Monday, 8 August 2016

Playing shops with a 2 1/2 year old

"Mummy! Let's play shopping!" says Duckling. I groan inwardly. Shopping is Duckling's favourite 'let's pretend' game at the moment and his enthusiasm for it knows no bounds. We play it in the bath. We play it in the garden. We play it in the sandpit at the swing park. As long as there are items to buy and sell and something that will serve as a 'beeper' (cash register) we're good to go.

There are a few basic rules to "shopping":

  1. Everyone must call everyone else 'sir'. I am sir, Drake is sir, Iggle Piggle is sir, Duckling is sir... This has led to some interesting looks when we're out and about and Duckling yells "You like a Pom Bear SIR?" at me from the pushchair. They must think I'm a female version of those overbearing American fathers who insist on their kids calling them 'sir' as a sign of respect. I have tried to explain it's 'madam' when you talk to ladies, but to no avail. And I suspect that might actually sound worse when out in public. So sir it is. A warped victory for equality I say.
  2. Customer service is not always a priority. Take this exchange from this morning:
    Duckling: Hello sir!
    Me: Good morrow my fine fellow! Pray tell, what delightful wares have you in your emporium today? [Have I ever mentioned I did A-level Theatre Studies?]
    Duckling: (laughing) Mummy! What you saying?!
    Me: Sorry. What can I buy?
    Duckling: Umm. Some tings.
    Me: Hmm, things eh? What about this digger? Can I buy this?
    Duckling: No you can't. Is MY digger.
    Me: Oh. That's a shame. What about a helicopter? I see you have two!
    Duckling: No. They MY helicopters. I keep them actually. You not buy them.
    Me: Oh dear, this isn't going very well. Can I buy this book then?
    Duckling: No. Is too heavy.
    Me: Too heavy?! Really?
    Duckling: Yes. You buy this book (profering Mr Topsy-Turvy my way). Is niiiiice and clean.
    Me: Um OK, I like clean books. Sold!
    Duckling: No! Give it back! I have to BEEP it Sir Mummy!
    Me: Oh, right.
    Duckling: (waving the barcode scanner on his plastic till at it). Ugggh! Is not working! I sort out numbers. (Mashes all the keys on the till at once, causing cacophonous bleeping). There!
    Me: Good. How much do I owe you?
    Duckling: £20!
    Me: Gosh, that's a bit steep! Let me see if I have enough (rummaging in Duckling's purse for some plastic coins). Here we go!
    Duckling: Thank you! (Opening till) Oh. I not got any change. I borrow your purse sir.
    Me: Umm, I'm not sure that's quite how it works...
    Duckling: Yes. (Dumps all the coins from my purse into his till then gives me back the purse). Here you go sir! Keep the change!
    Me: Err thanks....
  3. As per the above, every transaction must end with "keep the change", regardless of whether Duckling is playing the shopkeeper or the customer. I don't know where he got this phrase from, but apparently no game of shopping is complete without it
  4. Also as per the above, everything always costs £20. Doesn't matter what you've bought, or how many items you've stuffed in your bag, your shopping will always come to "£20 please sir". Unless I'm the shopkeeper, in which case Duckling's purchases come to somewhere between 10p and £185 million. It's OK, I accept credit cards.
  5. Making announcements into the till's microphone (which distorts your voice in a shop tannoy fashion) must always involve actively putting the microphone in your mouth and drooling all over it. 30 months and still teething. Is that normal?
  6. There is NOTHING funnier you can buy in Duckling's shop than a small, anatomically correct plastic doll. The unwisely named 'naked baby' gets purchased a lot, and generates particular mirth when stuffed head down into the shopping bag with his bottom sticking out. Poor old naked baby.
  7. At the end of the game, all of the items for sale must be violently scattered all over the floor. Any requests to pick them up will be ignored until threats to drop bedtime stories or bribes involving biscuits are cracked out. Actually, this scenario is not unique to games of shops now I think about it...

Like much else in parenthood, I both love and loathe playing shopping. I loathe it because we have to do it about a bazillion fricking times a day and the repetition can get a teensy bit boring. I love it because, well, I quite like shopping and it's the closest thing I get to a decent spend fest these days. But more seriously, because Duckling plays it with an innocent enthusiasm that is a joy to behold. He is both brilliantly aware and woefully ignorant of normal shopping protocols: sequence (greeting, selection, check out, money), great; social niceties and correct monetary exchange, well, not so much. It is incredible to see him engrossed in a make believe world that simply didn't exist in his brain a few months ago. This morning he tried to sell me the bed I was lying in, which I thought was particularly enterprising. So as much as I wish I could duck out sometimes and leave him to play shops with Iggle Piggle, I keep finding myself suckered back in to being his customer, because even when he's stealing my money and throwing my carefully selected cabbages on the floor, seeing his imagination take off is a Mummy privilege that I wouldn't miss for anything.  Plus it's completely hilarious...

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