Today was the day I had to stop burying my head in the sand and accept that my ‘baby’ is starting school in two weeks. This moment of realisation led to me and MrCraft taking a nice family trip to our local shopping outlet. We decided to go fairly early to avoid the queues. Unfortunately so had everyone else. Outside of the shoe shop were some carefully arranged barriers to create a very British theme park style queuing system. This was not a queue to actually buy the shoes, it was merely for the measuring of the thousand (OK maybe just 50) little feet which were crammed into the line along with a menagerie of pushchairs and parents (or other willing shoe buying volunteers). MrCraft’s face was a picture when he saw the line, so I decided to cheer him up by telling him we will be doing this for the next 16 years! The mood in the queue was quite jolly, considering the sheer number of people trying to achieve the same goal in a very small space. Some brave souls had attempted to get all of their children (including todders) measured and get the shoe shopping ‘experience’ out of the way. The toddlers, however, had organised a mass rebellion and many refused to cooperate, with ear splitting protests being made if the foot measuring device came within a metre of them. I was not feeling brave enough for that! Luckily (if you see it that way), Jess had also managed to out wee her nappy thanks to guzzling all of her drink that was meant to last the day during the car journey. I gave MrCraft the exciting choice of whether to do the full outfit and nappy changing or wait with William in the queue. Sensibly, he chose to take her and leave me and William to fend for ourselves. Eventually we shuffled our way to the front of the queue and his feet were measured without any fuss (thank goodness, though he did ask if she was using a taster to measure with!)
The next part of the shoe shopping challenge was like a scene from Crystal Maze. We had gained entry to the shop itself, clutching our little green card with his shoe size written on it, and had to find the right shoes, in the right size and as quickly as possible so we could get a fitting ticket, get them checked and escape the madness. We practically ran to the boys shoe section and scanned for shoes. I grabbed a pair in the size we needed, plus the size above ‘just in case’ and dashed to the fitting area. William, who had been remarkably patient until then, announced that he ‘didn’t want school shoes anyway’. I’m not sure what he expected me to say, or what he thought he was going to wear for school, but we were saved by a very calm shop assistant who called out our ticket number at that moment. (Anyone remember the deli counter tickets in supermarkets? It was just like that!) For the first (and probably last) time ever, the shoes that we chose actually fitted. I may have accidentally sighed with relief as they were the only shoes with rubber toes (I’ve seen what little boys in reception class do to their shoes and it isn’t pretty, and life is too short for polishing out scuff marks!) Part two of the footwear triathlon was over.
We were into the final stage, payment. Theoretically it should have been easy, but the poor harassed staff were let down by technology and the till froze. The atmosphere in the queue began to get a little tense, one of the toddlers had decided to up their game with meltdown mode (I felt very sorry for that mum, been there and done that so many times!) and a few tuts could be heard. The tutting did not make the card machine work but one of the staff members worked their magic and the queue was moving again. We paid (a lot less than if we hadn’t gone to the outlet!) and literally headed for the light at the end of the tunnel as we went back out into the street from the cool and slightly dark shop. We had survived, and although I felt like we’d run a series of gauntlets each with their own potential for a grumpy 4 year old strop, there was no celebration. It was a little disappointing. It felt as though there should be a finishing line, with people cheering on the participants who crossed the line, huffing and puffing but with bags filled with the coveted brand new school shoes.
They’d better still fit in two weeks time! As for me, I’m having a drink and wondering how on earth spending the best part of a morning buying shoes that aren’t for me has become an actual day out.