A major tantrum in the aisles

I hate shopping. Well, it's not so much going to the shop and buying something that irks me as the female version of shopping. This involves wandering around shops and thinking about buying things, then not buying them and finally purchasing something that was on sale. Apparently, this is saving money. The logic is beyond me completely. It would save money to not buy anything at all, especially something that you don't really need. I'm guessing the guys that are reading this are nodding their heads and the females are shaking theirs. Someone told me only yesterday that a shopping centre near him has introduced a Man's Cave for the blokes to go and amuse themselves: a bit like a child minding centre I guess. I was too frightened to ask what happens in a Man's Cave. Before random breath testing and responsible drinking it used to be the pub.

Blokes, apart from metrosexuals, are different. We do our shopping in our head while watching the football on the box. Then we go to a shop and buy whatever it is we want. Most of us can do our Christmas present gathering in about half an hour. This rule does not apply to Bunnings and BCF.

But, sometimes hanging around a shopping centre while she who must be obeyed single-handedly resolves the retail crisis, can produce special moments. One of these, and I find I deliberately search them out these days, is to watch a parent, or even two which is even more fun, try and reason with a two year old. This usually takes the form of a deal. One formula is, "If you do this then I'll do that" or "If you stop doing that then this will happen". Another involves more convoluted logic that is something like, "Now, come on, let's get the shopping done and we'll go to the park" or "Now, you've been good all morning and had a nice sleep. What's the matter?" I particularly like seeing carers asking toddlers why they are having a tantrum, crying, or generally acting like Mel Gibson. It is absolute futility in action.

As the strategy never works, it is great fun to watch the logic getting more and more complicated while the frustration starts to rise, the voice is trembling, movement is becoming more ragged and the brain has become completely disconnected. Of course, we've all done this at one time or another and part of the amusement is knowing that it isn't you and that, in all likelihood, you won't have to do it again. And you know you won't make the same mistake with your grandchildren, which of course is a completely different kettle of milk formula: you can hand them back when their psychological nappies are on the nose.

Presumably, the thinking behind all this is the assumption that we are talking to a small adult: a little person. We believe that the little bundle of joy is able to comprehend beyond immediate need and current emotional state, that they can postpone gratification. Either that or we are just thinking out loud, in hope, rather than really talking to the child. But I don't think this is the case from my observation. There is something quite unnerving about a tantrum in the cereal section and only worse if it is at the checkout in the presence of the strategically placed chocolate frogs: I suspect that supermarket packers have an evil sense of humour.

Emotions interfere with common sense in interesting ways, whether we are dealing with a two year old ball of egocentrism, Aunt Betty's gossiping or the next door neighbour whose dog keeps leaving doggy-doo on our lawn. The brain seems to disengage but the mouth keeps operating without restraint and things deteriorate from that point.

When we feel the first sign of rising emotion is the time to practise the deep breathing, invoke the calming thought before the brain locks up. Easier said than done but anything to thwart supermarket packers and bored psychologists.

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