Five year olds are a liability. They may seem like normal human beings, only smaller, but they have no sense of their own bodies in relation to things such as breakable objects and only a small amount of control over them, although, unlike toddlers, they actually think they have. Particularly small, bouncy ones with an over-keen interest in swim-boosting. This is courtesy of some computer game or another. Only son actually believes there is a verb called swim-boost. He does it in the bath with all that that entails. Only son’s favourite computer game of the moment is about someone he calls Yoosa [user to the rest of us] who swim-boosts for hours through a bright underwater kingdom.
I made the mistake of taking only son with me to the chemist the other day. Our chemist is very big on universities and my background is in higher education. Every time I go into the chemist we have a long chat about universities and he asks me about my children. He says they must be very intelligent, given my background in higher education. Daughter three once chose a sugar free lollipop and he commended her on her intelligence for choosing a healthy option. Daughter three had not realised said lollipop was sugar free. Immediately we got out of the chemist she suggested buying a “proper” one from the supermarket. This is just by way of saying that I have a reputation to protect in the chemist and taking only son in with me was not a recipe for success, particularly given that the weather means he has been cooped inside for days.
It started fairly well. Only son sat on the floor in front of the till and asked me if he should put a 1p coin he’d found on the floor into an RNIB collection box. There were quite a few people in the queue or waiting for medicine. We were also waiting. Only son put the 1p in the box and then picked up the box and tried to empty it. He pulled on the chain. I put the box down and told him to stop. He started looking at all the shelves and picking things up. “I need the toilet,” he said before starting to do some sort of whirling dervish dance round the people queuing for their medicine.
As time ticked by, he decided to swim-boost down the aisles with his arms out past shelves full of bottles. I could foresee disaster and dragged him back. “He’s very hyper,” said an elderly shopper. Oh dear. I turned my back for a second because daughter three was trying to feign illness so she could get some cough sweets. “I’m really – cough, cough – feeling not so well, mum,” she said. Uh oh. Only son was trying to do the latch at the bottom of the door into the chemist and someone was trying to get in. I moved only son away and the person came in. Only son ran out. I jumped on him. I’m pretty sure everyone in the shop thought I was a bad mother with absolutely no control over my children.
I cursed my partner for asking me to get his medicine. “If you’re passing by the chemist, could you just pick up my medicine,” he had said, making it sound like a two-minute job rather than an Olympian test of endurance. We emerged what seemed like several hours later with the medicine and my reputation for intelligent parenting in tatters.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.