A couple of weeks ago, I had the misfortune to have one of those experiences that made me question my sanity and why on earth I made the ridiculous decision to go with my children.
I go pretty much anywhere and everywhere with my children, they may not always like that idea, at times neither do I, but if you spend a lot of time doing things by yourself and you have young children, you have to take them along otherwise you might never leave the house.
This got me thinking about the times I had wished I was alone and I have come up with my top ten list of places that you should think long and hard about doing with a little tribe of curious kids in tow.
1. Shopping generally figures high on this list but my first place to avoid with children is clothes shops. Particularly women’s clothes shops. My youngest son in particular seemed to be born with a preprogrammed loathing of clothes shops and even as a baby, as soon as I wheeled him in, he would scream at the top of his little lungs. As he got older, the screaming diminished but his loathing did not. He can see no benefit from going into a clothes shop and so moans, runs off of and hides very well in amongst the clothes; so well in fact that we once lost him for twenty minutes in Primark and we had the whole store on the search for him. And never ever take small boys shopping when you want to buy underwear; the shouts of ‘you’ve got a fat tummy’ and ‘your boobs look funny’ might cause great hilarity to the other occupants of the changing room, but it will do neither your self esteem nor your mother child relationship any good at all.
2. Shoe shops. I loathe the back to school shoe shop. I literally lie awake worrying about it for weeks in the summer. There is something about a family trip to Clarks that turns my usually quite lovely children into feral creatures who run around throwing shoes and bellowing. It is a harrowing experience. If I could send them to school barefoot I would. Don’t think buying adult shoes is any better. Oh no, my daughter had a ‘thing’ for shoes. I will be quietly perusing the darkest, flattest shoes and she finds the highest, sparkliest shoes in the whole shop and the proceeds try and break her neck and the shoes by tottering around the shop. One time last year, there may have been an incident involving a small girl in too big silver heels who pulled down a whole shoe display in one well known high street store. I’ve no idea who caused it though.
3. Whilst on the subject of shops, I’m going to throw toy shops into my list. If you need to go to a toy shop, do not and I repeat do not take the children. Am I being harsh? I don’t think so. If you take children to a toy shop, you will have two outcomes. Firstly, they will drain the contents of your bank account. Secondly, you say no and you get the tantrum from hell because they don’t get their own way. This is a lose-lose situation. Leave the kids at home.
4. Self-service checkouts. Clearly the person who invented self-service checkouts did not have children. There they are looking like they will save you time and effort, just the right height so that your little angels can help you. Am I the only person who finds that to be the exact opposite of how it really is? It is a stressful enough process with one child. The phrase ‘you have to put it in the bag before you can scan the next thing’ is on repeat, getting louder each time until I am practically shouting it. Another popular phrase is ‘don’t lean on the scales’ as I really don’t want to pay £300 for a bunch of bananas. Add the other two ‘helpful’ children to the process and it becomes a battle of wills. How can you divide the job by three? One scans, one puts things in the bags, one stands there and whines. So then we try the ‘taking it in turns’ approach which is usually enough to send me scurrying home in search of the gin bottle. Self-service checkouts should be a child-free zone. It should be the law.
5. Libraries. Now I am all for regular trips to the library and encouraging my children to read but my question is this; why add a children’s section to a place that is supposed to be quiet? It makes no sense. There it is at the back of the library looking all inviting and colourful with it’s bean bags and funky bookshelves, yet when the children start making lots of noise, everyone looks at you disapprovingly. Personally, I don’t really care and we cause bedlam for half an hour before the whole library heaves a sigh of relief as we head out dragging our large bag of books behind us.
6. Public toilets. I am not the hugest fan of public toilets if I am honest. Having said that, I spent a year living in France and in comparison with some of the public toilets there, I would actually eat my lunch off some of the ones over here. I am not one of these parents that tries to shield her children from all things germ like but it has to be said that some public toilets can be a little on the gruesome side. The other problem that I encounter is that there can sometimes be things lurking in public toilets that you don’t want your children to either touch or ask about and children are just so curious aren’t they? For instance, my friend took her son into a public toilet a couple of years ago and turned round to find him waving a condom around and asking what it was. It still makes me shudder to think about it.
7. Fancy restaurants are on my list too. We don’t go to what I would call fancy restaurants very often, we do go out to eat as a family but we tend to favour the more family-friendly places that come with music and crayons and large amounts of ice cream for pudding. I think I was put off by an experience that I had with the teen when he was about 18 months old and we took him to a very posh restaurant and I can still see the waiter’s horrified face as we left. O was quite fussy and there was nothing on the menu he liked, in the end we opted for sausages and he hated those too, so much so that one of them ended up flying across the restaurant and landing on another table. As he was hungry and getting louder by the second, we asked if they had any ice cream. A large bowl of chocolate ice cream arrived and it looked so lovely all over his face, hair and cream jumper. Give me the music and crayons any day.
8. People have different ideas about taking children to funerals and I must admit that for me it depends on a number of factors; in particular how old they are. When the teen was small, his great grandfather passed away and his great grandmother wanted to children to go as it was to be a celebration. As we are sat quietly in the church in quiet contemplation, the teens cousin who was a couple of years older than him, stood up and asked very loudly where Great Grandpa was and when was he coming out of the box? It did raise a few smiles in an otherwise sad occasion but it is very hard for children to understand the whole process and sit quietly.
9. Now this one may only apply to my children but I would add the London Underground to this list. Where we live in leafy middle England, there is not a huge amount of culture diversity and we barely ever go on a train at all. Put my brood on the underground and first of all they sit there open mouthed staring intently at anyone who looks remotely interesting. Then L will have a loud panic attack every time the train slows down, as he thinks that the train is going to break down underground and R will make loudly not so whispered comments about people, just loud enough for everyone in the carriage to hear. Whenever we have been on the underground in the last two years, I have always been very, very glad to get off again.
10. Last but not least and the inspiration behind this post is when you go for a smear test. Yes, I stupidly booked a smear test when I had two of the children with me. Foolish, stupid, insane but there is so much going on and having my smear test is important. I was going to cancel and then decided that it would be okay, how bad could it be? I explained in very brief terms what it was and gave the two children a small screen each to keep the occupied. Now it is really interesting to note here that there could be a world war going on outside, the house could be on fire and my children would not notice as they become absorbed into their tiny devices. It turns out that all I needed to do to get their attention was to lie on a couch with my pants off. Oh yes, they were fascinated by the whole process. Let’s just say that I have learned my lesson well and in three years time, I will be going ALONE.
So there you have it; my definitive list of places you should never take children. Would you add any others to the list?