You know those days when you pause, brought up short by the absurdity of the situation you find yourself in, and you wonder how exactly your life reached that point? Last week, I found myself in just such a position, as I carried a sobbing five year old out of Dunelm Mill while he insisted that what he wanted more than anything was a suitcase.
How did I get to this?
Let me take you back in time to Christmas...
We were having a jolly, festive, merry family Christmas. Nobody had drunk too much sherry, nobody had been given socks, nobody was gazing at an unexpected garden implement in vague bemusement, nobody had been served an unacceptable quantity of Brussels sprouts. In short, all was going surprisingly well. And then we pulled the crackers. There were miniature packs of cards, there were irritating little interlinking pieces of metal, there were strange plastic rings. And there was a clip-on plastic luggage label. For a suitcase. This was perhaps the best thing that LittleBear had ever seen. He gazed upon it with awe and wonder. And then he lifted his eyes to mine, tears welling in the corners, his bottom lip atremble, "but I don't even have a suitcase" he informed me, "I will never have my own suitcase."
Hoping to preserve the fragile tranquility of a harmonious Christmas, I hastened to assure LittleBear that one day he would indeed own his very own suitcase, and that certainly I would add "suitcase" to The List Of Things That LittleBear Really Wants*. And I haven't exactly forgotten about this promise, but nor has "buying a suitcase for my five year old" been right at the top of my list of priorities.
Fast forward to the present day, when we went shopping. After school. Near the end of the week. Near the end of LittleBear's first year at school. Those of you without small children may not be aware that this set of circumstances constitutes a full panoply of errors. It ticks every box of fatigue, misery, desperation, hunger and need. First, we went to the hardware shop to buy shed paint, because that's how rock 'n' roll my life is. Then, we went to Dunelm Mill, purveyor of random household objects and cake. I was tentatively seeking a footstool. We used to have a rather nice cow footstool. Then the Idiot Cat got fleas. And the carpet got fleas. And the footstool got fleas. The carpet and cat were treated for fleas. The footstool was forced to leave home and never return.
So, there we were, vaguely looking for a footstool. But, not being a complete novice at parenting, our first port of call was the cafe, so I could top LittleBear up with banana and cake, because I know that a hungry child is a difficult-to-handle child. I'd even deflected him from the sugar-rush-insanity of millionaire's shortbread onto the slightly-less-calamitous chocolate eclair. (This in itself may have been an error, as careful observation of LittleBear's face while he consumed his half of the eclair revealed a slight wash of disappointment on discovering that the cream was, "a bit plain Mummy", which roughly translates to "not filled to bursting with sugar").
And, as we meandered around failing to find any suitable footstools, we walked past a large display of suitcases. And they weren't just any old grey, black or blue suitcases. Oh no. These were lime green suitcases. There is no colour more beloved by my LittleBear than green. There could be no greater desire in his little heart right then, right there, than to own a lime green suitcase. Being the heartless, mean, inconsiderate mother that I am, I said "No". And that was when the tears began to fall. The tears for a lifetime of suitcase-deprivation; the tears for all the packing that he wouldn't be able to do; the tears for the poor, neglected luggage label with no suitcase to call its own; the tears for the life of hardship to which LittleBear has been condemned by the terrible accident of birth that means I am his mother.
In vain did I point out that we already own suitcases. With utter futility did I mention that we weren't going anywhere that requires a suitcase right now, so buying one today was not necessary. Forlornly did I suggest that it really wasn't worth being this sad about. Instead, I picked LittleBear up and carried him out of the shop. Sometimes, there's no other option.
* How I rue the day that I allowed LittleBear to become aware not only of Amazon Wish Lists in general, but the specific list I maintain for him...