Supermarket Sweep

I know last time I took you,
I swore it would be the last.
But we’ve only two fish fingers left
and the bread has breathed its last.

Please stay in the trolley,
it really would be better.
I know you want to be helpful
and be mummy’s little ‘getters.’

But mummy’s rather in a rush
to get this shopping done.
This is called a domestic chore,
it’s not supposed to be fun.

Don’t touch that tottering food display
and put back that DVD.
I know you have some money,
but they’re more than 50p.

That lady does have funny hair
but please don’t point like that.
And, no, we don’t need cat food
as we haven’t got a cat.

If you both behave yourself,
I’ll buy you each a treat.
I was thinking just some stickers,
not a lifesize Happy Feet.

Until we’ve paid, it’s stealing
if you start to eat a biscuit.
Oh sod it, yes just open them –
it’s easier to risk it.

Yes I can see the woman
with the tiny little baby.
She’s staring at you terrified,
of what’s coming to her maybe.

It’s rather hard to keep my calm
as people start to frown.
(Ironic you choose the frozen bit
to have a big meltdown.)

I want to kiss, mums that give me
‘I’ve been there too’ smiles.
And give us friendly knowing looks
as I belt around the aisles.

Trying to remember
what I must get from the Deli.
Really isn’t helped much
by you crawling on your belly.

So NOW you want to get back in
and rest your weary legs?
You’ve squashed the lettuce, crushed the crisps
and sat down on the eggs.

Let’s just go, we’ve got the bulk,
the rest of the list can keep.
No-one’s been ‘round here so fast
since Supermarket sweep.

Somehow we make it through the tills
and past the security men.
And I crawl towards the exit
crying, “Never, ever, again!”

Emma Robinson 2014

Dear Dad

You taught me how to ride a bike and how to tell a joke.
To make up before the sun went down and that promises mustn’t be broke.
You taught me to be generous but also how to save.
You taught me books are precious things and showed me what was brave.

Not to sulk or bear a grudge, the importance of forgiving,
To never take a sickie and work hard to make a living.
That good friends and your family are the greatest kind of wealth.
(And that ever being rude to mum was dangerous for my health.)

And now as my own children grow, I wish that you were here.
With every milestone they achieve and more each passing year.
I wish that they could know you; I just wish that you were there.
I wonder what you’d think of them, my precious crazy pair?

But then I open up my mouth and it’s your voice comes out.
When I tell them to ‘breathe through your nose’ or “I’m right here, don’t shout!’
I hear you when I read to them (though my voice is not as deep.)
And I often use your Beatles songs to sing them off to sleep.

I make them laugh when they hurt themselves just as you would do.
The jokes I tell to make them smile were the ones I learned from you.
My arms that hold them, lips that kiss, were the ones you made for me
And sometimes in a smile, a frown, in them it’s you I see.

And then I know that you are here, in everything I do.
In every word and thought and deed, your influence comes through.
And I smile and know that you’re not gone, I still have what I had.
I’m the parent that I am today, because you were my Dad.

Emma Robinson (2014)

"He gets that from you!"

“I love how babies look like old people. I saw a baby the other day that looked exactly like my grandpa, only taller.” (Jarod Kintz: This Book is Not for Sale.)

When you have a baby, one of the things people do is try to work out who he or she looks like. Emphatic comments that they have their mother’s eyes, their father’s nose and their great-grandfather’s eyebrows make you start to wonder if you have produced a baby or a 3D Police Identikit. Nevertheless, you find yourself scanning their face for bits that look like you, your husband or your parents. Any likenesses are particularly poignant when it’s to someone you have lost. When I put a hat on the girl the other day and she smiled up at me and looked exactly like my Nan, it was a precious moment.

As they get older, you realise that it’s not just your looks they can inherit. Whether it’s genetics or learned behaviour, the personality traits of you and your partner start to materialise in miniature form. Sometimes this can be cute: my daughter sucking her thumb and twiddling her hair just as I did at her age; my son pacing the floor as he tells you something, just like his dad does; the fact that they both talk incessantly just like . . .

Sometimes, however, your less attractive traits start to manifest themselves. When the boy was about two, I realised that I needed to stop talking aloud to myself when trying to find my keys, phone or handbag when he hid himself in a cardboard box and said, “Where’s William? Where’s William? Where’s that bloody William?”

(In my defence, I wasn’t the first to introduce him to that delightful vocabulary. Weeks previously he had been ‘helping’ daddy in the garden when he appeared before me crying because he’d been sent in. When I asked him why daddy had sent him in he said, “I’ve been picking the bloody flowers again, mummy.”)

Often you don’t realise that you say or do something until they start to mimic you. Recently, I reprimanded my son for losing his temper with the iPad and smacking it in anger. Next day at work I found myself doing exactly the same thing to my computer when it wouldn’t do what I wanted. The girl was trying her best to fit herself into a dress she had outgrown the other day and ended up pulling it off her head and throwing it across the room saying it was a “stupid dress.” I really must tell her father to stop doing that . . .

Eventually, they
 try to use your platitudes against you. My admonishments to keep trying and not give up came back to bite me when I told the boy I couldn’t fix a broken toy and he replied, “But mummy, you can’t say you can’t do it until you’ve really tried.’ They also repeat them to each other. Cue my three year old daughter standing, hands on hips, and telling her brother “How many times have I told you to stop doing that?” (His reply, incidentally, was “Four” – he gets his infuriating tendency to state reality from the paternal line.)

Obviously, we both try to claim the good traits (‘I was always bright as a child’) and point the finger in the opposite direction for the bad (although, whatever my husband tries to tell you, I have NEVER thrown myself to the floor in public because he wouldn’t buy me a pair of shoes.)

This continues throughout your life. I think I resemble my own mum more with each passing year. Also my home looks more like hers as I have definitely developed the same taste in furnishings (although sadly the tidy gene seems to have defaulted somewhere along the line.) Since I’ve become a mother, this metamorphosis has accelerated: her words drop from my lips with alarming regularity: “What’s the magic word?” and “You need to drink more water” and “What you need are a few early nights.”

My own children’s habits and phases come and go and, as they grow and develop their own personalities and character traits, I wonder which of their parental similarities will disappear and which will remain. I live in hope that they keep their daddy’s blue eyes and thirst for knowledge, my clear skin and passion for a good book and our shared love of laughter.

 Once thing I do know, my daughter will resent me forever if she ends up inheriting my bum.