
"NO!" Says three year old, jumping from under blanket. "Feeling better now." And she vey clearly is. She's sprightly as she runs upstairs to gather her coat and jumper. I'm getting a suspicion that the wool may have been pretty effectively pulled over my eyes.
Which is how I find myself outside the local Sainsburys having my normal conversation with our children, managing expectations before we enter the supermarket. "We're not buying clothes or toys," I tell my daughter.
"Comics?" She asks hopefully.
"No, no comics, no films, nothing but the food we need."
Of course, ruling out non food items for purchase leaves so much more room for consideration of exactly the kind of lovely snacks a three year old likes but that are not, and never have been, on my shopping list.
In the dairy section I am suckered into buying cheese string (not on the list), mint chocolate desserts (not on the list) and a new type of yoghurt because it has a nice picture of a cow on it (again, you guessed it, not on the list).
Whenever in these situations there always appears to be a little old lady on hand to view the scene with a look of benign disapproval. "She has you wrapped around her little finger!" this particular elderly voyeur noted before moving off with her shopping trolley.
Having been firm ruling out purchase of Hello Kitty Pasta, where there was no sign of little old lady, she reappears when we are in the biscuit section. Here I am negotiating over exactly which type of animal shaped chocolate biscuit we are buying and am losing badly as we go for Cadbury's over the store's own brand.
Passing by slowly with the air of a morbid rubber necker viewing the scene of a particularly grisly car crash, she clucks under her breath to herself.
I veto the purchase of various sugar stuffed fruit drinks in favour of plain juices without witnesses and move on to the bakery section. Guess who is there to observe my abject failure to prohibit the purchase of vibrant pink iced gingerbread elephants? "Ahh, she's going to cost you A LOT in the future," sniggers my elderly stalker as she shuffles away. I am screaming inwardly by this point.
The checkouts are busy. No, they are overwhelmed. So despite having a fairly full trolly we go for the self service check outs. In the style of a Hannah Barberra cartoon, where a mini devil sits on one of the character's shoulders while a mini angel sits on the other, voices debate in my head as I make this choice.
"This is a bad idea, it's going to be chaotic," says my mini angel. "It'll be fine, you need to get out of here quickly. What can go wrong?" Retorts the mini devil.
Of course, the problem of doing this solo is that I only have two hands. I try to use my legs to keep control of my daughter and the trolley, but it doesn't work. Scanning a few items, running to the other end of the counter and bagging them and then returning to scan a few more, I keep up a constant dialogue much to the amusement of shoppers in the queue behind me. "Don't do that darling." "No, don't move the trolley." "Don't sit up there." "Put that back."
After a little while I get into a rhythm and things go quiet. I'm beginning to congratulate myself. I stopped my daughter throwing herself under a passing loaded shopping trolley. Succesfully encouraged her not to steal things from the lady in an adjacent queue's basket, who was too engrossed in a conversation with her friend about 'the change' to notice. I even managed to get her to help me bag a couple of items.
My self satisfaction is broken by a tap on the shoulder. "Mate?" A gruff voice asks.
Now, at the risk of sounding snobbish, I hate being called 'mate'. To me it always infers a degree of intimacy in the user that I very rarely feel I share with them. I therefore turn not particularly amused at the interruption.
"Is she yours?" The man asking is a very large builder and he is pointing to the bagging area of the next door self service check out. There, sitting amongst his bags is my daughter. Laughing. Waving.
The red light on top of the check out is flashing, the automatic voice is saying "Unidentified object in bagging area," and the man, who is clearly in a rush and trying to complete the checkout process is quite obviously unamused.
"Oh, sorry!" I manage to say as I grab my three year old from the amongst the builder's shopping, just as the bustling supervisor arrives to sort out the now huge weight discrepancy on my unhappy neighbour's checkout scales.
I complete my payment and begin to leave, avoiding the fracas still going on with my builder neighbour's checkout.
"Got you just where she wants you," a voice says. There with a knowing, self satisfied smirk, is the little old lady basking in her final moment of prophetic justification.
I smile sweetly, "She certainly has, and I'm jolly glad about it," I reply with a wink. The little old lady scowls back, dripping disapproval.
So now, as I write this, my daughter is asleep resting against my arm. Exhausted by her morning's adventures, drooling slightly down my sleeve. Regardless of little old ladies' opprobrium, I wouldn't have her any other way.