I took advantage of the fact that the Teacher Strikes today had left my 14 year old daughter's school closed - she is going to Spain shortly and desperately in need of some new clothes, so we went shopping. I also had £40 of birthday money to spend on my little boy (my parents aways give money instead of presents).
It was going so well. We had found summer tops and shorts ideal for Spain, some gorgeous outfits for a little boy who had just turned one and a whole assortment of cars, boats and musical instruments to keep him happy. The only thing we were really struggling with was a swimming costume. My daughter is tall and statuesque and would look amazing in any of the skimpy bikinis that were on offer but she is also only fourteen, yet to feel entirely comfortable in her developing body and sensible enough to know that she would be self conscious and awkward having too much flesh exposed.
We decided to drive to an out of town retail park with a big Tesco and a Sports Shop in the hope that there would be better range of costumes to suit our needs.
As luck would have it, we found exactly what we were looking for and a few more things to add to the basket... but when I came to pay, I realised that the credit card slot in my purse was unusually empty. I searched all the other slots on the off chance that in a careless moment I had ignored my own OCD when it comes to wallet ordering but I knew it would be fruitless.
It is a horrible feeling of rising panic. I tried to remember where I had used it last and if there was any possibility that I might have left it in the machine there (it wouldn't be the first time!). I imagined some unscrupulous individual spending thousands of pounds of my credit as I stood there wondering.
My first priority was to find another means to pay for my shopping. I had a debit card and a couple of other credit cards, none of which I knew the PIN number for. Thankfully, my daughter had a twenty pound note in her purse which when put together with my cash and a Club Card voucher covered the amount we owed.
With the first crisis of How to Pay for my Shopping out of the way, my concerns returned to the Where Did I Use my Credit Card Last conundrum. Eventually we traced it back to the Early Learning Centre. Our departure from there was somewhat hasty and stressful with my three year old daughter digging her heels in and refusing to come out of the Little Tikes Coupe car that she decided she rather liked.
I had picked up the ELC catalogue when I was there so it was an easy enough task to find the contact number for the branch and give them a ring on my mobile which confirmed that I had indeed left my credit card in their machine. With my fears of being the victim of a massive credit card fraud allayed, it was a simple case of driving back into town, revisiting the shop and being reunited with my plastic companion. Slotting that card back into its allotted position in my purse restored normality.
We did a little bit more shopping before we all decided we had just about had enough and wanted to go home.
I don't know what had possessed me to park my car in the bay next to the trolley park. It meant I couldn't open the doors wide enough to be useful on the driver's side so there was a bit of acrobatic climbing through required. Whether it was that or trying to juggle babies, shopping and buggies I don't know but I threw my keys onto the driver's seat and loaded everything into the back of my Galaxy whilst my daughter strapped the baby into his seat. She finished before I did so she shut the back door and waited for me to finish and climb through into my seat from the passenger side before she could climb through, strap the three year old in and finally get herself seated. I slammed the boot down. There was a whirring and clunking of central locking activating.
I have a fear of locking my babies in the car. I actually have little rituals that I follow when I am on my own with them to prevent it happening. Now here I was with a worried looking teenage daughter questioning why the doors were locked, two little children locked inside as yet oblivious to the situation and car keys sprawled in an untidy heap in plain view on my driver's seat.
I could have panicked. I didn't.
My three year old is extremely bright and capable and thankfully not buckled in!
I asked her to do a little job for me and instructed her to pull on the shiny handle which I though would release the locking mechanism. She didn't really understand what she was supposed to be pulling so tried a few different things. Me shouting my instructions through the window of the car attracted attention. A very well meaning passerby came to offer assistance. Unfortunately, the worried face of a stranger shouting further instructions to an already slightly bemused little girl did nothing to help. It was lovely of her to care enough to try and help but I was really pleased when she apologised profusely because she had to go back to work. To my relief, my daughter eventually pulled the right handle... but the relief was short lived. It had not unlocked the car.
I will be forever grateful that my little girl likes to climb and clamber. I directed her into the front seat to get the keys. I have a million keys on my key ring but the car keys are distinctive. She got the right key in her hand and from that point it was simply a case of getting her to push the remote locking button but by now, she was starting to lose interest in this game.
I don't really know how I was still managing to stay calm but I was. A combination of gentle encouragement, making her laugh and promising that if she pressed the button I would open her packet of sweets for her restored her interest long enough for her to squeeze the car key against another on the ring. By some miracle, the whirring and clunking I longed to hear sounded. The car was open. For the second time in less than an hour, normality was restored.
I have a superstitious belief that these thing come in threes. A lost credit card, children locked in a car.... what, I wonder, is next?