So Little Cat and I have a regular (but fairly flexible) routine on a Monday. We go to the supermarket to do the big shop and after that we share sushi together while he plays on the helicopter ride on – I don’t put money in it, he enjoys it more without.
After our lunch we tend to head across the road to the pet shop to visit the animals; The degus are his favourite, I like the reptiles. It’s become a bit of a regular tradition and makes doing the food shop far less stressful as we both know what to expect.
Well this Monday it became very apparent that I really needed to buy some more summer clothes after wearing my one and only pair of shorts for four days running.
There’s a clothes shop right next door to the pet shop so I thought we would just pop in there before going to see the animals.
Let me just preface this next part by saying: As a rule, I do NOT enjoy shopping. I’m a get in, try it, buy it, get out kind of girl. I have been known to come up with elaborate lies to deter friends from joining me on my very infrequent shopping trips. The idea of making a day of it is hellishly stressful to me.
That being said, we were having a beautiful day, the sun was shining and I was feeling incredibly calm and happy as we entered the shop. My mood was improved even further when I found a skirt and a pair of shorts I actually liked. So with my loot in hand we headed to the fitting rooms to try it on.
Little Cat picked up a colourful child sized umbrella on the way, and was happily using it as a walking stick, and we found the changing rooms to be nearly empty and got in without a wait. It was really hot and stuffy in there so I took my time, trying to keep cool and chatting to LC about his brolly.
I was halfway through trying on the clothes when LC’s mood changed. He suddenly went into hyper mode, deciding that he HAD TO open the door. I was standing in my pants and not at all ready to go, so I told him to wait. I didn’t know if it was the heat or the allure of the Degus at the pet shop, but it was apparent that his patience had disappeared in the blink of an eye. He ran to the door trying to open it, laughing as I pulled him away, before running back to try again. I heard some more people coming in to try clothes on, and suddenly felt very frazzled and tense. The heat was getting to me and I remembered why I usually avoided shopping alone for clothes with my toddler. The more he tried to open the door in his new found game, the more worked up and angry I became.
We probably looked quite ridiculous, me chasing him round in my underwear with a face like thunder, him running red faced with his little umbrella giggling like mad. I had lost control of the situation and needed a minute to think of a solution, but he wasn’t giving me a second.
So, I leant against the door blocking his route to it, closed my eyes and breathed, ignoring the little person jumping at my legs.
“OK, what is going on here?” I asked myself. He is hot, confused by the change of routine and keen to get on with the visit to the pet shop. I am frustrated that my impromptu shopping trip has gone so disastrously wrong (from my perspective in the moment), and also feeling hot and tired which is clouding my ability to reason. It suddenly clicked that LC was particularly interested in the door and how it worked, and was desperate to see if he could work out how to open it. OK, I know what I need to do.
Down in a crouch to his eye level.
“OK, baby, I know you want to open the door and go to the pet shop. Just wait for me to finish up here and then you can open the door and we’ll go.”
Little Cat: “OK.”
Calmness resumed. He immediately got down on the floor and went into “cat mode,” meowing and peeking under the door at the women outside. He was happy and cooperative once again and I was free to finish trying on the clothes and to get dressed calmly and peacefully.
Moral of the story?
What could have ended in tears, shouting and anger on both sides was averted by some deep calming breaths which gave me the ability to look calmly at the needs behind the behaviour – both his and mine. Once he knew that he would get to open the door, he was happy to wait.
Sometimes we forget to explain what’s happening to our children, which amps up their stress, especially if we are breaking the normal routine, and this can lead to behavioural difficulties.
By including them and letting them know what to expect, we can help to prevent any stress and uncertainty within them which may lead to disconnection and conflicts.
Do you shop with your toddler? Have you found it more likely to produce stressful situations or have you found the trips enjoyable? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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