Chronicles of a Messy Mum; The Road to Nandos Part One

Saturday mornings was always the same; you intend to have a luxurious, long lie in but instead, you are woken up by a rambunctious two-year-old presenting you will various Duplo Lego towers at the crack of dawn.
“Mummy, me made tower.” Clara proclaimed proudly and she pushed it into my face, hitting me on the forehead.

‘That’s wonderful sweet-heart, maybe you could go back to your room and make me another one.” I said with a fake smile, I really wanted to shout “go back to sleep and let me wallow in my bed for another hour.” But I did not want to stamp on her enthusiasm. Even if my daughter had not burst into the room to assault me with Duplo blocks, I can rarely have a lie in now that I am a mother. My body clock has changed. When I was without children I could wallow in the sanctuary of my Super king-sized for most of the morning, now I feel am lucky if I can get to half-past seven without the urge to get up and prove that I am a responsible mother. Guilt is a wonderful motivator.

As I tried to savour the last few minutes of warmth and serenity, my stomach growled with hunger. I needed breakfast quickly or I would not be responsible for my actions. My hormones had decided to turn on the desire to eat the whole contents of my kitchen, despite my brain affirming I am going to lose a few pounds. I raise up from my bed begrudging every step further away I take from the comfort it brings; if I could spend my whole life in bed, at least I would be cosy.

I opt for the closest thing to a comforting breakfast I can get, Weetabix. When I use the term Weetabix, I use it lightly; this is some cheap supermarket knock off that falls apart if you breathe on it. I am not spending a pound extra for what is essentially the same ingredients but with a better label. I am a shrewd penny pincher when I need to be and I am not afraid to admit it.

After a week that lasted for an eternity, I am glad it is Saturday; at least I can leave the chaos of my work life for a brief interlude and replace it with the chaos that my two adorable children bring. Oh, how lucky am I? As I eat my soggy breakfast I try to block out my children’s squeals as they play merry hell with eat other. Whatever my son is playing with, my daughter wants; she grunts and huffs as she tries to snatch it from his grasp. On realising that her battle is futile, she runs over to me and proceeds to climb all over me, knocking the milk out of the bowl and all over the sofa.

Unless I get my family out of the house, I have a feeling that I might explode. Even though I feel exhausted, I cannot bear the thought of sitting in my house all day; it looks like a scene out of a disaster movie. I could tidy up but what would be the point; my children would have it back to the same state within hours. I needed to come up with a place we could all go that would not involve spending a small fortune, as my daughter birthday looms over our bank balance.

‘I was thinking, we could all go for a walk around the lake today; we could park at the pub with the little play area and let the children go wild.’ I said to my husband who was busy on his computer. I was met by a silence which meant my idea was not the best one.
‘I thought you wanted to take Clara to the toy shop to look at scooters?’ My husband responded without looking up from the screen.
‘Me want scooter!’ my daughter cheered while still continuing to climb all over me, her elbow smacking me in the mouth and hitting my front tooth.
‘We can just order it online.’ I said confidently.
‘I think we need to try her with one before we buy one.’ My husband replied. For pities sake, why did he have to be right all the time? If they had an award for the person who is ‘always right’ it would be my husband, his logic frustrates me at times.
‘I suppose we could go; we could get a Nandos while we are there.’ The massive toy shop that we always go to was on a retail site that also boasted a Nandos, something we regrettably did not have in our town but I have a feeling my waistline is grateful for that fact.
‘What do you want to do Ewan, go round the lake or to the toy shop?’ My husband chirped to my eldest. My husband and I are notorious for not being able to make basic decisions so we sometimes give the kids the choice. This time it backfired on us both.
‘I want to go to the lake.’ My son said excitedly. Typical, when I have the chance of a Nandos, he decides he does not want toys and wants to get back to nature. I could see that my husband also didn’t like the ideas of walking around the lake in the cold. Why did I even suggest going there in the first place? Damn my penny-pinching tendencies.
‘Would you not rather look at toys?’ I questioned.
‘I have been to the lake before, I want to go again.’ How are we going to get ourselves out of this one? Once my son has committed to something it is hard to get him to change his mind; he has my stubborn streak. We were both at a crossroads; he wanted fresh air and exercise and I wanted to eat my bodyweight in Peri-Peri chips. I look at my husband, ‘well your plan did not go so smoothly did it?’ I said in the condescending tone I sometimes use in the rare case where I feel I am right. ‘It was you that suggested going to the lake.’ He quickly jumped to his defence. Bugger, he was right again, it had been my suggestion and it was going to deprive me of spicy chicken.

There is a tension in the room as we both look at each other, desperately searching for a way to turn things around and persuade our son that Nandos is the answer.
‘How about I take you for a walk after we go to the toy shop.’ I say enthusiastically. ‘No, I would rather go to the lake,’ he says in the matter of fact tone that indicates that he is not for turning. I am totally screwed, I need a solution, think quickly, you are supposed to be the more intelligent one in the conversation. I looked around the four of us in the living room and it is as if it triggered a ‘lightbulb moment’.
‘Democracy!’ I shouted with excitement. My husband looked at me like I had lost my last marble, my son looked confused, while my daughter shouted ‘demo-crati’ in her sweet two-year-old voice.
‘We will have to vote on it.’ I proclaim, trying to look serious and hide the smug grin that was creeping onto my face. ‘a democracy is where everyone in the house gets a vote, after-all we are not in an Ewan-based dictatorship’ I continued in a spritely tone, I was closer to getting myself a cheeky Nandos. I was proud of myself; not only for getting myself and my husband closer to Nandos but also that I could turn this into a life lesson at the same time. I needed a medal for this one but would settle for a hot sauce that takes the top three layers off your tongue.
‘You are voting for the lake, I am voting for the toy shop, where do you want to go, Daddy?’ I ask, already knowing the answer. ‘Toyshop’ he says sternly as if to cement the idea that our first born does not control the household, we do. ‘Where do you want to go, Clara?’ my husband pipes up ‘toy shop for a scooter or walking around the lake?’ I love how he casually dropped in the scooter as a form of bait; if we were not parents, we could make excellent evil geniuses apart from the fact that we hate conflict. ‘Scoooooteeerr’ my daughter screams in a tone that only cats and Opera singers can hear. I won the battle and my reward is going to feel so good inside my stomach.
I got myself ready quicker than usual, it must have been the promise of spicy treats that lay ahead of me. We bundled the children into the car and I took a deep breath as I tried not to lose my temper as I put my daughter’s seatbelt on. Clara, for once was being compliant but the seatbelt on the car seat had decided to torture me. Why did we buy this car-seat? I can only guess that it was invented purely just to torture parents. My hands pang in pain as I try to readjust the strap which involves a complex routine of pushing buttons in while pulling the strap at the same time, I mean, who comes up with such torture? I am fully aware of how weak my hands are without being reminded every time I want to take my daughter out.
The toy shop was unusually quiet for what is meant to be the prime shopping day of the week, maybe other parents had children who let them have a lie in. We arrived at the scooter aisle, much to my daughter’s excitement; she danced in the aisles while singing ‘me have scooter, me want scooter’ like a deranged version of the Cookie Monster on a health kick.
‘Here you go, try this’ my husband said as he took a ‘my first scooter’ down from the shelf. My daughter skipped over, yanked it from his hands, stood on it and promptly fell on the floor in a heap. She shouted ‘sorry’ to us all and picked herself back up and tried again; this time she managed to move roughly half a metre before crashing again, this time she was not happy. ‘I can’t do it’ she huffed as she folded her arms in her standard ‘I’m not impressed’ mood. Why did my kids have to inherit my poor balance skills?
‘Why are they so both so bad at balancing?’ my husband said in a disappointed tone. ‘Well,’ I proceed to enlighten him, ‘because they are half mine and I cannot keep my balance at the best of times, I needed stabilisers on my bike till I was eight.’ I quipped.
‘Good point’ said my husband as he tried to find the most balance friendly scooter for my balance lacking children. ‘let’s just look at the other stuff, we can come back to these later,’ I said in a calm reassuring tone, soothing the situation and preventing a possible meltdown from both my daughter and my husband.
We concluded that my daughter also wanted a keyboard, a Pikachu teddy that she thought was cute and various water play toys. We tried our best to keep her away from the babies and dollies section as my husband does not want to encourage her through fear that she will want children at a young age and not fulfil her potential. He is the ultimate in protective fathers and would rather encourage her to be a tomboy than to be girly. However, best-laid plans do not always come true and we accidentally walked through the dolls section. Clara squealed as she saw almost life-sized dolls that were dressed in cute little outfits and long flowing hair that was a stark contrast to her messy curls and wacky stripy tights. ‘Me want this dolly’ she reached out to grab a doll dressed in riding gear which was not a good representation of toddlers in this town; we needed legging and trainers instead.
‘When you are a little bit older Clara, we will get you a dolly.’ My husband says gently while trying to lead her away from the offending dolls. She obviously was not too bothered about this or we would have had a full-on meltdown on our hands full of kicking and screaming.
After much deliberation and trying several scooters, we eventually found one that my daughter could balance on; it was a cross between a ride-along bike and a scooter with a seat that could be taken off when she works out how to balance properly. Her laughter filled the air as she whizzed up and down the toy shop aisle, squealing loudly and shouting ‘Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ as she built up speed. At that moment I was grateful for my children; without them, I would not hear as much laughter and experience as much fun, despite the challenges it brings. If my kids are happy and healthy then I am happy too; maybe the Nandos was some sort of cosmic reward for being a well-adjusted parent. Who am I kidding? I would have had the Nandos regardless of whether my kids were good or not. It is finally time to get my spice on and the anticipation was so immense I started salivating at the thought of it.
Part two
‘We don’t have to go’ I said to my husband as we started the walk over to Nandos. I was lying, of course, I desperately wanted to have my fill of delicious food but I felt guilty. I have been trying to eat healthier in order to shift some of my ‘mum-tum’ which was a daily reminder of how much of a greedy person I was; loving food was part of my genetics and I was not content unless I was eating, it was my comfort blanket. Perhaps that is why large people are described as ‘jolly’ as opposed to stick-thin models who always look like a bulldog chewing a wasp on the catwalk.
‘It might be the only opportunity we get to have one’ my husband points out as we walk across the Zebra crossing. This was true, we did not have much opportunity to eat out, having two very fussy children in the eating department meant that we avoided meals out. Once, when my son was two and going through a ‘Mac and cheese’ phase, we ordered it for him from the menu on a day out and all hell broke loose, he refused to eat it.
As first-time parents, we were worried about him eating and this caused great tension in the first couple of years. We desperately tried every trick in the book to get him to eat but to no avail and by the time we had admitted defeat our own food had gone stone cold, we never eat out much after that.
The hunger pangs grew in my stomach as we reached the building. I checked the time, it was eleven o’clock which was that time I assumed it would open as the one by my parents opened at eleven.
‘It’s closed’ my husband says as he tries the door. My brain immediately goes into panic mode; no, no, no, no, I have been waiting too long for this. I was about to descend into my own emotional meltdown and stamp my little feet when my husband broke the silence ‘It opens in half an hour’. I looked around the shopping park thinking of how we can kill half an hour and keep two children entertained in the process. I see what appears to be a slide and some children hanging from the top, I was saved.
‘We could take them to that park over there.’ I say in an over-enthusiastic manner. I look at my husband who does not look convinced that this park will keep them occupied for half an hour, it only had a slide, a tunnel and a wooden hut. As we amble over we discover that this was more than enough to keep both of them occupied until we could get food. My daughter learnt how to climb a net up to the top of the slide, a task that had only just been mastered by her older brother, she was like a Spider Monkey; fearless and agile. My son did what he always does, makes friends with some random kids and go on a mission, this time it was a game of tag.
As I watch my son run around, playing tag, I notice his hesitancy to actually tag the people or catch the child they decide they are chasing. It is like seeing a far younger, male version of yourself; I have always been too cautious and hesitant. My Nana used to call me a ‘big girl’s blouse’ and I suspect that she would have said the same about Ewan, she was tenacious and tough and nobody in the family would get on her bad side. I wish my son was more tenacious and resilient, I feel it would serve him so much better and avoid any incidents of bullying like I had to endure.
I looked at the clock on my phone, it was five minutes to opening and time to take the children out of the park. This task appeared easy but it carried an underlying risk of triggering a meltdown from one of my kids, which one would it be? I soon realised that it was my daughter as I ushered her towards the gate. ‘Noooooooooo!’ she screams as I try to grab her hand which she quickly withdrew to meet the other one in the ‘I’m folding my arms because I am not happy’ position. ‘Come on Clara, it is time to get some food,’ I proclaim in a forced, overenthusiastic tone. ‘Don’t want no food,’ Clara shouts as she sticks out her bottom lip and turns away.
I have to take drastic action, I have no choice in this situation. Speed is of the essence because as soon as she realises that I am going to pick her up and carry her away from the park, all sorts of hell will break loose. I quickly put both hands under her armpits to scoop her up but somehow she senses the trick and quickly makes her shoulders limp so I cannot grip her. Why do children have the ability to almost dislocate their shoulders to avoid being carried away? As she slips from my hands she gives out a deafening scream that makes me think she is auditioning for a horror movie and she has just encountered the evil killer. This monster is disguised as an almost middle-aged, overweight, clumsy mother fully kitted out in jeggings, stripy T-Shirt and oversized cardigan.
As she started kicking her feet and violently thrashing her body around to break free from my grip; help arrived in the form of my husband. Nobody messes with Daddy. He quickly scooped her up, swung her around and marched in massive strides towards the restaurant.
‘Table for four please,’ I ask in a meek voice as the waitress gives us a disgruntled look. We were practically breaking down the door; it was two minutes after opening time and I think our eagerness to get some food disrupted the gossip she was having with another waitress. She grabs some menus and points us in the direction of our both, I look over in annoyance; she has given us the worst both in the whole of the restaurant. The foam cushioning of the seats is clearly displayed underneath the massive rips in the sides of the chairs. As I sit down, I realise both the booth seats and the table are sticky and have probably not been cleaned properly. I slide myself into the booth next to my daughter as I try not to freak out; it was me who pushed for a Nandos and I cannot complain now we are here. If it is one thing I hate more than a grubby, run-down restaurant; it’s having a confrontation with anyone, so asking to move is not an option.
I look at the children’s menu with envy, they always appear to provide a much better deal than the standard adult prices. For the small sum of five pounds you get the main meal, two sides and a drink; the last time I paid five pounds for a full meal was probably in the 1990s. I am a penny pincher at heart and hate to spend money, even if it is for lovely food.
After much debate, we decide to buy the kids the exact same meal each to avoid any wars starting. Whenever my children have different things, they want what the other one wants and this always ends with someone crying, usually myself. Why can’t eating a meal with children just be simple and straightforward? Instead of enjoyment, it is similar to playing chess with a world champion; has you scratching your head so much and feeling like an out and out failure.
‘What are you having, chicken and rice?’ pipes up my husband with a twinkle in his eye and a huge smirk on his face. Once, when we were away in London, I had complained that Nandos was not worth going to as it is merely ‘just chicken and rice’. These were the words of a foolish woman who had no idea of the piece of heaven that awaited her.
‘Of course not, I’m having the steak burger, chips and macho peas!’ I announce proudly. I always get the same thing, I am a creature of habit and hate the idea of change. I once ordered the wrong food from the Chinese takeaway and had a meltdown that rivalled one of my two-year-old temper tantrums. I always get crispy beef in chilli sauce, but I had not checked and got just plain old chilli beef; I resisted the urge to cry but my feet would not stop moving, like a seagull stamping for worms, it felt like my who night had been ruined.
‘Why do you never get the chicken? It’s Nandos!’ My husband shakes his head in disbelief and chuckles. The answer to that is I am a stubborn rebel who always swims against the tide of popular opinion.
‘That is one of the reasons you love me, I am a weirdo.’ I announce proudly. There is a tender moment between us as we grab each other’s hand across the table and look into each other’s eyes for a moment. The next thing we know, our kids have sneaked out of the booth and decided to create chaos on the restaurant floor. Bugger, why are they running around, shrieking like escaped chimps around the biggest table in the whole place?
My kids were officially showing me up. When I was younger I used to see other peoples children running around the shops like Tasmanian devils on some sort of sugar trip and swear that my children would listen to me and not show me up in such a fashion. My naivety could be smelt a mile off and now I am in the shoes of a harassed parent, I feel guilty for being so judgemental back then. My children’s mission in life is to do the exact opposite to what I say and defy logic of any fashion, especially in public places.
An older woman at another table takes a look at my kids and then at me. She is judging me, I can tell; her sour face looks like she is chewing several wasps, smelling rotten eggs and hearing the sound of nails running down a chalkboard all simultaneously. Does she not remember the times when her children were young and her daughter acted like Satan’s spawn out in public or was she always a smartly dressed twenty-something with a perfect smile? Had age worn away her ability to see the joy in two children frolicking around having the best day of their life? The chimp jumps and elephant stamps had worn away my patience.
‘Ewan, Clara, get over here, you are going to get us kicked out!’ I say sternly and shoot them a look that my mother used to give to me which clearly indicated ‘do not sass me, you will pay for it heavily and for an eternity.’ As my two little chimps realised I was serious, they made their way over to the table just as the waitress started to walk over with our food. The waitress smiled kindly over the shouts of my two kids, her eyes almost looking at us both in sympathy.
Just as she places the identical kid’s meals down, I see something black launch across the floor. I instantly panic and look around to discover my daughter had kicked one of her Chelsea boots off in excitement, possibly hitting the waitress in question. My cheeks instantly flush with shame and I scramble quickly to get her shoe off the floor before the Waitress trips over it.
As I reach down I realise that firstly, I am rather too large of a mum to be bending over in food booths and secondly, the Waitress will not stop moving her foot; my hand trying to reach the offending shoe before she caught on. I grasped the shoe in a triumphant swipe and appeared above the table, looking dishevelled, just in time for my food to be placed in front of me. It was spice time.
I quickly start shaking the spicy sauce onto my plate, I need something with a kick to drown out the tears from my daughter, Carla.
‘Don’t like it!’ she screams as she pushes the sweet potato mash that she has not even tried away from her mouth. I would not mind, but she has eaten sweet potato mash before, liking it on several occasions. She has complained for over an hour that she is hungry and now she has food she is refusing to eat, typical. Meanwhile, my son is doing the exact opposite, tucking into his chicken burger like a squirrel sorting nuts for the winter. Had I entered an alternative reality, had hell really frozen over, was there a great disturbance in the force?
From the moment he was born my dearest son has been a fussy eater, getting him to eat is a regular battle. However, my daughter usually inhales what is put in from of her within minutes and asks for more, she is just like her mother, greedy. My daughter never passed up the opportunity for food so this new found attitude shocked me, as did my son’s sudden love of spicy chicken and macho peas. As I loaded his plate begrudgingly with ‘my’ macho peas, he looked at me and grimaced in his seat.
‘I need a wee,’ groaning as if to communicate the sudden pain he is in and with it a sense of urgency. He shouts this just as I am in the middle of eating a chip covered in what can only be described as Satan’s sauce, there was a whole fire inside my mouth and it was difficult to focus on my son while my eyes were watering and my nose burned. I must be masochistic to actually enjoy this sensation of pure fire.
I take the opportunity to take my son to the toilet as a much-needed break from the intense burning that has been caused by overindulging in African hot sauce. I hate finding the toilets in places I have not been before, finding things has never been my strong point and I usually spend my time wandering around with a look of fear and uncertainty.
After some uncertain meandering around the restaurant holding tightly onto my son’s hand, I spot what looks like the toilets. Before I could realise that it was the disabled/baby changing facilities and it was indeed locked, a rather tall, large and jolly waiter told me he would be right back with the key. I instantly feel like I am causing a nuisance that I had not intended. I could have quite happily used the Ladies, which I see further down the corridor, mocking my stupidity and inconveniencing the jolly waiter. I comforted myself with the illusion that he was using getting the key as a distraction from whatever work he was avoiding, after all, that’s what I would do.
The corridor is too narrow for me and Ewan to randomly stand around waiting for Nandos man to come back with the key. As a waitress approaches, I panic and we spend several seconds trying to move out of each other’s way only to realise that we are mirroring each other and therefore blocking our own path, this is the perfect analogy of how I feel as a parent; constantly trying my best but moving in the wrong direction.
‘I have the key for you,’ Nandos man declared in an over-enthusiastic tone as if he had won an award. ‘Thank you so much’ I say in a sheepish voice as I usher my son into the toilet and close the door behind me, only to be greeted with an unpleasant odour that almost made me retch.
‘They have music in the toilet and a mirror on the door, this toilet is awesome.’ my son shouts in excitement as he throws down his trousers and scuttles towards the toilet. Awesome would not be the word I would use to describe the cesspit that I had found us in. I had been in some horrid toilets before but this one had to rank in the top five of the worst. Apart from the putrid smell, it looked like it had not been cleaned in many weeks and the toilet basin had a strange purple stain around the back of it that looked suspiciously like red wine vomit, at least my son was standing up and did not have to sit on the offending toilet. I weighed up my own bladder options and decided I would rather risk wetting myself on the journey home than sitting on the toilet of utter destruction. I made sure Ewan washed his hands.
Leading my son into the booth to finish his food, I notice Clara has had a change of heart on the food front; shoving large amounts of chicken into her mouth while she picks up the sweet potato mash up with her fork. I exhale a sigh of relief as I go back to eating my prize for enduring the whirlwind of toy shopping with the children.
‘Mummy’ my son looks at me as he puts his fork down onto his plate. ‘Yes sweetie’ I say as I worry about what ‘mum challenge’ he is going to throw at me now.
‘Mummy, I love you’ he says with a smile as he moves his head over to give me a cuddle. ‘I love you too my darling.’ A smile radiates from my face as I enjoy the precious moment with my oldest child.
‘Thank you’ he adds as he goes back to his burger. ‘What for?’ I say confused. He looks at me with a knowing smile, ‘for taking me to the best place ever with the best toilet ever!’ He exclaims with an innocence that I never wanted him to lose. In the laughter that followed that comment, I almost regret the decision not to relieve myself in the toilet of putridness. I was grateful in that moment for spicy food and the innocence of youth.

Cheeky Nandos
Saturday morning was always the same; you intend to have a luxurious, long lie in but instead, you are woken up by a rambunctious two-year-old presenting you will various Duplo Lego towers at the crack of dawn.
“mummy, me made tower.” Clara proclaimed proudly and she pushed it into my face, hitting me on the forehead.
‘That’s wonderful sweet-heart, maybe you could go back to your room and make me another one.” I said with a fake smile. I really wanted to shout “go back to sleep and let me wallow in my bed for another hour.” But I did not want to stamp on her enthusiasm.
Even if my daughter had not burst into the room to assault me with Duplo blocks, I can rarely have a lie in now that I am a mother. My body clock has changed. When I was without children I could wallow in the sanctuary of my Super king-sized for most of the morning, now I feel am lucky if I can get to half-past seven without the urge to get up and prove that I am a responsible mother. Guilt is a wonderful motivator.
As I tried to savour the last few minutes of warmth and serenity, my stomach growled with hunger; I needed breakfast quickly or I would not be responsible for my actions. My hormones have decided to turn on the desire to eat the whole contents of my kitchen despite my brain affirming I am going to lose a few pounds. I raise up from my bed begrudging every step further away I take from the comfort it brings; if I could spend my whole life in bed, at least I would be cosy.
I opt for the closest thing to a comforting breakfast I can get, Weetabix. When I use the term Weetabix, I use it lightly; this is some cheap supermarket knock off that falls apart even if you breathe on it. I am not spending a pound extra for what is essentially the same ingredients but with a better label; I am a shrewd penny pincher when I need to be and I am not afraid to admit it.
After a week that lasted for an eternity, I am glad it is Saturday; at least I can leave the chaos of my work life for a brief interlude and replace it with the chaos that my two adorable children bring. Oh, how lucky am I? As I eat my soggy breakfast I try to block out my children’s squeals as they play merry hell with eat other. Whatever my son is playing with, my daughter wants; she grunts and huffs as she tries to snatch it from his grasp. On realising that her battle is futile, she runs over to me and proceeds to climb all over me, knocking the milk out of the bowl and all over the sofa.
Unless I get my family out of the house, I have a feeling that I might explode. Even though I feel exhausted, I cannot bear the thought of sitting in my house all day; it looks like a scene out of a disaster movie. I could tidy up but what would be the point; my children would have it back to the same state within hours. I needed to come up with a place we could all go that would not involve spending a small fortune, as my daughter birthday is looming.
‘I was thinking, we could all go for a walk around the lake today; we could park at the pub with the little play area and let the children go wild.’ I said to my husband who was busy on his computer. I was met by a silence which meant my idea was not the best one.
‘I thought you wanted to take Clara to the toy shop to look at scooters?’ My husband responded without looking up from the screen.
‘Me want scooter!’ my daughter cheered while still continuing to climb all over me, her elbow smacking me in the mouth and hitting my front tooth.
‘We can just order it online.’ I said confidently.
‘I think we need to try her with one before we buy one.’ My husband replied. For pities sake, why did he have to be right all the time? If they had an award for the person who is ‘always right’ it would be my husband, his logic frustrates me at times.
‘I suppose we could go; we could get a Nandos while we are there.’ The massive toy shop that we always go to was on a Retail site that also boasted a Nandos, something we regrettably did not have in our town but I have a feeling my waistline is grateful for that fact.
‘What do you want to do Ewan, go round the lake or to the toy shop?’ my husband chirped to my eldest. My husband and I are notorious for not being able to make basic decisions so we sometimes give the kids the choice. This time it backfired on us both.
‘I want to go to the lake.’ My son said excitedly. Typical, when I have the chance of a Nandos he decides he does not want toys and want to get back to nature. I could see that my husband also didn’t like the ideas of walking around the lake in the cold, why did I even suggest going there in the first place, damn my penny-pinching tendencies.
‘Would you not rather look at toys?’ I questioned.
‘I have been to the lake before, I want to go again.’ How are we going to get ourselves out of this one? Once my son has committed to something it is hard to get him to change his mind; he has my stubborn streak. We were both at a crossroads; He wanted fresh air and exercise and I wanted to eat my bodyweight in Peri-Peri chips. I look at my husband, ‘well your plan did not go so smoothly did it?’ I said in the condescending tone I sometimes use in the rare case where I feel I am right. ‘It was you that suggested going to the lake.’ He quickly jumped to his defence. Bugger, he was right again, it had been my suggestion and it was going to deprive me of spicy chicken.
There is a tension in the room as we both look at each other, desperately searching for a way to turn things around and persuade our son that Nandos is the answer.
‘How about I take you for a walk after we go to the toy shop.’ I say enthusiastically. ‘No, I would rather go to the lake,’ he says in the matter of fact tone that indicates that he is not for turning. I am totally screwed, I need a solution, think quickly, you are supposed to be the more intelligent one in the conversation. I looked around the four of us in the living room and it is as if it triggered a ‘lightbulb moment’.
‘Democracy!’ I shouted with excitement. My husband looked at me like I had lost my last marble, my son looked confused, while my daughter shouted ‘demo-crati’ in her sweet two-year-old voice.
‘We will have to vote on it.’ I proclaim, trying to look serious and hide the smug grin that was creeping onto my face. ‘a democracy is where everyone in the house gets a vote, after-all we are not in an Ewan-based dictatorship’ I continued in a spritely tone, I was closer to getting myself a cheeky Nandos. I was proud of myself; not only for getting myself and my husband closer to Nandos but also that I could turn this into a life lesson at the same time. I needed a medal for this one but would settle for a hot sauce that takes the top three layers off your tongue.
‘You are voting for the lake, I am voting for the toy shop, where do you want to go, Daddy?’ I ask, already knowing the answer. ‘Toyshop’ he says sternly as if to cement the idea that our first born does not control the household, we do. ‘Where do you want to go, Clara?’ my husband pipes up ‘toy shop for a scooter or walking around the lake?’ I love how he casually dropped in the scooter as a form of bait; if we were not parents, we could make excellent evil geniuses apart from the fact that we hate conflict. ‘Scoooooteeerr’ my daughter screams in a tone that only cats and Opera singers can hear. I won the battle and my reward is going to feel so good inside my stomach.
I got myself ready quicker than usual, it must have been the promise of spicy treats that lay ahead of me. We bundled the children into the car and I took a deep breath as I tried not to lose my temper as I put my daughter’s seatbelt on. Clara, for once was being compliant but the seatbelt on the car seat had decided to torture me. Why did we buy this car-seat? I can only guess that it was invented purely just to torture parents. My hands pang in pain as I try to readjust the strap which involves a complex routine of pushing buttons in while pulling the strap at the same time, I mean, who comes up with such torture? I am fully aware of how weak my hands are without being reminded every time I want to take my daughter out.
The toy shop was unusually quiet for what is meant to be the prime shopping day of the week, maybe other parents had children who let them have a lie in. We arrived at the scooter aisle, much to my daughter’s excitement; she danced in the aisles while singing ‘me have scooter, me want scooter’ like a deranged version of the Cookie Monster on a health kick.
‘Here you go, try this’ my husband said as he took a ‘my first scooter’ down from the shelf. My daughter skipped over, yanked it from his hands, stood on it and promptly fell on the floor in a heap. She shouted ‘sorry’ to us all and picked herself back up and tried again; this time she managed to move roughly half a metre before crashing again, this time she was not happy. ‘I can’t do it’ she huffed as she folded her arms in her standard ‘I’m not impressed’ mood. Why did my kids have to inherit my poor balance skills?
‘Why are they so both so bad at balancing?’ my husband said in a disappointed tone. ‘Well,’ I proceed to enlighten him, ‘because they are half mine and I cannot keep my balance at the best of times, I needed stabilisers on my bike till I was eight.’ I quipped.
‘Good point’ said my husband as he tried to find the most balance friendly scooter for my balance lacking children. ‘let’s just look at the other stuff, we can come back to these later,’ I said in a calm reassuring tone, soothing the situation and preventing a possible meltdown from both my daughter and my husband.
We concluded that my daughter also wanted a keyboard, a Pikachu teddy that she thought was cute and various water play toys. We tried our best to keep her away from the babies and dollies section as my husband does not want to encourage her through fear that she will want children at a young age and not fulfil her potential. He is the ultimate in protective fathers and would rather encourage her to be a tomboy than to be girly. However, best-laid plans do not always come true and we accidentally walked through the dolls section. Clara squealed as she saw almost life-sized dolls that were dressed in cute little outfits and long flowing hair that was a stark contrast to her messy curls and wacky stripy tights. ‘Me want this dolly’ she reached out to grab a doll dressed in riding gear which was not a good representation of toddlers in this town; we needed legging and trainers instead.
‘When you are a little bit older Clara, we will get you a dolly.’ My husband says gently while trying to lead her away from the offending dolls. She obviously was not too bothered about this or we would have had a full-on meltdown on our hands full of kicking and screaming.
After much deliberation and trying several scooters, we eventually found one that my daughter could balance on; it was a cross between a ride-along bike and a scooter with a seat that could be taken off when she works out how to balance properly. Her laughter filled the air as she whizzed up and down the toy shop aisle, squealing loudly and shouting ‘Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ as she built up speed. At that moment I was grateful for my children; without them, I would not hear as much laughter and experience as much fun, despite the challenges it brings. If my kids are happy and healthy then I am happy too; maybe the Nandos was some sort of cosmic reward for being a well-adjusted parent. Who am I kidding? I would have had the Nandos regardless of whether my kids were good or not. It is finally time to get my spice on and the anticipation was so immense I started salivating at the thought of it.

‘We don’t have to go’ I said to my husband as we started the walk over to Nandos. I was lying of course, I desperately wanted to have my fill of delicious food but I felt guilty. I have been trying to eat healthier in order to shift some of my ‘mum tum’ which was a daily reminder of how much of a greedy person I was; loving food was part of my genetics and I was not content unless I was eating, it was my comfort blanket. Perhaps that is why large people are described as ‘jolly’ as opposed to stick thin models who always look like a bulldog chewing a wasp on the catwalk.
‘It might be the only opportunity we get to have one’ my husband points out as we walk across the Zebra crossing. This was true, we did not have much opportunity to eat out, having two very fussy children in the eating department meant that we avoided meals out. Once, when my son was two and going through a ‘Mac and cheese’ phase, we ordered it for him from the menu on a day out and all hell broke lose, he refused to eat it.
As first time parents we were worried about him eating and this caused great tension in the first couple of years. We desperately tried every trick in the book to get him to eat but to no avail and by the time we had admitted defeat our own food had gone stone cold, we never eat out much after that.
The hunger pangs grew in my stomach as we reached the building. I checked the time, it was eleven o’clock which was that time I assumed it would open as the one by my parents opened at eleven.
‘It’s closed’ my husband says as he tries the door.

Find out what happens to Messy Mum in part two.

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