There is only one way to single-handedly do the groceries with my Little Lion and Blossom in tow: with Blossom strapped safely in the trolley capsule and Lion standing in the little sectioned off part at the front of the trolley, pretending to drive.
So I was pushing, Blossom was staring at the lights with wide-eyed horror and Little Lion was commenting as he helped me select apples, dropping them into the bag with a dainty little “drop!… drop!… drop!…” It’s his latest word and he is very proud of it. I was very proud of the picture of motherly perfection I was with my happy little troupe. The occasional “Oh, what a good little helper!” I got from the elderly shoppers reaching past me to get a banana or two only bolstered my self-satisfaction. Who would have though grocery shopping could be fun?!
My little bliss bubble floated me from oranges to capsicum, from broccoli to onion where a terse stare and a grunt from an overly bejewelled beeshive with horseriding jodpurs burst that bubble. What’s her problem? It’s not as though the Lion was smearing snotty fingers all over her parsnips (something he has done in the past, making my guilty conscience buy the damned things). I didn’t even get such scorn last summer when he carefully selected the biggest mango he could find and bit right into it while I had my back turned. By the time I got back to the trolley with my bag of peaches, he had squished half the mango onto the floor and the other half all over his tummy. My only penance was a few awkward chuckles from passers-by, a number of comments on the Lion’s good taste and a whole roll of paper towel with which to clean up the mess. So why the scorn this time? I put it down to the poor wretch having too much Botox in all the wrong places and moved on.
Until a similar snarl greeted me in the pasta section and then another in the frozen foods. What was wrong with these people? Blossom wasn’t even crying and my Little Lion, by this time, was making perfectly inoffensive bruuuuummmmm-ing sounds between randomly greeting strangers with a forceful “HELLO!” uttered more like a command than a pleasantry. They were cute, we were cute, so what was their problem?!
By the time I began unloading at the checkout, I was agitated. The one time I actually felt like I’d got it together, a bunch of strangers in need of attitude adjustments made me wonder what I was doing wrong. It was the spritely checkout chick with too many opinions and not enough tact that clarified the problem for me.
“How are you today?” she chirped without looking up.
“Fine thanks,” I replied into my trolley, carefully avoiding the Vegemite fingers reaching for my hair.
“Oh!” she exclaimed,”You know you really shouldn’t have him in the trolley like that. They have ones with the proper seat next to the capsule, coz it’s really dangerous,” and she turned her gaze on my son, “and we wouldn’t want you hurting yourself, would we?”
I wanted to vomit. So that was it?
“Ah well…” I stammered. My tongue left me. My brain froze and all the wonderful things I could have said, should have said, would have said, evaporated in the burn in my cheeks.
And that was the end of my part in the conversation. She continued with stories of ‘friends’ (indeed, I doubted she had any) whose children were maimed by runaway trolleys, how she thought those side-by-side numbers were such a good idea for us poor mothers with our hands full, how she would never venture to have children any less than five years apart because she was sure it would be emotionally scarring to lose mother’s attention so early in life, and so on and so on. I comforted myself with the thought that she was an ignorant turd just long enough to pay the bill and grimace a smile as she wished me a nice day, then vented my fury on a huge iced doughnut (of which my Little Lion ate a lion’s share – yes I am the worst mother on the planet, so bite me!)
I wonder if she, and the others whose scornful glances I encountered, would have felt differently about my son’s shotgun ride had they witnessed the alternative. Those side-by-side numbers are, firstly, designed for pigmy children, and secondly, do not allow for the exclusion zone necessary to prevent Little Lion from attempting brain surgery on Blossom via the nose or eye-ball. Granted, the exclusion zone is an afternoon thing – he plays nicely with the baby in the mornings – and perhaps I should limit shopping excursions to a time when his enthusiasm doesn’t get the better of him as quickly, and perhaps I should use one of those baby carriers to provide Blossom with the best possible protection, BUT I CHOSE NOT TO! So butt out!
Next time I will be prepared with a store of gentle responses that don’t make me feel like a helpless doormat:
“Oh, well I was actually hoping he might fall so I could sue your ass and make a million.”
“Yeah, but all the side-by-side trolleys were taken up by your ‘friends’.”
“Oh, really? I thought they made the little sectioned off bits especially for kids to ride in.”
“Sweetheart, mind your own fucking business and live a little…”
Anyone got any more ideas?