I much prefer to retreat and lick my wounds in private than put on any kind of public display of emotion, but today it came out of nowhere.
Wham! Like a freight train I went from slight wobble to full-on tears at the checkout.
I am cringing at the memory!!!
This, comrades, is what hormones do to you.
This morning I decided to get back on top of things. DH has gone back to work, the boys are at preschool tomorrow so I’ll get a whole morning of writing done. Today I thought I’d make some headway into the expanding to do list, starting with a trip to the grocery store to restock and then onto the library to pay our overdue fines.
It’s all going really well. I dress myself, a two year old and a three year old without a hitch. We bundle into the car and drive to the car park. It’s still early, so I pull into one of the much-coveted parent-and-child spots and…
I have left my purse at home.
How could I be so stupid?? Fear not, because I am feeling so much more relaxed these days, I simply reverse out and drive home to get it. Not a problem.
Car park take two. We arrive and ALL the parent-and-child spots are gone. This is why I always go early. I am feeling a little wobbly now, at the massive effort it always takes to do something simple like get the groceries, so I drive a loop around the car park and then face up to the fact I’m going to have to go for a normal space. I say normal, but in actual fact these spaces are so narrow that no matter how you park your car it is impossible to extract a child from both sides in one go without serious bodily contortions and potentially denting the car parked next to you with your open door. Then…
I don’t have a pound coin.
You can’t park without a ticket, and a ticket costs £1.
I battle to get both boys out of the car without damaging them, myself or the neighbouring car (in that order), navigate across the car park to the store and find the smallest item I can buy with the five pound note in my purse. I take a pack of chewing gum to the counter, all the while wondering if my car is being given a ticket as I pay for something I don’t even want. The lady takes my five pound note.
Then she gives me two £2 coins as change.
I look at them and feel my stomach drop like a boulder.
“Oh, I wanted change for the car park… you can’t open the till can you..?”
“No I’m sorry, I can’t” says the nice lady.
Meanwhile my 2 year old and 3 year old are executing some kind of strangulation attempt on each other with the nylon barrier.
“I’m having a really bad day…” I sort of whisper to myself and then it happens.
Tears well up behind my eyes, spill over down my cheeks and I am trying not to cry right in front of her.
“Ohhh,” she says, like a concerned mother hen, “Here, I’ll open the till, I’m not supposed to, here you go.”
She looks hurriedly around and swaps my two pound coin for two one pound coins.
I would have been OK. I would walked away without the pound coin, because I know that rules are rules and I should asked before she opened the till, but as soon as she did that one little act of kindness, it just took away the last bit of self-control I had left.
Someone is being kind to me? Me – an anonymous mother with dodgy looking hair, in creased jeans and a fleece, with two preschoolers destroying the checkout and no pound coin for the car park. Someone who doesn’t even know me is being kind to me because they noticed I was in distress.
My face is all screwed up trying to stop the tears, but I can’t because the pit of my stomach feels like it’s been punched and I actually think I’m going to have to sit down, bent over, to recover, and I can barely say thank you and I must look like I’m about to have some kind of breakdown because the woman looks even more concerned at my reaction, obviously now thinking she did the wrong thing by giving me the pound coins and now I’m going to scream at her that my children are going to be taken away or something, because I’m actually crazy.
“Ohhh, are you OK? Are you sure? Oh dear!”
“I’m fine!” I say in a shuddery whisper, trying to look happy but probably frightening her even more with a crying smile that looks like a grimace. I actually have no idea what is going on.
I decide that removing myself is probably the best option, but before that, even though I can barely speak for sobbing, I try to explain about having to go home for my purse…
“I drove here this morning… my purse at home… had to go back… no mum-and-baby spots… I’m OK, I’m OK”
She’s still looking very worried and a bit nervous, so I gather up the boys, who seem oblivious to the fact that their mother is behaving like a deranged person and head back out to buy the damn parking ticket.
At the end of my shop, totally recomposed and no trace of a crying fit anywhere, I stop my trolley near her checkout and pop over to say a quick thank you.
She keeps asking me if I am OK. I know I must look like I am suffering from sudden-onset bipolar disorder, but actually I really am fine. I doubt very much that she believes me, judging from the expression on her face, but I say thank you again anyway and give her my biggest smile.
I guess that sometimes our emotions are just much closer to the surface that we realise.
Or maybe I’ve just been spending far too much time with children under 4.