Shopping and other horror stories

Trouble at the mall: Shopping with a three-year-old is not exactly a breeze for a 30-year-old.   | Photo Credit: Bram Janssen

If you really want to be embarrassed, there’s nothing to top walking into the lingerie section of a department store with a three-year-old. “Bra!” yelled my daughter when we made this mistake recently. Just in case we’d missed it, she stopped and pointed at the scantily-clad mannequin again: “Look, bra!” When we tried to hustle her away, she loudly explained why we ought to stop: “But ladies like to wear bras! Let’s buy a bra for amma!”

There are parents who manage to shop serenely with toddler in tow. I am not one of those parents. Even when she’s on her absolute best behaviour, my daughter wants to (as seen above) participate in the selection process. It all begins well enough. She flips through clothes or accessories on display. She exclaims about the colours. All rather cute. The trouble starts when she wants to make decisions for me. It’s not that toddlers have poor taste. It’s just that three-year-olds and 30-year-olds have slightly different ideas on what is fashionable and/or required. During a recent shopping session, for instance, my daughter became fixated on a violently flowered pink floor-length summer dress, and decided I should buy it (at other times, it has been shoes or shampoos or plastic boxes, but they’re all invariably in aggressive shades of pink). That’s when the battle of wills begins. I explain it’s not what I want/need. She tells me I have it wrong. Things escalate. She dives under the dress and drapes it over herself and almost pulls the entire display down. A salesperson bears down on us. We hastily depart.

When she’s not being ‘helpful’, she’s squarely focused on the mannequins (and not just the ones in the underwear department). There’s something about these figures that’s irresistible to toddlers. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense — these are people you can do anything to, intriguingly dressed people who demand nothing of you, and don’t scold or protest when poked or prodded. When she was smaller, my daughter would stand and stare at these plastic wonders, making tentative attempts at conversation (“Hi!”) and patting them carefully all over. She even made fast friends with a kid-sized mannequin, hugging her and pulling her hair, taking off her dupatta and dancing around with it (she sobbed broken-heartedly when she was finally separated from her new BFF).

She no longer thinks that mannequins are her pals, but she’s quite happy to treat them as her life-size dress-up dolls. If you don’t watch closely, she’ll take it upon herself to rework their wardrobe, pulling off shoes or handbags or — on one particularly ghastly occasion — an entire arm.

When she’s not mauling mannequins, she’ll need to use the toilet. It’s a fact of life that your toddler, who normally has to be coaxed to use the toilet at all, will suddenly and urgently need to go every single time you’re in a shop. Preferably at the moment that you are furthest from a usable loo, so you have to make a mad dash for it, thinking wistfully back to those good ol’ pre-potty training days of diapers the whole time…

Whatever you do, however, never promise a treat for good behaviour. Trust me. I had my misgivings but I did it anyway recently. We’d amputated a mannequin. I was desperate. And so I promised. First, she nagged me to go look for said treat. Then she nagged me to pay for it. Then she wanted to carry it. Then she didn’t want to. Then she wanted to go home and play with it right away. That brings us to the final stage: the shopping meltdown. This is both of you at your worst, tired, hungry and cranky. This is when she might decide to run up and down the store, with you in hot pursuit. Or when you end up yelling at her (with her answering back) or when she has a full-blown tantrum, lying on the floor in the middle of the mall.

Which is why, when I go shopping these days, my daughter stays at home. The mannequins, I hear, send their thanks.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 4:59:37 AM |

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