Going shopping with five children is a military mission. We have our list ready and a plan that can’t be stray from.Go in, get what we have to, pay and go.
As quickly and efficiently as possible before any tantrum or fight can start.
Today we used plan b, which consists of going to the shop as I wait in the car with the kids as they fuss and fight whilst I bury myself in my thoughts so that I don’t go mad whilst my partner runs in and gets what we need.
When we do it this way, there is always something that we forget.
I took the two eldest and went back to get the forgotten bits.
What should have been a five minute trip took about twenty, half of it being spent telling them to watch where they are going, not to run and to be careful and not to bump into people and to stop spinning.
When it gets to this point, I walk ahead at full steam and throw things into the basket without stopping, that means they are at half trot behind me trying to keep up. Scanning around I find the quietest till and get my stuff on the conveyer belt.
The girls were hopping around asking for sweets, notebooks, pens and whatever their eyes could catch. I was surprised they hadn’t asked for bleach by that point.
The cashier, who’s been working there since time began, a lovely woman, looked at me, then grabbed the girls attention by asking them about school and how they were getting along and why they looked so sad.
‘Daddy won’t buy me this and daddy won’t buy me that!’
The usual drone of how horrible daddy is, forgetting that they had been bought new drawing pads, pens, transferable tattoos and friendship bracelets a few hours ago.
Instead of the usual plumose that you’d get from most people, she took the time to talk to them.
There was this look of sadness and affection in her eyes that wanted to tell a thousand stories.
‘Do you think he likes to get up in the morning, especially when it’s cold to have to go to work?
‘Do you think he wants to leave you girls at home, have very little time with you because he wants to?’ Her English isn’t always great.
‘I promise you with all my heart that he doesn’t.
‘He does it because he has to. He loves you so much that he wants to make sure that you have all this wonderful food, those lovely clothes that you wear, that you don’t go hungry.
‘Whether he wants to or not, every day he gets up, leaves the house in the cold, the rain and sometimes the snow to go to work so you can have what you need.
‘If he says no to things is because he loves you and knows what is best. He’s not doing it because he doesn’t want you to have it.
‘Did you get anything today?’
‘You see? He already spoilt you for today. Why do you ask for more? I know how you feel, I have younger sisters and my parents would say no, not because they wanted to, but because they knew what was best for us. You two are the eldest and it might feel like that your sisters get more, but they don’t. You might get asked to help, but that is because your parents can’t do it by themselves, even they need help and you two, being of your age, can help. Don’t feel bad about that, it’s good because they trust you.
‘Don’t forget that you are lucky, there are children who don’t have clothes or food and some don’t even have parents.’
She lowered her eyes and I thought she was going to cry.
‘I lost my mum last year. Now I have no one to tell me what’s right or wrong, what’s good or bad.’
The children didn’t know where to look when she uttered those last words. If they could have found a rock to hide under, at this point they would have.
‘Your mum and dad won’t be there forever, so listen to them and love them, because there will be no one in the world that will be able to take their place.’
For the first time in their lives I saw real sadness and fear in their eyes. I thought they were going to cry, but she hadn’t finished yet.
She looked at me and smiled, ‘now, don’t you think you should say sorry to your daddy?’
They nodded and apologised.
I was genuinely touched by this speech.
They remained quiet as I packed my shopping, payed and got them home.
When we got in, my second came up to me, gave me a big hug and told me that she loves me. She picked up her new pad and pens and immersed herself in the patterns and colours she formed on the pages.
When mum came in and saw her, she got asked what happened.
The barrage of things I didn’t do came out, what I didn’t buy her and that I didn’t let her look around.
All I could do was scream, internally of course.
Then I thought, screw this, after the speech she had just been given by someone else and the way this woman had opened up to her?
It didn’t feel right that she didn’t listen.
So, I told mum about the little shopping excursion and what the lady who served us had said.
I felt quite sad about it all, this wasn’t a family friend, or a relative, but someone who thought they could give my children a little life lesson on loss.
When the younger sister listened and understood, all my eldest did was mourn the fact that she didn’t get anything.
I hope and pray that one day, before it’s too late, she will take the kindness this woman has bestowed on her and appreciate the small things in life instead of the want for more possession.
Admittedly, she did calm down and used some of the stuff bought for, so I am hoping that it was a delayed reaction and those words did sink in after all.