A shopping trip with James

James has never been one for tolerating shops, even when he was very young he used to scream when I would venture into M&S in Vilnius.  He just didn’t understand that they had really good sales on baby clothes, or my need to buy blackcurrant squash from the food hall.  As he has got older I have tended to avoid the town centre, unless there is something I specifically need, because it’s not an enjoyable experience for James or I.

I put James in the pushchair to go around the shops because I have absolutely no chance of being able to look at things if I get him to walk.  He would just scream, roll around on the floor having a tantrum, and I would end up having to drag him around the shops.  He’s not that fond of the pushchair because he doesn’t like being restrained and running around shops would be far more appealing to him, but for me that just isn’t going to work.  Being pushed around outside he will generally tolerate because he can look at  things that interest him, but as soon as I push him through the doors of a shop he starts either screaming or whinging in protest.  When I see people looking at me, probably wishing I would get out of the shop so they can shop in peace, I just say he’s not a fan of shopping and then hope they will just ignore him.

My usual tactics for trying to control these outbursts in shops begin with giving James a book, and if I am lucky this will occupy him for a while.  Sometimes he will have brought a car from home and holding that can also keep him happy.  If I am having no luck with the books or toys I will then start giving him snacks to keep him quiet.  Once the snacks have been eaten or he is no longer interested in them, out comes my phone with downloaded programmes on the CBeebies app.  I don’t like doing this because I have a fear someone will come along one day and snatch my phone off him, so I tend to only do this in severe circumstances and when we are in shops that aren’t too busy.

Today I needed to go into town to sort out a few things. As soon as I pulled into a parking space I was met with a scream of disapproval from James.  From that moment I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy shopping trip.  I got him out of the car, put him in the pushchair and got out a book that I was hoping would entertain him.  I was wrong, he just threw it on the floor and started kicking his legs.  This was going to be challenging.

My main priority was to go to the bank today.  I walked into the bank and saw the queue and just knew James wasn’t going to tolerate it.  The quiet queue quickly became noisy with my screaming child, kicking his legs everywhere trying to show he was not happy about this situation.  I tried handing him books again but he just pushed them away.  I had a small packet of chocolate buttons in my bag left over from Easter that I had put in there as a secret weapon, that I knew would keep him quiet.  Out came the chocolate buttons and James became quiet and I could at last relax for a few minutes. Unlike in the early days when it would take James ages to eat snacks, he now eats them quickly, especially chocolate, so these chocolate buttons were all gone by the time I reached the front of the queue.  I was told to wait in an area and someone would be with me shortly to update my address.  James was not happy about this and proceeded to kick anything close to him while moaning very loudly about the situation.  I got out some more snacks which he now wasn’t interested in, so out came my phone.  Watching Alphablocks actually entertained him, until the episode finished and I had another outburst while I found another episode to keep him quiet.  The member of staff helping me was very understanding and made me feel quite at eases having this annoying toddler with me.

We then moved onto Topshop.  I had £25 left of a voucher to spend and according to Martin Lewis people with Topshop vouchers need to spend them ASAP.  James again was not happy about being in Topshop, so I let him watch my phone.  Alphablocks was no longer keeping him amused so I put on 64 Zoo Lane, of which he was only happy with the theme tune, so there was me moving it to the beginning every 20 seconds whilst trying to find something I liked to buy with my gift card.  There was not a chance I was even going to attempt to try anything on, so I took a gamble and luckily the things I bought did fit.

Our next shop was John Lewis.  I didn’t really need anything in John Lewis but find it hard to resist going in there when I’m in town.  I should have realised it wasn’t the best place to go after a particularly traumatic trip we had there on Saturday whilst buying a TV.  By traumatic I don’t just mean for James, it was equally traumatic for myself and my husband, it’s just we know how to control our emotions.  We were buying a new TV and typically the lady serving me didn’t usually work on the tills so took extra long to sort this transaction out.  Whilst this was happening my husband was pushing our screaming child around the shop trying to calm him down, and fearing James was crying so much that he would make himself physically sick.  He was also asked by a staff member if James was alright.  The lady serving me said she really felt for me and would be as quick as she could.  She was very friendly and reassuring about how children get easier with age, I mean I have been told that since James was born and am still waiting for this easy child to appear.  That transaction felt like it was taking hours whilst listening to my child screaming the shop down, and my husband wanting the ground to swallow him up.

So you think I would have learnt not to take James into John Lewis, but no I wanted to have a quick look at a few things.  James did his usual protest as I walked through the doors but then to be fair to him he wasn’t too bad, he gave the odd moan but generally if I kept moving he was ok, and compared to Saturday’s trip he was being an angel.  Now what irked me this time was an older male member of staff telling me that I had a very unhappy child.  This wasn’t based on James screaming or kicking up a fuss, but because he was just slouched in his pushchair looking unhappy.  I just said to the man “yes, because he doesn’t like shops”.  I am not sure what the point of him telling me I had an unhappy child was, but it wasn’t the most helpful of comments.  On previous trips to John Lewis the staff have always been brilliant and understanding of James not wanting to be there, but today I felt like this man actually thought I was making my child unhappy by being there, and yes I probably was, but that’s not for other people to judge.  I can’t not go into shops just because James doesn’t like it. He has to learn that sometimes he has to go where his parents want to go, not where he wants to go all the time.  Usually if James is kicking off and I am paying for something I will just make a joke of it and say he doesn’t like shopping and then I often get a reply, like ‘typical male’ and it is all very lighthearted, but I really didn’t appreciate that throwaway comment, maybe because the whole shopping experience had already been stressful. The truth is James is generally a very happy child, but like all children he has his moments, and he certainly isn’t afraid to show when he is unhappy.

I used to enjoy having a look around the shops, but now it is often a stressful, rushed experience, and comments from strangers don’t always help the matter, unless they are positive and sympathetic.

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