WE look so composed in our family portrait.
Oh, the web of deceit we weave with our matching, stain-free t-shirts and neatly brushed hair. I’m hardly the harassed woman seen at the checkout the day prior with a screaming child dangling from each arm.
The quest for a clean, white shirt that didn’t hug my post-baby body in all the wrong places started out so well. The baby was asleep which meant I could use my double-decker pram which meant my two-year old could be strapped down and his usual shopping dictatorship would be foiled.
But then the baby woke up.
It was downhill from there. Not a fan of the pram when awake, I had to carry the baby and cajole the two-year old through the women’s section on foot (“ooh, look at this one, it has tassles. No, don’t share your chocolate milk with the Jacqui-E blouse.”)
Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the afore-mentioned drink attracted a bevy of other toddlers – okay, just the one but still… infinitely more than I could handle.
The whereabouts of strange child’s mother unknown (and no hysterical screaming to be heard) my shopping slowed to a snail’s pace until she vanished somewhere between babywear and shoes. And then a helpful staffer offered to hold the baby while I tried on the top, so I was down to just one child to mind.
But my reprieve was short-lived when the chocolate-milk-seeking toddler returned, ripped open the fitting room curtain and backed my son into a corner.
My tone would have been more terse except that I was being displayed to the world in my bra and pants, so I strove for diplomacy – and whatever dignity remained – in my underwear. I really wanted to stamp my foot in a “git home, go’n” display of unmistakeable aggression but it came out as a simpering “oh mah (hand fluttering to mostly revealed bosom) “where’s your mummy, darlin’?”
Okay, the southern belle twang was added for effect. I’m seldom that ladylike.
Anyway, it all reached a nice crescendo when – after collecting my second-born from the clearly clucky saleswoman – it appeared that my little boy had gashed open his finger on a mirror while trying to hide from the Toddler With No Milk Or Mum.
I made my way to the register with one bloodied and screaming child in one arm, a baby – hysterical at the sudden new passenger – in the other arm, a pristine white shirt dangling from my pinky and blood and milk dripping everywhere.
I was convinced people were judging me: why doesn’t she use a pram, why doesn’t she get up the boy for screaming, why is he drinking chocolate milk? I wanted to yell out my excuses. Nay – reasons!
“This seemed like the best option at the time: I KNOW she’ll scream in the pram, I KNOW he’ll keep his hands to himself if they’re busy with a flavoured milk. I KNOW he’s screaming because it seems he’s cut an artery!
“What I DON’T know is where is this other kid’s mum? And why isn’t SHE copping the death-stares? Why is SHE off having a child-free shopping experience and ruining mine?!”
But it seems my internal monologue was for nought.
In fact, on my way out another mother remarked on her relief at seeing my predicament, having dealt with a similar scenario just two minutes earlier. Her commiserations actually produced a half-hearted smile.
At least I’m good for something.
Peta-Jo – www.petajo.com
Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/misspetajo
Peta-Jo is the author of the award-winning Wedding Etiquette For Ferals (available on Amazon.com) and is a newspaper subeditor in Queensland. She’s a loving mother of two but screams more often than she should. Her blog, petajo.com was the inaugural winner of Kleenex Mums’ So You Think You Can Blog. She’s currently wearing her fat pants. And no, she’s not “expecting”.