Every few months I am brave enough to try a foolish thing. It is called shopping with three children. I tell myself that going through such a thing is necessary once in a while – sometimes I have things to do, and children can’t expect to be constantly entertained and having fun. However, whilst telling myself this, I am also aware that I will return having achieved very little but looking like I have been pulled through a hedge backwards.
I set out on such excursions with an achievable and minimal to-do list. The most recent excursion should have looked like this:
Get the bus. Bus = EXCITEMENT.
Go to shop #1 with one item to return. This will be a CHALLENGE, but hopefully achievable with the promise of Stage 3.
Stop for a babycino. This is a TREAT and will therefore bring more EXCITEMENT. Because we all need a treat after ONE SHOP. And yes, I know the babycino phenomenon is a total con but, if it allows me to down a quick coffee then I’m all for it.
Shop #2 to find a child’s birthday present. I know the shop to head for so this should be ACHIEVABLE.
Go home on the bus. Bus home = WEARY EXCITEMENT.
Before I continue, I should add that in recent weeks I have been attempting to live my life pushchair free. These days, the pushchair is mainly used to transport our luggage and, whilst I miss having being able to shove all my bags in or under it, it is a big piece of equipment to push around primarily for this purpose. So we are entirely on foot.
And here we go, off to the shops. On the bus. Without a pushchair.
Stage 1 – on the bus:
There was excitement. Personally, I would find it helpful if bus drivers would wait a few seconds before they zoom off, so that passengers who are slightly less steady on their feet (let’s say children and the elderly) are safely seated, but that is a minor matter. We were on our way, even if a few boys did require scooping up from the floor.
Stage 2 – shop #1:
Shop #1 involved joining the longer-than-ideal queue at customer services, just next to the ladies’ slippers. The ‘tell-me-what-colour-slippers-you-can-see’ game lasted for all of 30 seconds. Playing chase around the slipper section was much more entertaining, with me desperately trying to reign boys in whilst also not losing my place in the queue. I wished I had the buggy. I threatened them with no babycino if they didn’t calm down, knowing full well this was an empty threat and therefore very-bad-parenting: the thought of a coffee stop was the only thing getting me through. Finally we reached the till and made a speedy exit.
Stage 3 – coffee / frothy milk stop:
After one shop and zero purchases this was a very necessary stop, although it did give the boys an opportunity to reflect on the fact that shopping really isn’t much fun and drinking frothy milk is far preferable. They then had to be dragged out. Someone helpfully told me I had my hands full. I wished I had the buggy.
Stage 4 – shop #2:
Rather unhelpfully, just before shop #2, a trapeze-swinging monkey can be found in the window of a shoe shop. Clearly this is meant to entice the shoppers, however it actually just results in a gaggle of children standing outside the shop, while parents tell them they can watch the monkey do one more rotation and then it’s time to go.
I told my boys this and then had to drag them away, distraught. Thanks for that, Monkey.
I wished I had the buggy.
We finally made it to shop #2 although none of us is in the best frame of mind for birthday present shopping. And, what was I thinking bringing them to this shop?? There is stuff for them to grab EVERYWHERE! Off they go, plunging their hands into buckets of pencil sharpeners, grabbing packs of stickers; examining finger puppets, mini puzzles, whisks and mixing bowls. The eldest boy holds up every item he comes across as a present suggestion for the nearly 4 year old – would he like a pack of candles? How about some candle holders? Or a photo frame? This was clearly not going to work – we marched out.
By now my boys are not only bored but also tired – I wished I had the buggy. And we still have a birthday present to shop for, which means venturing into another shop. As I brace myself for going through it all over again, I look down at the eldest boy and notice that we have shoplifted a pack of stickers. Excellent.
Back we march to the shop to explain, apologise and pay. Back past my favourite trapeze-swinging monkey which, once again, I have to drag my children away from…..and I can’t stop thinking about how different this could have been if only we had THE BUGGY!
Stage 4.1 – shop #3:
We are all at breaking point, Twin #2 is insisting on being carried and I’m feeling like a cruel mum forcing my exhausted children to press on. I seem to be surrounded by other pushchair-pushing mums, probably wondering what on earth had possessed me to venture to the shops without any means of containing my children. I am wondering the same.
But we make it to shop #3 which, thankfully, was a relatively safe place with books. The twins sat on the floor and the eldest boy helped me select appropriate gifts. The end was in sight, we just had to pay and leave. And get the bus.
I pay and break the news to the twins that it’s time to go – they, of course, are now really quite enjoying themselves and decide to lie on the floor in protest. Unable to get any distance when attempting to carry both boys, I am faced with the possibility of us all being found at closing time collapsed in a heap on the floor of WHSmiths.
We make it out of there – I don’t remember how but I’m pretty certain there was muttering about never taking my children shopping ever again.
Stage 5 – bus home:
Relief and exhaustion come flooding over me.
3 hours have passed. We returned one item and bought a book, but all I care about is getting everyone back home and on a sofa……far far away from the trapeze-swinging monkey.