Shop ’til you drop

“There’s a hole in your bum,” my husband says loudly as we traipse around a National Trust garden in the rain.

I realise this is not the beginning of a biology lesson when he pokes the tip of his umbrella at my jeans.

“You need to go shopping.”

I shudder. I never go shopping. I order things online, wait for the package, try it all on, hate it all, and send it all back. I spend my life taping up plastic bags and filling out returns forms, ticking the “Not what I expected” box.

I’m not surprised my jeans have disintegrated. I have been crawling around pretending to be a horse for weeks, and they are so baggy the knees stick out when I stand up.

“Take the kids in half term,” suggests my husband, as we eat our squashed packed lunch on a damp bench. “It’ll be fun,” he adds gingerly.

“I’m not sure it will be fun,” I say as I watch Milk and Mayhem terrorising some ducks, “but there will be fewer queues, and I will spend less money than going to Legoland.”

I wait for half term and drive the boys into town. It’s a short journey but I still have to chuck rice cakes behind me to stop them complaining of starvation. In the clothes shop Milk and Mayhem discover if they hide in the middle of a rail of coats they can surprise each other (and innocent shoppers) by sticking their heads out and screaming. I persuade them to run around a table of neatly stacked jeans instead, while I grab at different styles and sizes. Everyone is relieved when we head to the fitting room.

The children watch me as I undress. “Mine,” says Mayhem pointing at my chest.

“Not anymore,” I grimace as I pull on a T-shirt. I get the first pair of jeans over my knees but have to do a wiggling motion to get them up my thighs, so I take them off and drop them in the ‘no’ pile.

“Have you finished now?” Milk asks, his finger up his nose.

“No.” I am red faced and sweating as I pick up the next pair.

These jeans do fit, if I tuck in a bit of fat.

Milk rolls his eyes. “This isn’t fun Mummy.”

I agree with him but Mayhem seems to be enjoying himself. He has climbed onto the bench and is shouting “Yellow! Yellow!” at the mirror, while rubbing snot across the glass.

“Nearly done,” I say taking off the jeans and putting them in the ‘yes will fit when I’ve been a horse for a few days’ pile.

I hear a grunt and notice Mayhem is disappearing backwards under the door. I grab his wrists at the last second.

“No Mummy,” he screams. “Walk! Walk!”

“Stay with Mummy,” I plead, lying on the floor to see if there is anyone more responsible than me on the other side.

“Can we go now?,” says Milk pushing the door.

“No!” I yelp, but I am holding Mayhem so tightly I am caught on all fours in my underwear as the door swings open.

“Shut the door!” I screech and push Mayhem’s head down so he won’t be decapitated when I drag him back into the cubicle.

I make it home to find my husband is back from work early.

“So, did you have fun?” he asks swinging the boys over his shoulders.

“Mummy did,” says Milk reaching for his sword.

I slump into the sofa and close my eyes. “Exactly what I expected.”

 

What’s SUP?

“I think we should buy a paddle board,” my husband announces one day over lunch.

He used to dream about us all snowboarding through the back country or downhill mountain biking in the Alps, but those activities involve an enormous amount of faffing with chains and bindings, and face-planting at speed, which is just about acceptable without kids, but probably illegal with them.

He has chosen stand up paddle boarding (SUP) based on an experience we had in Greece, before we had Milk and Mayhem. We wobbled and laughed and splashed about in the water. Then we lay on the beach to dry off, sipping cold beers and admiring our tan marks.

We are lucky to live near a reservoir, which has a SUP club, and a pile of stones covering a muddy slope, which they call the beach. My husband says we can wear wet suits and “really get into it.”

I need to stop this from becoming a reality. “We can’t fit a paddle board on the car.”

“Car,” says Mayhem. “Car. Car. Car.”

He is learning to talk, so we have to be patient and smile a lot.

“Yes we can,” my husband says reaching for the gravy.

“What’s a paddle board?” Asks Milk.

“No we can’t. They are massive!” I picture a paddle board blowing off the roof and into an electricity pylon.

“It will be fine.” Says my husband. He says everything will be fine all the time, even if he hasn’t the slightest idea if something will be fine or not.

I am flummoxed. “They are bigger than a canoe!”

“Canoe?” says Mayhem. “Canoe, Canoe, Canoe?”

“What’s a paddle board?” Asks Milk.

I keep my eyes on my husband as I explain paddle boarding to our four-year-old. “It’s good for your tummy,” I add.

Milk’s eyes widen. “Like a pirate?”

No, not really I think. Not really at all. I have no idea why he would think paddle boarding has anything to do with pirates, but I say: “Yes darling. Like a pirate.”

“Pirate!” shouts Mayhem throwing potato on the floor.

My husband smiles. “They’re inflatable.”

I stop eating. “What? Paddle boards? No they’re not, they’re hard like windsurf boards.”

“That was ages ago – they’re inflatable.” He is most definitely smirking.

“Pirates wouldn’t do that mummy,” says Milk.

“Mummy” says Mayhem. “Mummy, mummy, mummy.”

I stroke Mayhem’s hair to silence his excessive and pointless use of my name, and turn to my husband.

“You’ve just read something about them being inflatable, and you’re pretending you already knew that, and making me look stupid.”

“I’m not making you look stupid, I’m just telling you paddle boards are inflatable.”

“Pirates wouldn’t do that mummy,” says Milk.

I close my eyes in the hope everyone will disappear, but when I open them Mayhem is pushing a piece of beef into his ear and Milk is waiting for me to tell him that he is right, and that pirates probably wouldn’t do core exercises.

My husband is enjoying his lunch, pretending this conversation is normal.

I say very quietly, “You didn’t add the word ‘now’.”

“What?” he looks confused.

“You should have said paddle boards are inflatable ‘now’, instead of making out I am behind on the paddle boarding news.”

He pushes a carrot around his plate trying to cover it in gravy. “You are insane,” he says.

“Insane. Insane. Insane!” shouts Mayhem.