‘We’ll be quick,’ my husband had said. ‘All I need is some soft drink from the store and some new shirts.’
‘You want to take three kids to a department store while you buy shirts?’ I asked incredulously.
He showed me his phone.
‘I have pictures of exactly what I want. Size, brand everything. It’ll be easy,’ he said.
First mistake – believing my husband.
The shop with the shirts didn’t open til 9am yet for some reason we were coasting into the carpark well before 8.30am. My husband slowed in front of the boom gate and took the proffered ticket.
What happened to it after that is anyone’s guess.
All five of us stepped out of the car and moved noisily into the shops. It was a Saturday morning: no one had brushed hair. One kid was wearing a floor-length Elsa dress. One was wearing a boys Minion t-shirts (from Despicable Me) that was about 4 sizes too big. It’s possible she had a skirt on underneath, but it didn’t matter because her top was so long. The other had a dirty ex-daycare dress and pair of thongs. We looked like a family of bums.
My husband has a bit of an addiction to a particular sugar-free soft drink, but as it’s locally made, it is only sporadically available for sale. When he sees it at a low price, he turns into a hoarder, which is exactly what he did, grabbing a trolley and filling it with the 13 cases he could find on the shelf.
When I muttered about leaving some for others, he put one box back on the shelf. Reluctantly.
Embarrassed at his trolley load of soda I wandered ahead of the family, pretending not to know them.
Once he had paid and realising we still had time before the shirt shop would open, we decided to take his haul back to the car. At least people would stop staring at us, I thought. My second mistake – shopping with three kids means there is always a reason to be stared at.
It was when we got back to the car that my husband offhandedly mentioned not being able to find the parking ticket. Not actually believing that someone as intelligent as he could actually lose a parking ticket between taking it from the machine and getting out of the car, I dismissed it, and we headed, noisily, back into the shopping centre. The kids began whinging they were thirsty and hungry, and no matter how many times I pointed out that breakfast was literally less than half an hour ago, they all declared they were going to die immediately of starvation and thirst.
We still had time to kill, so we went back to the grocery shop, this time to buy juice for the kids and a packet of mini jam cakes. My husband’s brilliant idea was that the kids and I could sit and eat snacks while he bought his shirts. My third mistake – listening to his ‘good idea’ and agreeing to be left with the kids while he got to shop by himself.
Naturally, it turned out there were not any chairs or benches outside the shop in question. Only a deliciously plush, brand new carpet, and some display cases with mannequins wearing ridiculously expensive outfits. While I was looking around for somewhere bench-like to sit, my husband was encouraging the kids to ‘have a picnic’. On the floor. Of the very flash shopping centre. While we looked like bums. In the middle of a very posh neighbourhood.
Number Three refused to let me put the lid back on her juice, instead she kept running around the run, juice preciously sloshing. As I grabbed her and manhandled her back onto the floor, a shop assistant for one of the obscenely expensive women’s fashion stores arrived to unlock her shop, frowning so intently that her lemon mouth all but disappeared into her botoxed cheeks.
‘This was such a stupid idea of Daddy’s,’ I muttered under my breath as I tried to pick up a stepped-on jam cake from the floor.
‘I’m going to tell him you said that,’’ said the Middle.
Dobber, I thought.
Suddenly the Third’s juice exploded all over her, spraying orange liquid all over the fancy carpet, and her not-so-fancy outfit. She took one look at her dripping t-shirt and ran crying into the shop shrieking ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ The eldest took off after her.
Not sure whether I should follow them or clean up the mess, I stood paralysed for a second. The snobby shop assistant was shaking her head at me through her streak-free glass window. My husband suddenly reappeared holding a bag with his new shirts and a small juice covered girl.
The Mop jumped up and said ‘Mummy said your idea was stupid.’
‘Did she?’ he asked amused.
The eldest had reappeared and tried to grab her juice out of the bag into which I had thrown all the bottles and leftover food. As she pulled it out, the top flew in one direction and the juice flew in another. A second bright orange puddle, but this time on the shiny white tiles.
As I was hissing at my husband to get back into the shop to get them to call the cleaners, and heatedly arguing with the Bombshell over who was to blame I heard a pleasant voice say ‘hello Shannon.’ My new neighbours, appropriately dressed and not covered in any juice, were witnessing my descent into madness. I tried hard to smiled pleasantly, but doubt I succeeded. I was absolutely seething, yet somehow my husband didn’t seem to care or notice that not one, but two of his children were covered in sticky juice.
As we bundled the kids away from the disgraceful mess (the cleaners had been called and were on their way) I recalled my husband’s promise that it would be ‘easy’. I was never going to believe a single word he said ever again.
Back at the car, he absently patted down his pockets and stuck his head under his seat. The parking ticket had disappeared. So to top off our brilliant shopping trip, instead of free parking, his lost ticket meant a $25 fee to get the car out of the carpark. We had to pay for the privilege of ritual humiliation and disgrace.
I will never go shopping with my kids and husband. Ever. Again.