hounded by security staff for trolley abuse, and now I quite enjoy walking up and down the aisles with the pygmies in tow. So, the cupboards bare, I throw the kids in the car after work and decamp to the small Sainsbury's in town to buy some essentials. I don't mind telling you I'm feeling pretty virtuous about my parenting skills, involving the children in the whole shopping experience. You know, the way proper parents do in books;
"who can find me some bananas? Good! Well done G! Now, what colour are they? E? That's right! Clever girl! And J, what shape is this apple? Oh well done you! Okay, who can be first to find the wine section..?"
I'm dangerously close to auditioning for a position as a CBeebies presenter, when three year old J beckons me closer and announces in a stage whisper, "I need a poo, Mummy".
There are some respects in which life is actually harder as the pygmies get bigger; guardianship of three nappy-clad toddlers is relatively simple in relation to toileting needs, even allowing for the odd up-the-back poo-nami requiring emergency action. But I now have one child in pants, one in pull-ups (she thinks they're pants, okay?) and one in nappies. None has reliable bladder or bowel control. In fact, given my own pelvic floor issues, I'm surprised the four of us are allowed inside any carpeted premises at all.
I make some wild calculations based on the length of time it will take the arthritic shop assistant currently standing at the customer service desk to find the staff keys, walk across the store, unlock the main key cabinet, walk back to us, summon the staff lift and take us upstairs to the toilets. Yes, I've been here before. I figure it'll be quicker to whip through checkout and drive the five hundred yards back home. Yes, I'm that lazy, I drove. You try walking with three pygmies, a bag of shopping, and a need to get back before Hollyoaks.
"I could keep it in my bottom for a bit, if that would help?" J says winningly.
"Oh darling, could you? That would be just marvellous. Right, let's pay for these things..."
Clocking the queues at the main check-outs I thank the Lord for self-service tills and begin swiping mini Baby-bels like a woman possessed.
Beep, beep, beep "Is it staying in your bottom, darling?" beep, beep...
"It might be coming out a little bit..."
Dairy products dealt with, I hurl my goods into plastic bags (No, I didn't bring my own eco-friendly effing hemp bio-degradable ones) and curse my haste as the machine begins to complain;
"Please place your items in the bag"
"I. have. Placed. The. Items. In. The. Bloody. Bag" I hiss between gritted teeth. I slam down a Petit Filou pack so hard it splits open. "Oh genius, thanks a fucking bunch".
"Mummy, who are you talking to?" The children are looking up at me curiously as I lick fromage frais from my fingers and attempt to find the bar code on the cherry tomatoes.
I'm nearly done, my basket empty but for...
"Please wait for authorisation"
What an idiot I am. Self-service tills are perfect until you want to buy alcohol, or anything else remotely dangerous for your health, like razors, aftershave or Sunny Delight, at which point you have to wait half an hour for someone to waddle along and press a button.
I look around. No-one in sight.
Oh I know what you'd do. You don't have to tell me, I know what you're thinking. You're in the supermarket, essential provisions secured, toddler urgently needed a poo... You'd leave immediately, right? Of course you would, all you goody-two-shoes proper mothers out there. I don't think you really understand the significance of this wine though. I don't think you follow just how much I need that single glass of chilled Chablis once the pygmies are tucked under their duvets. How much I can almost taste that first sip....
"CAN I GET SOME HELP HERE PLEASE?"
Oh my God. Was that me?
Food (and precious, precious wine) bought and paid for, poo still firmly within bottom (although ominous smells drifting my way would suggest its arrival is immient. Seriously, how is it possible for one so small to produce scents so heinous?) we exit the supermarket and pile into the car. I pull out of the carpark and make our way home, glancing as I do so at the row of content faces in the back seat. I suddenly realise they are each holding an item. Items I haven't paid for. G is caressing a can of Special Brew, J a pomegranate and E a box of sanitary towels.
Oh well, all useful items, I suppose.