Since becoming a mother I have made my fair share of silly mistakes.
But never before had the stakes been so high…
I grabbed my two-year-old daughter and headed for the exit of the busy supermarket.
She screamed in objection to the sudden urgency, but I needed to get out of there. Time was running out.
“Excuse me madam, Can I interest you in a credit card today,’ smiled a sales assistant blocking my path to the exit.
A better woman would have ignored her and continued to the exit.
A tougher woman would have told her that someone who is running through a supermarket with a crying toddler is probably NOT in the mood to discuss credit cards.
But, unfortunately, I am neither of these women. I am an idiot. An idiot who decided to say, ‘no thank you.’
I gave her an inch and she took a mile. As far as she was concerned I had engaged with her. I had made eye contact. I was hers now.
“It is interest free for the first 18 months and you get cash back for every penny you spend if you sign up today!”
‘Why was I listening to this? I should just walk away. I was not her prisoner. Go now and don’t look back.’ I thought to myself.
“Look, I really have to get to school to pick up my daughter!’ I said and started to move toward the door.
“I understand, madam, but all you need to do now is fill out this short form.”
It was at this point I finally snapped. OK, when I say snapped I mean I said ‘no thanks’ again more firmly and left the shop.
I ran to my car. We could still make it! It was my eldest daughter’s first day at school and I did not want to be late.
I grappled around in my bag for the car keys. They weren’t there.
I checked my pockets. No keys. I checked the toddler’s pockets. Nothing.
I emptied my shopping bags. The keys were gone.
I tried to mentally retrace my steps.
I saw myself arriving at the supermarket. Smiling and thinking how much easier it was to go shopping with just one child in tow. I remember locking the car while feeling a bit smug about remembering to bring the Bags For Life. Then I opened the boot with the key fob to get them out. I put the keys down as I helped the toddler to do her coat up. I closed the boot.
In the bloody boot! The now locked bloody boot.
I panicked. I tried to pull open the boot in case there was a chance I had developed super strength overnight.
I grabbed my mobile and called the car breakdown service.
‘I have an emergency!! I need to get somewhere. My keys are locked in the boot. It is urgent!’ I told them.
“Are you on the roadside?” she asked.
“Are you in a safe place?”
‘Then you may have a short wait. Our mechanic will contact you soon.’
‘I am just trying to get to school to pick up my daughter! Please I don’t have much time.’
‘I am sorry madam but there is nothing else I can do.’
My heart sank as I pictured my daughter. Looking for me in the playground after her first day. Keen to run into my arms and give me a cuddle. Lost and alone. Where is my mummy? She would cry.
Just when I thought things could not get any worse it started to rain and my toddler threw a pot of coleslaw at me. There was coleslaw over her, me and the floor.
The car park attendant was now heading my way. Was I in trouble about the coleslaw? Is there a penalty for coleslaw littering? In a panic I threw an unused Bag For Life over the spillage.
‘Excuse me, is this your…’ she began.
‘Look, yes, it is coleslaw and I am sorry but I am just trying to get to school to pick up my daughter. It is her first day and I need get there on time! I know you are probably thinking that is nothing to do with the littering of fresh produce but…’
‘I was just going to say, is this your car? Because you are ten minutes over one and a half hours and there is a one and a half hour limit here.’
I explained about the keys.
‘Ok. Well, good luck. I am sure your daughter will forgive you one day!’
She walked off and my heart sank. Would my four-year-old be scarred for life at the memory of her mother ‘not turning up’ on her first day of school?
I checked my watch. If the breakdown people got there soon, I could still make it.
The mechanic rang. One and a half hours! I was not going to make it.
Apparently, a lady in the same car park had called ONE minute before me so they had to change her flat tyre first.
‘But is there any way you could please come to me first?’ I begged in desperation. ‘I need to get to school to pick up my daughter!’
He told me there was nothing he could do. It was their ‘policy.’
So now I was cold, wet and crying in a supermarket car park. Plus now I had no coleslaw. I called my friend and apologised for having to use her ‘emergency pick up’ status on the first day of school. I arranged for her to collect my precious firstborn should I not make it. I had to admit defeat.
Or did I? Did Michael Douglas give up in Falling Down? No. He did whatever it took to get to his daughter’s birthday party! He fought back against the system. He took charge. He was having a bad day but he did something about it. Maybe, I could too.
“Stay out of my way and no one gets hurt (or covered in coleslaw).”
I spotted the Flat Tyre Lady a few rows along. She was standing by her car without a care in the world.
It was time for this mum to fight back. So armed with my Bag For Life and a coleslaw covered toddler I approached Ms Flat Tyre.
I explained about my young daughter starting school that day and how I really HAD to pick her up. I told her how she would be scared and upset. I begged her to please let me see the mechanic first. I had tears in my eyes… Surely, this story would melt the hardest of hearts. “So you see I really need to get my car sorted asap.’ I said.
‘Sorry, love, but I have a hair appointment,’ she replied.
I gave it one last shot. ‘But my DAUGHTER WILL CRY!’
“Sorry, I really need my roots doing. Look at them?”
If this was Falling Down I would have pulled out every hair on her stupid head and shouted, ‘You don’t need your roots doing now, lady.’
Well I may not be Michael Douglas. But I’d had ENOUGH!
I tutted loudly. Really, really loudly (once I was definitely out of her ear shot).
I never did get to my daughter on time. Two hours after pick up time I arrived to fetch her from my friend’s house.
I knocked on the door with my heart in my mouth. My little girl was bound to be in a state. Crying her little eyes out. Believing that her mummy didn’t love her enough to pick her up on her big day.
As expected, she didn’t look very happy when she saw me. Poor thing.
She didn’t run into my arms, she didn’t even smile or say ‘hello’. She looked at me with big sad eyes and spoke.
‘OOOOOH NO, Mummy!’ She said forlornly. ‘I don’t want to go. Can I stay here and play?’
So remember, no matter how badly you think your child’s first day at school went – at least you managed to pick them up…
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