21/03/2016 08:52 GMT | Updated 18/03/2017 05:12 GMT

'Unidentified Item in the Bagging Area' - Shopping With a Toddler

The checkouts are busy. No, they are overwhelmed. So despite having a full trolly we go for the self service check outs. In the style of a Hannah Barberra cartoon, where a mini devil sits on one of the character's shoulders while a mini angel sits on the other, voices debate in my head as I make this choice.

There's always a little old lady in the supermarket on hand to witness my being manipulated by our daughter.

"She's got you wrapped around her little finger," the ubiquitous old dear will say with a knowing, slightly disapproving smile.


I therefore find myself outside the local Sainsburys having my normal conversation with our children, managing expectations before we enter the supermarket.  "We're not buying clothes or toys," I tell my daughter.

"Comics?" She asks hopefully.

"No, no comics, no films, nothing but the food we need."


Of course, ruling out non food items for purchase leaves so much more room for consideration of exactly the kind of lovely snacks a three year old likes but that are not, and never have been, on my shopping list.

In the dairy section I am suckered into buying cheese string (not on the list), mint chocolate desserts (not on the list) and a new type of yoghurt because it has a nice picture of a cow on it (again, you guessed it, not on the list).

Of course, she's there. The little old lady. "She has you wrapped around her little finger!" this particular elderly voyeur noted before moving off with her shopping trolley.

Having been firm ruling out purchase of Hello Kitty Pasta, where there was no sign of the little old lady, she reappears when we are in the biscuit section.  Here I am negotiating over exactly which type of animal shaped chocolate biscuit we are buying and am losing badly as we go for Cadbury's over the store's own brand.

Passing by slowly with the air of a morbid rubber necker viewing the scene of a particularly grisly car crash, she clucks under her breath to herself.

I veto the purchase of various sugar stuffed fruit drinks in favour of plain juices without witnesses and move on to the bakery section.  Guess who is there to observe my abject failure to prohibit the purchase of vibrant pink iced gingerbread elephants?  "Ahh, she's going to cost you A LOT in the future," sniggers my elderly stalker as she shuffles away.  I am screaming inwardly by this point.


The checkouts are busy.  No, they are overwhelmed.  So despite having a full trolly we go for the self service check outs. In the style of a Hannah Barberra cartoon, where a mini devil sits on one of the character's shoulders while a mini angel sits on the other, voices debate in my head as I make this choice.

"This is a bad idea, it's going to be chaotic," says my mini angel. "It'll be fine, you need to get out of here quickly.  What can go wrong?" Retorts the mini devil.

Of course, the problem of doing this solo is that I only have two hands.  I try to use my legs to keep control of my daughter and the trolley. It doesn't work.  

Scanning a few items, running to the other end of the counter and bagging them and then returning to scan a few more, I keep up a constant monologue much to the amusement of shoppers in the queue behind me. "Don't do that darling."  "No, don't move the trolley."  "Don't sit up there."  "Put that back."

After a little while I get into a rhythm and things go quiet.  I'm beginning to congratulate myself.  I stopped my daughter throwing herself under a passing loaded shopping trolley.  Successfully encouraged her not to steal items from the basket of a lady in an adjacent queue, who was too engrossed in a conversation with her friend about 'the change' to notice.  I even managed to get her to help me bag a couple of items.

My self satisfaction is broken by a tap on the shoulder. "Mate?" A gruff voice asks.  

Now, at the risk of sounding snobbish I hate being called 'mate'.  To me it always infers a degree of intimacy with the user that I very rarely feel I share .  I therefore turn not particularly amused at the interruption.

"Is she yours?" The man asking is a very large builder and he is pointing to the bagging area of the next door self service check out.  

There, sitting amongst his bags is my daughter.  Laughing.  Waving.

The red light on top of the check out is flashing, the automatic voice is saying "Unidentified object in bagging area," and the man, who is clearly in a rush and trying to complete the checkout process is quite obviously unamused.

"Oh, sorry!" I manage to say as I grab my three year old from the amongst the builder's shopping, just as the bustling supervisor arrives to sort out the now huge weight discrepancy on my unhappy neighbour's checkout scales.


I complete my payment and begin to leave, avoiding the fracas still going on at my builder neighbour's checkout.


"Got you just where she wants you," a voice says. There with a knowing, self satisfied smirk, is the little old lady basking in her final moment of prophetic justification.  

I smile sweetly, "She certainly has, and I'm jolly glad about it," I reply with a wink.  The little old lady scowls back, dripping disapproval.


So now, as I write this, my daughter is asleep resting against my arm.  Exhausted by her morning's adventures, drooling slightly down my sleeve.  

Regardless of little old ladies' opprobrium, I wouldn't have her any other way.