1.When you originally decide to take your three year old on a shopping trip, your intentions will be good. The afternoons are so very long and there is a nice local shopping centre you can go to which has a little soft play area. This will kill a couple of hours. Your three year old needs some new paints to feed his Arts and Crafts habit and, while you are there, he can choose himself an advent calendar.
2.On the way to the shopping centre, after you have picked him up from kindergarten, your three year old will be hungry. He has just had a three course meal at nursery and you bought him a snack when you picked him up but, still, he will be “starving”. He will draw out his most effective weapon, a.k.a. the whinge. You inform him that if he is going to whinge, we will go straight home. There will be no paints. There will be no advent calendar. He stops immediately. Once or twice he forgets himself as you make your way to the shops, but after a stern look, the whinge turns into a pretend coughing fit. “Just coughing, Mummy,” he will enlighten you innocently.
3.As you stand in front of the Viennese shelves of advent calendars, you will be filled with jealous longing. There will be Lindt ones, there will be After Eight ones, there will be Ferrero Rocher ones. There will be advent calendars half a metre tall. You would very much like a grown up advent calendar. But you can’t buy one for yourself, can you? That would be ridiculous. As your son debates whether he wants a Smarites one, a Kinder one or a Mickey Mouse one, you will realise that this is the first year your own mother has not bought you yourself an advent calendar. How can I drop a big enough hint to my husband that he will go out and get me one of these advent calendars, you will wonder. Then you will have a brainwave – you will go home and write a blog about it. If that doesn’t do the trick, nothing will.
4. As soon as you have put your son’s advent calendar of choice (Kinder chocolate) into the shopping basket and are ready to move on to the stationery aisle to look for some paints, your son will need a poo. First of all you will check, “Do you really need a poo?” To which he will reply, “I really need a poo NOW!” You will have no option but to leave the basket with the advent calendar on top of a display of Playmobil and leave the shop.
5.When you return to the shop, you will discover that the poster paints are not in the aisle with the other paints: they are actually in the toy section. This means you will have to steer your three year old past countless shelves of toys before you get to your goal. You probably could have made it without incident, but, unfortunately, you happen to notice that Lightning McQueen (which is on a certain person’s Christmas list) has been reduced to €32 and it is currently £32 on Amazon, making it a significantly better buy over here. No matter that you have already blown the budget for your child’s Christmas presents. No matter that it looks as if you are going to have to pay £30 for a £13 Paw Patrol toy, the last one that you haven’t managed to get yet. You will step up to Lightning McQueen and check him out. Your son will innocently follow and will not be able to help but realise that he is surrounded by toys.
“Can I have a toy?” he will ask.
“No,” you will say firmly. “You’re getting paints and an advent calendar. That’s your treat.”
“But Star Wars!” he points to the Star Wars toys you have inadvertently drawn his attention to.
Then you will hastily move away to find the paints. It’s too late, of course. The Whinge has started up. It is constant and relentless. You still have to drag him to the supermarket. You are so very tired where you haven’t been sleeping well. You have no protection against The Whinge. Even though your husband will shake his head at you, even though one of your aunts (known as Witch 3) reads your blogs and infers you give in too much, you give in. But, in your defence, you will insist he pays for the extortionate €16.99 lightsaber (which doesn’t even light up) out of his pocket money.
6.When you get to the supermarket, you will be so completely loaded down, you will not be able to hold the shopping basket. You are holding your son’s scooter, your son’s hand, and the bag of shopping from the other shop. Your son will refuse to hold anything apart from the lightsaber.
7. The Whinge will pursue you the whole way around the supermarket. He wants you to open the lightsaber. There is no way on God’s earth you are letting your son loose in a supermarket with a maximum potential damage causing toy like a lightsaber. This, finally, is when you will lose your patience.
“Mummy, can you open my lightsaber?”
“But I want my lightsaber.”
“You’ll have to wait!”
Repeat conversation x 10.
8.When you get to the soft play area, there will be nowhere for you to sit. You drag a beanbag over to the wall and plonk yourself down next to a sticky patch. A three year old girl will come and sit next to you and apply her lip-gloss. Do three year olds wear lip-gloss these days, you will wonder in dismay. But no. It’s her sister’s lip-gloss. Said sister will then come over to your beanbag and start to grapple with said three year old for said lip-gloss.
9.Once your son has been in the soft play area for one minute and thirty seconds, he will inform you he is hungry. Luckily, you have bought him a kipferl (sweet, horn-shaped bread roll) in the supermarket. He happily takes the kipferl over to the television and watches Donald Duck in German while he enjoys his snack.
10.You will realise you haven’t eaten lunch.
11.You will smile at your child fondly as he tries to make friends with three older children who are coming down the slide with their arms wrapped around each other’s waists. Your heart will give a little squeeze as your son tries to converse with these children who don’t speak the same language and ignore him. You will feel relieved when your son discovers Lip Gloss Girl is willing to play. You will feel concerned when he chases her and rugby tackles her to the floor. An actual rugby tackle. That his father has taught him. Soft Play is always emotional.
12.When you decide it is time to go, you will struggle to get off the beanbag.
13.Once you manage to drag your son away from his new playmate and put his shoes back on, he will remember the lightsaber. Despite you shouting after him, he will launch into the (very small) soft play area brandishing this weapon about, whacking the other children and generally pissing them off.
14.You will be in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Tony from O2 better not ring you to inform you that your mobile phone is eligible for an upgrade, not after you get a phone call telling you this every single day, not after you have told them several million times that you are not living in the country and therefore do not need an upgrade. Tony from O2 is going to get his head bitten off.
15.When your husband gets home from work, he will raise his eyebrows at you as your son darts about sweeping his lightsaber across the sky.
“Where did this come from?” he will ask your son but really be asking you.
“The shops. Mummy got it. At first she said no but then I was whingeing and she did say yes.”
Thank you very much for that, my Noah.