Don’t let your little darlings near the Kit Kat aisle
The mere thought of taking a small child to a supermarket makes me tense. I twist up like a pretzel. One is bad enough, passing through the turnstile with two or more is basically extreme sport.
I watch in awe when I see an adult with a veritable litter in and around their trolley. I try not to stare when the adult agrees to: a fistful of Wiggles toothbrushes; the laxatives that their two year old is convinced are a chocolate bar; and a Disney torch, just to keep the peace, just to keep moving.
Then, and only when the trolley is half full, the one year old has commenced imitating a car alarm and the two year old is opening the laxatives, I overhear the four year old make a most compelling and specific case for locating the bathroom instantly.
Despite my confessed fascination with scenes of domestic tribulation, I wouldn’t be caught dead breaching the number one rule of supermarket etiquette. Which rule requires that all adult shoppers feign obliviousness when they encounter someone else’s child spitting the dummy. I would never simply watch someone else’s kid have a throwdown, or at least I would never be seen to be watching.
The importance of feigning obliviousness in these circumstances cannot be overstated. When a kid has a tantrum in the confectionary aisle, some adult is dying a thousand deaths. It’s like a Strictly Dancing nightmare where the whole studio audience is staring at you and you don’t know the steps. And the music just keeps playing.
As a result, it is a great relief to find a child has progressed past the supermarket throwdown stage, unless it is because they have graduated to shoplifting.
Fortunately, entry-level shoplifters have a tendency to try to start eating their contraband about a metre from the checkout, which means the situation is remediable. It gets a little more complicated when you find a hot packet of gum in their possession when you’re halfway home – from Queensland.
When contemplating the prospect of shopping with small children it is useful to bear in mind that child’s Time in Public Factor – or TPF. As with an SPF, the TPF will tell how long you can reasonably expect to keep the child in the open without incident. Some children’s TPFs basically necessitate online shopping. Conversely, there are others who have a TPF in excess of their parents.
Given the universal relevance of children’s TPFs, some kind of longitudinal study exploring the question of how low and high TPFs flow through into adult characteristics seems long overdue.
My secret hope is that a low TPF will flow through into some kind of meritorious attribute in adulthood, like intellectual curiosity or tenacity. Heaven knows, parents of children with a low TPF need something to hold onto.
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