While juggling with a 9 pack of loo roll falling out the back of the buggy; a screaming Baby-Bel engaged in a wrestling match with her rain cover; MiL (mother in law) on the phone making arrangements for a 90th birthday celebration and shopping bags in both hands, I came face to face with the ultimate insult. A cashier with clearly little else to occupy her time summoned me over (yes – she actually said, ‘Come over here’, in the assumed persona of a strict school marm).
For a scary second I thought I was experiencing the beginning of the process of prosecution for shop lifting – the thought closely following was that I don’t have child care so who will assume the role of slave to Baby-Bel while I am undergoing my persecution by the law. But no – a swift rewind and fast forward of my previous 30 minutes reveals no need to panic – every item is paid and accounted for. We didn’t break anything or sneakily put back on the shelves any crushed/ torn/ nibbled at items.
So what does she want? Instinct tells me to run – the last time anyone issued a summons like that was at school and it spelt inevitable trouble ahead. Obviously, I can’t confess to having been on the receiving end of it but witnessing it aplenty is enough to make me shift uncomfortably. Curiosity gets the better of me. Plus it’s hard to make a quick getaway with a laden down buggy in tow, like a morose mule. I’m still puzzled. She gestures to the packet of batteries Baby-Bel has developed an inseparable attachment to over the last few minutes. Relieved, I’m about to tell her they’ve been paid for as the receipt will testify. But before I even get started, she says threateningly, ‘Take that packet of batteries away from your child – she might eat them’.
I am positively affronted by her implication that I am irresponsible, stupid, or lacking in concern for my own child – or indeed all three. Stunned by the brazen and uninvited assault on my maternal abilities I mumble something apologetic and stumble to snatch the offending item from Baby-Bel’s grasp. Needless to say, she starts screaming even louder than earlier and I make my hasty retreat towards a walk of shame out the door.
The fact is the batteries were fully encased in their packaging and I never let her out of my sight AND my child is not one prone to sticking indiscriminate objects into her mouth. Though I admit it’s unlikely to be a contender in ELC’s top toy hitlist any time soon.
It occurs to me that being a parent leaves one in the position of a sitting target for uninvited criticism and comment from any coincidental passerby. Indeed my child rearing skills may leave a lot to be desired but show me a perfect parent and I’ll eat that 8 pack of Duracell myself.