I started my first retail job in a children’s shop at the innocent age of sixteen. Apart from having to tidy up after masses of misbehaving little ones, it became the norm of a Saturday job for a teenager funding her first summer holiday away from the eyes of a watchful parent or two. As was expected, I witnessed the odd tantrum, whether it was courtesy of a little girl not getting the party dress that she wanted, or a boisterous toddler not in appreciation of the smart outfit he had to wear for a weekend wedding in the country. Nevertheless this story comes from a new mother not quite keeping her eye on the ball, or her baby for that matter…
The boutique’s tumbling displays stretched around a wooden playpen. As was a mother’s prerogative to shop, so was a child’s to be entertained whilst waiting.
The playpen was filled with various second hand toys that reminded me of my childhood; the Fisher Price phone, the Playmobil house and a pack of wobbling Weebles.
After browsing for some time, the latest dithering stressed mother had decided to go for a coffee and return caffeine fuelled and decision made. I thanked her and went about tidying the chaos she’d left in her indecisiveness.
As I wandered towards the aforementioned mess I noticed the strap of a handbag snaking across the floor. Quickly seizing the bag, I ran out the door to see if I could set eyes upon its owner. She was, of course, nowhere to be seen. Ambling back into the shop I bent down to place it behind the counter in the hope that she would realise and return to collect it. As I did so, a noise emanated from behind me, in the direction of the playpen. I slowly stood up and turned around with trepidation to come face to face with a smiling toddler chewing on Mr Potato Head’s arm.
Panic washed over me as I wondered if the woman had expected a complimentary babysitting service alongside her coffee and decision time.
Nevertheless, amidst my horror and alarm, the little bright-eyed toddler was seemingly unbothered by the fact his mother had walked away without him, and more concerned that Mr Potato Head’s body wouldn’t completely fit in his dribbling mouth.
After what felt like a lifetime, but actually transpired to be just ten minutes, a panic stricken mother ran into the shop at full speed.
“My baby, my baby, I am so so sorry!”
“He’s fine” I replied, hauling his body out of the playpen as she took hold of his face, simultaneously inspecting him and giving him kisses in a bid to wipe away the guilt.
“You left your handbag too” I said, gesturing towards the bag I had found.
Embarrassed, she walked over to pick up the handbag and placed it on her toddler’s pushchair. After apologising profusely, she paid for her gift and went to open the door, checking she had all her belongings tucked up safely into the buggy. As her foot touched the pavement, she gave a knowing smile, rolled her eyes and came back to my side of the counter.
I somewhat begrudgingly passed the child into her arms as she apologised again and strapped him into his seat. As she left I couldn’t help but worry about what little adventure he may be subjected to next.