Lost (in Tesco)

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I was watching an old George Clooney/Michelle Pfeiffer movie the other night about two single parents who get through a hellish day of work and childcare challenges using each other as temporary child minding services.

SPOILER (should you care in the slightest): He wanders nonchalantly through the streets of New York, not holding onto either child and not looking in every direction simultaneously and manages not to lose either bambino. Later, she answers her phone and loses his daughter.

Watching George Clooney navigate road crossings so carelessly reminded me how I never really got to trust Himself with not losing any or all of our four when they were small and out without me.

I hate to generalize, but I’m going to anyway. Men are just more relaxed when in charge of kids, or indeed groups of any sort, especially in superficially safe environments like the local supermarket or trekking through unmapped forest. Or maybe it’s just me and my neurotic parenting that meant I couldn’t walk anywhere without constant checks and head counts. Sometimes I would stop dead in the middle of a high street and shriek “Where’s x ?” And find myself tripping over x as we all screeched to a panicked halt. And we did once manage to leave Youngest Daughter somewhere accidentally, despite my paranoia.

It’s because men (yes, I’m stereotyping sorry) like to lead and assume that everyone else will follow and keep up. It’s an understandable assumption based on evolutionary survival skills; who wants to get lost from the pack in the middle of the forest?

But I know better. I know about distraction and daydreaming and following impulse and noses. And never mind four kids, Himself is quite capable even today of losing me in a supermarket.

I offer up Tesco this morning in evidence.

I paused for a split second to assess shampoo, and he was gone. Completely. In the manner of a scary opener to a horror thriller. At first I was calm, methodically combing the aisles. No sightings. Next I resorted to the family whistle. No return call. Next I tried his phone (four times) and mentally practiced gratitude skills by not leaving aggressive rude messages when it went to voicemail. Still nothing. I wondered how management would react to me requesting a lost wife call over the announcement system. Not well, I reflected.

At one point I thought I caught a glimpse of him scooting past Eggs. It proved a mirage.

In no time at all I’d moved to a series of increasingly improbable catastrophic scenarios to account for his absence.

In a state of panic, but recognizing I needed to calm down, I finally exited the tills and went to send some rude texts (I’d given up temporarily on practicing gratitude skills) and sit down to read my book.

Finally a phone groan. He was quite safe, at till 17.

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