Making the most of a new life


Negotiating the brand maze

Today’s mission was to do a big shop at the supermarket with Sam. The primary objectives were to get everything on the list, nothing more or less, and to keep Sam happy during what is usually a fairly long process.

Before I was a parent I used to watch people struggle round supermarkets with children and I used to think: “why do they put themselves through this, why don’t they just go without them?”. When I think about this now I laugh at my innocence and naivety, and if anyone said something like this to me now I would reply: “do you really think I’m doing this out of choice?”.

Before we moved house I was fairly good at negotiating my way round our local supermarket. Despite frequent changes I generally knew where everything was and could find my way round with the children without falling foul of too many of the marketeers’ traps. I knew where the Lightning McQueen birthday cakes, the Charlie and Lola pink milk, and even the Pooh Bear plasters were; mainly from experience. I even knew how to get down the dairy aisle without ending up with a load of Thomas yoghurts. Now I have to relearn another completely different layout and have to develop a new path through the marketing maze.

At this point my old self would have said: “well if they want something why do you not just say no?”. This being the old self that has never been faced with a two year old wanting nothing in life but a torch because it has Mickey Mouse on it who is quickly surrounded by a clutch of grandparents (none of whom I know) offering advice on the matter (because that is the time of day we tend to go shopping).

We walk into the store and Sam immediately says: “ice cream”. I now know that if I want to keep him going, then ice cream is the last item on the list to get, it gives him hope. So far so good when we arrive at the start (fruit and veg), Sam happily sat down with his in-trolley entertainment pack. But I immediately knew that it is going to be a long shop when we get to the first item: tomatoes. I pick up a pack of cherry, but Sam is adamant that we have plum and is in no mood for cherry. Ok I can live with plum, and so it goes on around the shop with every other item that goes in the basket requiring either explanation and/ or negotiation and, if I am honest, I am enjoying the challenge. After the tomato incident I generally got my own way, the only additional items being an over priced children’s magazine and (I am not sure how) a very large pot of honey and clementine greek yoghurt, the latter of which Sam became obsessed with (I think it was the bees on the label), but which sounded very tasty so I gave in.

When we got to the kitchen roll, however, we played out an all too familiar scenario. I prefer the recycled own brand six pack, Sam likes the one with the elephant on it. I was willing to get the elephant six pack but that was “too big”, this hardened both our resolves and after about five minutes of negotiation we ended up with an elephant two pack “limited edition” and a recycled four pack. Calm descended, and so on to the toilet rolls: “woof woof” said Sam. Well that’s branding for you.

In the end not a bad hour in the supermarket, and I pretty much met my objectives. Sam was happy most of the time, including a memorable passage where he insisted on roaring as loud as he could in the cereal aisle (thank you Tony the Tiger), and I got everything on the list with only a few extras.

Like many things supermarket shopping is very different with a toddler in tow, it is a challenge, but as with many things if you are up for it, it can be fun and very rewarding; just do not ask me why I could not have come on my own.