You ok hun?” Asked the kindly employee.
“Actually no. I’m not ok. I’ve been walking up and down the aisles for 23 minutes now trying to find my daughters. And I can’t find them anywhere.” I replied. In a much more panicky voice than normal.
“What are their names?” She asked.
“Emily and Ruby.” I replied.
“What were they wearing hun? I’ll help you look if you like?” She offered.
“Errrrm. Fuck. I don’t actually know.”
Silence from the employee. Clearly she wasn’t expecting that. She stared at me expectantly, obviously waiting for me to rethink my answer.
“Sorry for swearing, it’s just, I genuinely cannot remember what either of them were wearing.” I apologised.
“Have a think hun.” She replied.
Yeah, because I wasn’t already trying to think, I thought.
I thought. And thought. And thought.
This is what was going through my head.
How am I supposed to remember what they were wearing? They change 6 times a day!!
What makes me a worse Mum? Losing 2 children because I couldn’t decide what cheese to buy? Or not paying enough attention to their outfits before we left the house?
“You ok hun?” She asked me again.
Am I taking too long to think? They were definitely wearing clothes I know that much. I remember asking Emily no less than 45,312 times to go and take off MY pjs and put her own clothes on before we left. But I don’t know what they were wearing.
I do remember Ruby wearing a Roman Costume yesterday, but as for today? Total. Blank.
Parenting at it‘s finest eh?
“Where were they when you last saw them hun?” She prompted.
Oh for fucks sake, I thought, where the bloody hell were they the last time I saw them?
“Erm, they were looking at the milkshakes because I couldn’t decide what cheese I wanted.” I finally answered somewhat meekly.
“Ok. And have you been to look there hun?” She asked.
Hmm, this kindly employee was now sounding less kind and more like she was talking to an actual total moron.
Which of course, I am.
Of course I’ve been to fucking look there!
I wouldn’t spend 23 stressy minutes walking up and down the whole shop calling out their names getting more and more stressed by the minute without looking in the last place I saw them first, would I?? I thought.
“Yes, that was the first place I looked.” I replied.
“Ok hun, that’s good. Anywhere else you think they might be?” She asked.
Mmm hmm. Cruising for a bruising at this point. *
“No. Well, I mean, they’ve got to be in the shop somewhere haven’t they? It’s not like they could go anywhere without me because we live about a 10 minute drive away.” I replied.
“Ok hun, let‘s go and put an announcement over the tannoy and ask for them to come and find us at Customer Service. If they don’t come within a couple of minutes, we can get the security guard to check the cameras and see if they have left the store.” She said.
“They won’t have left the store” I said determinedly. “They KNOW not to leave the shop without me. And anyway, it‘s absolutely pouring down with rain out there and they know the car’s locked.” I said.
“Would they leave with someone else they know?” She asked me.
WHAT?!?! Would they? WOULD THEY?
No. I’m sure they wouldn’t. Nobody we know would just walk off with them without coming to find me. But what if it was someone I don’t know but they do? I thought.
Here comes the anxiety.
By this point, my anxiety was through the roof, smashing windows and flying out the doors. It’s been a long time since I started crying in a supermarket, but I was getting closer and closer to it. We only went in for dishwasher salt for fucks sake!
“Come on hun, leave your trolley over here and we’ll go over to customer service and put out that call for them over the tannoy.” Said the assistant, like I was a two year old who had lost their Mum.
“Ok.” I mumbled.
I left my trolley and began to follow her.
Then I went back to the trolley and collected my handbag. (My brain was completely fried by this point.)
She was walking pretty fast, and there were so many people to swerve around to keep up with her. As she walked she was looking up and down the aisles calling their names. I was following behind trying not to pass out because I’m so unfit, so going for an unplanned jog around a supermarket was not doing great things for my already pounding heart.
I finally managed to catch up with her just past the fruit & veg aisles as she was approaching the homewares aisles and joined in with her calling their names.
“Yeah Mum?” I suddenly heard.
I turned and saw a cardboard Coca Cola truck in the middle of the aisle. With 2 familiar faces peeping out through the hole for the windscreen at me.
I’ve literally never been more relieved in my life. Or annoyed actually. I had walked past them about 9 times going up and down the store.
Still, that’s another parenting fail to add to my collection…
*I don’t, and never would support any form of violence or assault against children. Mine or anyone else’s. It’s just a phrase from Grease that’s stuck in my mind.
If you are ever genuinely worried about a child, visit the NSPCC for advice.