Let’s get this out of the way first. I know I’m a monster. If I was any sort of mother, I would have arranged for someone else (in an ideal world, my doting husband and babyfather, for example, if such a person existed, we are talking about a hypothetical IDEAL world here, not the one in which we actually live) to look after my toddler whilst I went out shopping for a gift for his upcoming birthday. What an uncaring excuse for a parent I am, spoiling the surprise by taking him along to check if the scooter helmet fits. Just like I am obviously a monster for depriving him of a “cake smash” (I’m sorry. I like EATING cake) and because I have never taken him on a foreign holiday that he’s too young to appreciate (we went to Wales the other day. Does that count?)
If I was any sort of mother, I would have prioritised learning to drive as soon as I turned seventeen, instead of concentrating on worthless folly like studying for A levels and chasing boys, or at least put some money aside for driving lessons once I had a job like a sensible person would, instead of spending every spare bit of cash and overdraft investing in extravagant holidays and acquiring a fabulous collection of shoes I cannot walk in. Then I would not have to physically haul my toddler around all over the out of town retail park on a bus, commuting between shops on my own two feet and carrying a reluctant child along with all my shopping, instead of gliding around conveniently in my air conditioned 4×4 like a proper parent and navigating the expansive car parks with ease rather than dodging them whilst dangling a toddler by the arm as he tries to insist on crawling along the molten hot tarmac on the hottest day of the year.
But as will soon become clear, I am not the perfect parent (and I refuse to believe that those people in the 4x4s are either. I bet they all have REALLY UNHAPPY MARRIAGES the smug b******ds).
Therefore I bring you, for your delectation, delight and hopefully your nods of recognition (it can’t just be me, right?) my top three reasons why you should not take your toddler shopping for his own birthday present, and none of them have anything to do with the fact that it ruins the surprise. I’ve locked his present in a cupboard in the loft that he can open easily while he has a nap. He’ll never realise or remember, right?
1. Bribes. You will be forced to reach whole new levels of bribery and corruption simply to get the child out of any and every shop that sells any kind of toy. Argos, I salute you and your cheeky product placement-cheap Paw Patrol figures of all the the pups, complete with vehicles, right next to the tills. Nicely done by the marketing department, absolute hell for me. Here, have my toddler crawl all over your floor dispersing those bits of paper you write the order numbers on, and using the little pencils to draw on said floor, whilst I scrabble around picking up the paper and chiding Piglet before an audience of disapproving customers.
2. Anger. When I am in a toy shop, my anger knows no bounds. This, my friend, is not the anger of having to wrestle a small child out of the shop (they know no better, and I’m sure I was the same at their age, right?) but the anger of being reminded, yet again, that the TOY MOP AND SWEEPING BRUSH IS EFFING PINK! Just when I had surrounded myself with the likes of Let Toys Be Toys and my liberal bubble of right-on, equality for all, like-minded friends on Facebook and was starting to think that sooner or later, toy manufacturers would realise that colour-coded toys went out with the dinosaurs (which, by the way, are for children of ALL GENDERS), I walk into Mothercare and there it is, an entire section devoted to kitchens, dolls and PRETEND CLEANING IMPLEMENTS clearly marketed exclusively at girls. I remind Piglet (a boy) of his own interest in “helping” with the cleaning and grabbing the dustpan and brush/vacuum cleaner whenever he sees me use it so that he can “help,” and I suggest that perhaps I could interest him in a pink brush and mop set? Then I realise that would be adding to the problem by giving these blasted people my money, and leave.
3. Soft play. Mothercare, I love you for providing an overpriced soft play at the back of your store, and for placing it conveniently close enough to the cafe that I do not even have to enter it, but can simply sit back and observe from afar with a latte and a panini, but I do not love the fact that your store makes my son so over-excited that he will not attempt to go to the toilet, because that would mean leaving the soft play and the tempting selection of expensive toy ride-on cars that you have thoughtfully strewn throughout your store. I can only apologise to the stricken young man supervising the area, who had to endure for one moment the possibility that he may have to clean up after the little accident we had in there (luckily, no damage could be observed, except to Piglet’s sodden clothing. Just as well you were stocking spare clothes there Mothercare, even if I had to rush unintentionally into the Little Bird section with a squirming half naked child under my arm and buy some overpriced items I didn’t really need whilst holding the urine-soaked remains of his previous outfit in my other hand).
So there we are, please parents, I know you are all better than me and drive air conditioned vehicles and have husbands to co-ordinate present-buying/childcare duties with, and you have probably all already arranged a birthday party for four hundred of your child’s closest acquaintances from nursery to enjoy in a nearby zoo, soft play centre or church hall before all standing around to watch the birthday boy or girl smash their cake like they had ten other ones on standby for guests to eat, but learn from my mistakes, and never take your child in a toy shop again, ever. Or it might just be you having to balance three shopping bags and a hefty pre-schooler on your overworked arms whilst trying to stop them from destroying the place and/or stealing a range of electric-powered ride-on cars, only to have them decide to pay you back by crawling all the way to the bus stop, pausing every now and again to sit on a passing rock and enjoy the sunshine while you point to the bus you’ve just missed.