‘Really, you stay here and have a bit of a rest,’ I insisted to a surprised DH.
‘Are you sure?’ he asked, probably regretting it instantly.
‘Really,’ I replied. ‘You got them up this morning, and took them out all afternoon yesterday. You deserve a break.’
DH, who was hung-over and isn’t silly enough to look a gift horse in the mouth, instantly beamed. ‘Well in that case, I’ll help you load them into the car.’
The plan was supposed to be a simple one. Take kids to Mirdif City Centre Mall. Deposit said kids at Little Explorers play centre and get to Carrefour for a quick shop before the shocking weekend rush. And after that, perhaps, a very small child-free retail session – just for me…
Sadly, when we fell at the first fence, I didn’t take the massive hint that it was going to be one of those days…
At Little Explorers:
‘Sorry Maam. You can only leave them unaccompanied if they are booked in for a workshop. And that’s Dhs200.
‘And how long can I leave them for?’ I sighed.
‘Ninety minutes Maam.’
I did a quick calculation. Was 90 minutes enough time for me to waddle at high speed to the other end of the mall, waddle around Carrefour getting the weekly shop, waddle to the car to pack it in the boot, and then have a blissful waddle around some clothes shops before collecting them again?
Shit. 90 minutes (even at my fastest heavy preggy pace) wasn’t long enough… And 90 minutes of ‘workshop time’ would also cost 40 quid!
‘How about I get them a day pass?’ (a cheaper option)
‘You have to stay with them if you get a day pass. You can take them in and out. But you can’t leave them. We used to let parents leave them, but it all got a bit out of hand,’ she finished lamely.
I’ll bet it did, I thought, seeing my little Saturday morning window of freedom closing faster than a frightened clam.
Not only that, but the boys were now all geared up to spending a session in their favourite play area. Their little faces turned towards me with a Dickensian hunger only seen before in the form of Oliver Twist asking for more gruel…. And of course, I foolishly let it break through my reserve..
‘Okaaay…. Give me a day pass and I’ll go in with them,’ I eye-rolled 10 seconds later.
‘YIPPEE! HOORAY!’ shouted oldest son. And before my card had popped out of the visa machine, he was through the turnstiles, with the little one in hot pursuit.
An hour and a half later it was midday and I was beginning to feel hungry. Very hungry in fact; the kind of hungry you can only feel when you’re eight months pregnant and you’ve forgotten to eat breakfast. ‘Come on boys! Let’s go and get lunch. I promise you can come back in again afterwards.’
Clearly not convinced at my promise (even though for once I actually meant it) it took a further hour to persuade them to leave – and only on the proviso that we got ‘lunch’ from that revolting travesty of a ‘food’ outlet, McDonalds…
As sod’s law would have it, a million other parents had clearly experienced exactly the same brainwave at exactly the same time. Yes. The cluster theory was being beautifully demonstrated at the ‘golden arches’ counter. Meanwhile, every other fast food outlet was ghost-town empty.
‘How about a nice healthy salad and a fruit smoothie instead?’ I suggested hopefully as we passed the Saladicious stall at the same time as an old newspaper page and a ball of rolling tumbleweed.
‘No!’ cried the little one, stamping his foot. ‘We want the Power Rangers toys!’
Wearily, we joined the queue. We waited. And we waited. No, let me rephrase that. Tired and hypoglycemic, I spent 20 minutes acting as a Weeble-shaped buffer between two children who were trying to kill each other.
‘Certainly Maam. Would you like to go upsize?’
‘No. regular will be fine.’
‘What drinks with the Happy Meal?
‘What have you got?
‘Apple or orange Maam.’
‘Water?’ blank look.
‘Yes. You know, in a bottle.’
‘Not with the Happy Meal Maam.’
‘Okay. Apple then please.’
And with your meal Maam?’
‘What are my options?’
‘Diet or normal coke Maam.?
‘I have a diet coke then please.’
‘That’s Dhs40 please.’
I passed over my card with relief, only to be met with the unapologetic red-rag-to-a-bull words ‘Cash only Maam!’
I’m ashamed to say I lost it (with her and the manager) and lost it only in the way a hungry pregnant woman with two fighting kids can.
‘Put a sign up for God sakes! Don’t make people queue for 20 minutes, with their bickering children, when you have no intention of entering the 21st century and letting them pay with a card! Furthermore, if you can’t spell well enough to write a sign, install a bloody cash point in the food court instead!’ And with that, I grabbed both children, and march-waddled off to the nearest ATM (which was about half a mile away) accompanied by cries of, ‘I want Power Rangers!’
An hour later, the children (now stuffed with hydrogenated, processed, preservative-filled, antibiotic-laden-meat and sodium-encrusted fries) were ready to make a move – back to the play centre.
‘Okay. But first, let’s go to the loo and get your hands washed.’
Of course, it was never going to be that simple. On the way, a Power Ranger toy was lost. Once we got there, the little one shut his finger in the cubicle door and needed a plaster from the Information Desk before he’d stop screaming. When we eventually arrived back at Little Explorers, there was a birthday party for a million children in full swing. The place was raucous, heaving and headache-inducing. Within minutes, the little one got into a punch-up over a wheel barrow in the construction zone and oldest son managed to soak himself in the water-play area…
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the little one shuffled off and took a sneaky poo in his pants…. I found him, backed into a corner, a look of blissful concentration on his face.
‘Quick! Let’s get to the bathroom!’
‘Too late Mummy,’ he replied with a sigh.
I won’t bore you with what happened next. Suffice to say that it involved Carrefour late on a Saturday afternoon (AKA hell on earth), several bags of squashed fruits and vegetables caused by children insisting on riding in the trolley, a beautifully decorated cake, turned upside down in its box and then sat on, and me, not only forgetting to weigh my vegetables (and realizing when we’d got to the front of the heinously long check-out queue) but also forgetting where I’d parked the flipping car….
‘So, you had a good time then?’ enquired DH, as we stomped through the front door at 5pm, exhausted, sweaty, tear-stained (me) and smeared in buttercream icing (them).
‘Sure!’ I replied a tad manically while removing a rogue French fry from my bra. ‘It was kind of non-stop. But you know what?’
‘As trips to the mall go, it really wasn’t that bad at all…’