It is a well known fact that The Supermarket is in fact the seventh circle of hell for parents of toddlers. And pre-schoolers. And primary, secondary… oh stuff it, most kids.
Shopping with kids full stop is a particular pain that most of us dread but for some reason, The Supermarket is a special, fire-burning hell that should only be braved by the thick of skin and girded of loin. As a result, I don’t often shop in real life preferring a good old internet shop because while the stupidly random packing of one bunch of spring onions occupying an entire bag of it’s own and some of the most ridiculous substutions known to man (I once ordered dried chilli flakes and got a Chinese Sweet & Sour ready jar instead) it’s otherwise a relatively pain-free experience.
I remember being a child and going with my mum to do The Saturday Shop, which she was always a bit loathe to agree to because she secretly used it as a way to escape us all. We knew this, of course. We also knew that she spent 8 hours ‘Doing The Shop’ and about 6 hours of that time was spent in Stephanie’s coffee shop reading The Guardian cover to cover and drinking copious coffee whilst people-watching because you know, one day she was ‘going to write her memoirs’. She knew that we knew that this is how she spent her Saturday and so when we crashed it I’m pretty sure that’s why we ended up in the Christian Shop for a good hour of that time just out of punishment for breaking her me-time.
So last weekend, after my preferred online shopping website failed to reserve me my usual slot, off I went to The Supermarket. With the kids in tow, because I love nothing more than sheer hell and there’s no Stephanie’s Coffee Shop near me.
We arrived in a fug and it hadn’t even started. OF COURSE some twat-head had parked in the Parent & Child parking and DID NOT HAVE A CHILD SEAT IN THE BACK, just a dog bouncing around like a trapped rat. Bess wanted to wear her sunglasses around The Supermarket and I said no, so now she hates me with all the muster of a thirteen-year-old teenager. She’s six, so I’m eye-rolling, and that makes her more mad, and so we go on. Maggie was already in a fug because she wanted to wear a tutu to The Supermarket and I said no, so she’s now really furious and sitting with her arms crossed in the main body of the trolley which in turn makes the Supermarket Assistant mad and then I am mad because Maggie has to get out and I have to drag her behind me and we haven’t even got to the cauliflower yet.
The Vegetable Aisle is always an opportunity for learning, of course. All that colour, and texture and opportunity for maths! I do my special Jolly Parent voice and say, “Oh look! How many of these orange carrots can we count?” while Maggie rolls on the floor and Bess sits on the potatoes with her arms crossed. “One… two… THREE, yes that’s right! Oh look at this nobbly one, Maggie!”. She briefly looks up and loudly says, “Oh yeahhhh! It looks like Daddy’s willy.” An older couple stand next to us, open-mouthed with horror, while also holding a knobbly carrot. I hiss-bollock her to get up from the floor and mouth an apology ‘oh my god, so sorry, so embarrassing’ to the old couple and awkwardly, half drag the children away.
We move off to the fish aisle and Bess announces that she can ‘smell the fish Mummy, and it smells DISGUSTING’. I suggest we look at the counter and get them to point out the prawns and the cod and the mackerel, when Bess says ‘this is boring’ and the fishmonger looks at me with a wry smile. Obviously, I’m on show so I bend down to her level like Supernanny tells us and I tell her to damn well buck her ideas up or she’s not getting a magazine at the end. She smiles weakly, and eye-rolls at the fishmonger. I don’t know where she gets it from.
Why does The Supermarket have a bastard toy aisle? I cannot be the only parent who dreads getting past the vegetables and fish counter to encounter my daughter’s dream and most-wanted toy ever, ever, ever. The girls grab at toys and plead at me with those huge eyes as I use my Stern Mummy voice and say ‘no, now what did I say in the car? Toys have to go on your birthday lists, we don’t buy them here.” This sounds a lot more civilised than the reality which is practically wrestling my child to the floor and wrenching the bloody life-size Poppy from Trolls out of her arms.
We need pantry basics so our next destination is the canned goods and there, I load up the trolley with chopped tomatoes, soup, sweetcorn and of course, baked beans. At that precise moment I smell a waft of broccoli, fetid lamb, and silage, and maybe even an overtone of rubbish dump. Good god. I look around and there, my darling blue eyed-girl sniggers next to me and says “Mummy! YOU DID A TRUMP! Ewww!”.
OH MY GOD OHMYGOD IT WAS NOT ME IT WAS MY KID. Everyone, (I’m not joking) everyone, in the aisle looks directly at me. They look disgusted. Appalled. One pulls their jumper up over their nose as they inch out of the aisle. “BESS” I hiss. “That was you!”. She giggles and dances in a circle. “I know! But it was so stinky and funny Mummy to say it was you!”. I mentally add it to the list for the 18th Birthday Party, and make her stand at the push-bar on the trolley so I can keep a close eye on her.
In the bread aisle, with both children under control, I’m feeling mildly better and that lovely fresh bread smell lulls me into a place of peace. I ask Bess to get two loaves of bread, which she does beautifully and I positively beam with pride as a lady turns to me and says ‘what lovely little girls’. “Thank you” I say, and then because they are lovely really, I turn and gesture behind me to the cakes and tell Bess to choose one. I’m vaguely aware that Maggie is doing something at the end of the aisle near the baguette basket so I thank the lovely lady, put Bess’ choices into the trolley and go to catch Maggie up where I realise, upon getting closer and closer to her, that she has fucking eaten the end off EVERY SINGLE BAGUETTE IN THE BASKET and there are blatant teeth marks, maybe even a little soggy on the one end. Can you get arrested for baguette damage? I mull it over and check for cameras and pray that the Store Guard was having a snooze or something.
Maggie goes straight into the baby seat at this point, while I hiss about NOT TRUSTING HER and THIS IS WHY I DO ONLINE SHOPPING and tell Bess to stay by my side. I’m nearly done; we have a bit of moaning about being freezing in the freezer aisle as I get the fish fingers and smiles for Beige Tapas Night and we finally, after hauling the biscuits off the shelves, make it to the checkout.
The checkout is a Parent Gauntlet akin to that of that 90s gem, Gladiators. On each side temptation lies directly at child head height. Packets of nuts, chew bars and wasabi peas go flying as I try and load the conveyor belt in double quick time like a contestant on The Generation Game. “Stop!” I screech, “Don’t touch!” but it’s futile, the shelves are pretty much empty and my trolley is full of ‘whole food’ snacks to stock the whole of pissing Holland & Barrett. As the wine goes through the till, the lady smiles at Maggie and she takes the opportunity to tell the assistant that ‘Mummy says wine is her saviour, is it your saviour?’ and the till-lady looks at me and shakes her head and I’m done in, I’m knackered, I don’t actually know what to do with all the bloody health snacks and contemplate just bundling a kid under each arm and legging it. I don’t though. I stand there like a knackered mug and shrug and pack the bags – one splits, of course, because that is the law of shit – and when the last item is through I do a last minute rearrange to ensure that the wine is right at the top. The beautiful saviour.
The till-lady looks at me with mild sympathy and says “You know, you can shop online on our website and it all gets delivered to your door?”
About Kate Dyson
Founder of The Motherload. Wife, mum to two girls, two cats and shit loads of washing in baskets that sit around the house waiting to be ironed. It never happens.Hater of exercise, denier of weight gain, lover of wine. Feminist.
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