Sunday, June 28, 2009

Teeth And Stuff

Younger Son emerged from the schoolyard today clutching a ziploc plastic bag, and sporting a gappy kind of grin. Unlike his brother, who worried at his first loose tooth for at least a month, Younger Son tolerated this dental dereliction of duty about five days. Today he got sick of not being able to eat apples, and just yanked the thing out.

Of course, now he's planning to save all his baby teeth, put them under his pillow in one fell swoop, and score megabucks. I've suggested it's probably safer to put the teeth under the pillow as they happen, and then save the actual dollars... we'll see what he thinks of that.

Got some useful writing in today. It's hard going. The Mau-Mau is home on a Monday, and so is Natalie. She had an online fiddle lesson, so I couldn't just disappear into the study. And we had a visitor for a while too. Plus I had to dig up a chocolate chip biscuit recipe so Natalie could cook with the Mau-Mau. And there were phone calls. It all adds up.

And of course, there's the grocery shopping. I'm really crap at shopping for a week's worth of stuff at a time. I got into the habit of buying fresh fruit and veg daily well over ten years ago, and with three kids who power through the fruit like nobody's business, I don't really think there's much chance of changing that habit -- so I try to make a virtue of it, buying things when they come on special, trying to get local and seasonal stuff... you get the idea.

Thing is, that makes me a familiar sight to the staff of our local supermarket -- me and the kids. I think most of them, if not all, know us by sight now. And yet they're still friendly, kind and forbearing. How cool is that?

More seriously: I've seen enough badly behaved kids and stressed parents in supermarkets to know I never want to contribute to the statistics there. We've got solid rules. There's a bench at the front of the store which serves as our 'time-out' zone, but it's very rare I have to use it. On the other hand, it's not as though I'm marching the kids through there like death-row prisoners, either. We've been known to play pirate up and down the aisles, for example. And in winters past, on the long, dark days, Elder Son and I have had more than a few laser-tag gunbattles ranging from Fresh Produce down through Dairy into Tinned Goods.

I do ask for certain things from the kids. No shouting or screaming. None of this full-tilt running stuff. No pushing in front of people, bumping people to get past, and definitely hands off the merchandise at all times. I feel that's a reasonable minimum standard, and on the rare occasion the kids cross those lines, they get reined in quickly.

Nevertheless, the boys range the store pretty freely, and they play all sorts of let's-pretend games, and they talk with the staff and sometimes with other customers. And in the meantime, I'm not the easiest customer on the planet either. I tend to buy weird-ass fruit and veg that haven't yet been properly coded into the computer checkout system. And I'm never afraid to ask questions: what happened to the chorizo? Is the basil coming in this week? Is there any chance the store could get tamarind paste in stock?

And they're always good about it. Cheery, friendly, and helpful. Stuffed toys dropped by toddlers have been gathered up and held for our collection on return. Access has been granted to a toilet for a desperate two-year-old. Small things, but above and beyond the training of corporate culture.

It's nice. And the folk at the checkout... see, now, there's a job, eh? The one your parents always held up as a threat if you looked like cutting school: you'll grow up to run a checkout at the supermarket!

It can't be easy. I did my time in retail between finishing school and starting university. I'd rather not do it again -- and the place I worked didn't have a hundredth the turnover and throughput of a sizable regional supermarket. But the checkout folk 'round here are always cool, collected and friendly. A lot of 'em know the kids, and always have a nice word for them. And they wave and smile when we see them out in the streets, which is a part of the good side of country living...

...all of which was going through my head when the Mau-Mau resolutely refused to talk to one poor lass at the checkout today. I think they know each other from one of the daycare situations, and apparently, the Mau-Mau is only too happy to talk the young lady's ear off there. But at the supermarket? It's a silence so stony that it embarrassed the hell out of even me.

Ah well. A tip of the tricorn to the patient folks that let me cook a decent mee goreng for the clan tonight... and I'm sure the Mau-Mau will recover her voice sooner or later!


  1. I had honestly forgotten what it was like, the child just clams up, looks down or away and maybe even clings to your leg. Yet, in another arena its a varitable tornado laced with fire works, popping off and randon, bouncing off anything and so bloody full of energy. WTF, where did it all of a sudden go. "I Laughed".

    Mate, you need to pray some of that remains when she gets OLDER!.

  2. LOL - the other week i was at the local coles and there was a guy there with 4 kids - the toddler in the seat, and 3 ranging from 4 to about 8 (at a guess). all 4 kids were squealing and arguing with each other. "But she picked the chips, i get to pick the icecream" " I don't like that icrecream" "he hit me" "that man looks funny"
    Dad had a dead look on his face. His eyes looked nowhere. He pushed and filled the trolley with a zombie motion.
    The kids got louder. They didn't shut up the whole time they were in the shops.
    I had the good fortune of meeting them in every aisle. I even tried to skip the dog food one to get ahead of him, but apparently that was the only aisle they missed too.
    The funny thing was, I remember you posting about your pirate shopping excursions before and I flashed on that when i saw this guy. As sort of an opposite to you. No interaction with the kids. No admonishments. No jokes. Nothing. Zombie.
    I think i would prefer the pirate family.

  3. I get the same thing with the shops opposite our place here in Sunny Bondi. The bakery, newsagent, butcher, they all know The Little Bloke and he will happily say hello to al and sundry. The newsagent spoils him with the odd balloon or whatever, and the butchers are very friendly too (I think that's part of the thing with butchers though!). So even in the city you can have pockets of that village feel.

  4. It's a good city that gives you that, Bondi.

    Uamada... my heart goes out to poor bastards like that. The world is set up to teach adults that It's Not Right To Play Like A Kid. Quick enough, we forget how. And then suddenly, we're parents, and we have to find ways to make contact with our kids. There's no rulebook that says: hey, it's okay to act like a prawn in public and play pirate with your kids, or whatever.

    And four kids is even scarier than three!

  5. Well, U, there's always the chance the wife is out of town for a week at her mother's and the dad is simply worn down. I sort of know the feeling.

    Dirk, my 4 year old daughter does the same. Occasionally, we run into one of her teachers, or the parent of one of her classmates, at a local store. I think young kids have this image that their teachers live at the school, so when they see one of them, or the pastor of our church, out in public, it's as though they're thinking, "My God, they let you out? Are you going to make me learn something here in the produce aisle at Target?"

    But at school, they chitchat away.

  6. It is kind of weird, isn't it? The way a shift in social setting will completely throw a kid off their game...

  7. Ah well do I remember pushing a trolley laden with plunder thru the Coles at New Farm, only to discover Thomas had urinated in it while riding in the kiddy seat. A golden shimmering trail followed us all the way thru the store.

  8. BIRMO..LMAO, never had that one..thats...GOLD!

  9. Mmmm. I've missed that particular form of delight. Eyyeew!