Let’s start with the moral of the story: Going to run any errand – however apparently benign – with your children after school, is always a bad idea. Magnify this badness tenfold when you attempt said outing with three tired, hungry, over-stimulated children age five and under.
So I pick up my son (five, nearly six) from school at 3.30pm, with his two little sisters (four and nearly two) and we all head off to run just a couple of *small* errands. I convince myself that I’ll *for sure* be home by 4.30pm.
For a short time, a hopeful, even optimistic, feeling reigns in the air as we head to Next store not far from home to pick up online order. We four merrily enter store and prance up escalator. However, optimism begins to wane rapidly as phone battery chooses to die at exact moment I’m meant to provide store folk with handy reference number to receive online order in seamless manner.
Luckily, helpful Next shop-person still finds order, but then get painfully stuck with him for extended time period because online order has messed up in unpleasantly complicated ways and duplicate items of clothing are apparently arriving. While trying to make sense of this on computer (forced to make notes in agonising slow motion with antiquated pen on antiquated paper, thanks to deadness of handy phone for taking photos), vaguely see out of corner of my eye my three little ones snooping around putting their sticky paws all over various Christmas goodies stacked up on low shelves near check-out conveniently at their exact height.
There’s a loud clatter and suddenly hundreds of brightly coloured jelly beans fly out of tin and scatter in all directions, rolling all over the floor. I cringe, everyone looks in disapproving way in my direction – yes, it is MY DREADFUL offspring who are fully responsible for this chaos. In front of staring folk, do everything in my mortal power to stop kiddies from scooping up jelly beans off germ-ridden floor and shamelessly scoffing them. Luckily they find some germ-free sweets still lurking on shelves to gobble up instead.
Cringe, apologise profusely.
Technological issues sorted out, I grab my packages and make as if to leave the store.
But then realise I’ve somehow got tricked into stopping at in-store Costa to buy the three of them snacks. Wonder distractedly how they talked me into that one.
Unhealthy snacks in hand, head off to next destination – Tesco superstore, *just* to buy nappies and wipes. Clearly this will only take five minutes.
In Tesco, get distracted many times by items which are neither nappies nor wipes but which somehow end up in my shopping basket.
Somehow children convince me they need more snacks (X who had sugary snack before now *needs* snack of crisp variety, while Y who had popcorn last time now *needs* sugary genre of snack, etc etc). Time seems to slow down inexorably.
Just as we’re about to – finally – leave, littlest child decides it’s of course ideal time to go on strike and refuses to move. 5pm has long gone and supper will be hopelessly late, so bath and bedtime will be hopelessly delayed too, so it’s an ideal time to settle down in a spreadeagled position on grubby Tesco floor and start minor tantrum. Try to reason with her (HA!), funnily enough this yields no results. Then try the ‘OK, I’m LEAVING NOW, bye bye, you’ll be left here on your own’ etc etc, knowing full well she will entirely ignore me and I’ll just look silly. But miracles do happen, apparently, for she does eventually peel herself off ground and scuttles after my retreating figure, howling loudly in my wake.
It’s dark and cold outside by now, and realise I must be ravenous while packing up car boot with mountains of shopping because find myself absentmindedly poking around in buggy and downing manky crisps that dropped out of little person’s packet earlier on. (Health warning: never eat discarded food from buggy interior, however hungry you are, any morsels you find will invariably have nasty, unknowable gritty quality to them).
Horror of horrors: Suddenly notice big boy is not wearing his (nice, bright yellow, warm, good quality, M&S, winter) coat. ‘Where is your coat?’ I ask him in as pleasant a growl I’m able to muster. ‘I don’t know’ is predictable reply. After scouring car, come to ghastly conclusion that it was left behind at Next, and now, instead of heading home at this hellishly late hour with three tired children, need to head BACK to first store with them on thankless coat search mission first.
Park back at the store in Groundhog Day kind of way, and skulk back inside considerably less enthusiastically this time round. Miracle #2 of day – find wretched coat where it was apparently dumped at Costa café.
Arrival back home: 6.10pm.