Warning: Shopping Centres Are Booby Trapped for Parents

Mums are caught in a conundrum. Taking a toddler shopping is akin to walking into a land mine site yet the groceries need to be bought, and the other necessities of life. When I first experienced shopping with a daughter who had just entered toddlerhood, I left exhausted and frazzled, with little more than a loaf of bread and three new singlets for my darling. I had entered a new realm of shopping. Unlike the baby year, where good timing was the key to successful shopping, taking a toddler along required a whole new level of skills. Negotiations over hopping back in the pram became necessary. Explanations over why she can’t take everything within reach home with her were needed – or indeed why she can’t touch everything within reach. Diversion tactics, patience and the ability to compromise became part of the shopping experience.

The land mines in shopping centres are many and varied. At first I wasn’t aware of where they all were, or what form they came in, but over time I felt I’d mastered it and have managed to actually enjoy our shopping adventures together. Pet shops are included in the itinerary, home wares shops are a definite no go zone, toy shops are reserved for when there is lots of time spare, post offices and news agencies require careful negotiation to fit a pram through and must be surveyed for boxes lying in the aisles upon entry.

But a new land mine of explosive caliber has come into my life. Princess Toddler discovered the shopping centre ride. Likely to reduce the calmest of toddler to a tantrum of an ear-piercing, foot stomping nature, these have become the bane of my existence. Gone are the days of happily sliding the pram along a slippery tile floor between stores. Gone in fact is the ability to go to my local shopping strip without tantrums over these evil rides.

Having been acutely aware for some time now that it would be the ultimate mistake to give Princess Toddler a go on one of these rides, I have avoided so much as glancing in their direction. But as her awareness has grown, so has her discovery that these rides look like fun. It hasn’t helped matters that she’s even seen other kids smiling as they bob up and down in a ladybug that beeps and flashes red. I even relented and gave her a turn one time, but the fascination has remained much the same.

The worst thing is that at my local shopping zone, there is one of these wretched rides on either side of the street. There’s a train on one side, a car on the other. This means that every time we go to the newsagents, the post office, the supermarket, the bakery, the library etc etc, we have to pass them. At first I tried ignoring my daughter all together when she said ‘train,’ ‘train.’ That worked for a while. But over time the pleas became more insistent. And finally reached tantrum stage. I let her sit on one without inserting any coins but that was less than satisfactory. Now my shopping trips are a nightmare and unless I have four dollars to throw away each time we go to the local shopping strip, I just walk on by as quickly as I can and watch as people eye my screaming child. I feel for her. I’d love to give her a go every time we go to the shops, but sorry baby, I don’t have $12 a week to throw in a car or train.

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