Purgatory for Parents

Ah, Mahon Point.

Cork’s finest shopping centre.

Or as I like to call it, ‘Purgatory for Parents’. Where only the very brave or the very stupid go to test themselves to their parental limits.

My mooching days are currently on hold. I am past the stage of the gorgeous new born sleeping in the pram, but have not yet reached the stage where I can hand my child my left kidney before shuffling them off to the cinema for a couple of hours while I press my nose to shop windows, stuffing BB’s muffins into my face.

My visits have now become a different experience entirely and tend to be out of necessity only. I make my annual pilgrimage to the Benefit counter, where I can indulge myself for a moment in the fantasy that I am still young and fabulous. I resist the temptation to invest in a truckload of products to rebuild my face, take my one essential item and leave the beautiful assistant looking after me with her giant, patronising eyes.

Or it’s a big day out to get Mamma some ‘good’ bras. (This is code for expensive).

Sure it’s a mother’s basic right to have good boob support, after all these puppies have been through! I can no longer squeeze into the neon, racer-back, lace jobbies from Penneys. So I paw and feel my way through the rails of fancy undies, looking for that magical red discount tag.

I can feel that bitch watching me from the Benefit counter…

But as any savvy woman knows, all these jackpots lie at the other end of the rainbow, in the mystical land of Debenhams.

First you must run the gauntlet of the shopping centre, through a series of obstacles and challenges, not unlike navigating the Crystal Maze.

The large, gaping doorways of Zara and Next shout, “Come on in kids! Hide & go seek under the rails of all our lovely garments – a game that Mum just loves to play! Pull the pristine clothes off their hangers as Mum joins you in a jolly game of Wrestle the Toddler!”

Or the Flying Tiger shop roars, “Over here! Come smash, steal or soil our amazing array of colourful objects conveniently displayed at the perfect height for small hands!”

The multiple shoe shops that are just a free for all for a toddler with a worryingly strong penchant for trying on shoes.

The sweet stand.

I am undecided as to whether this thing is a blessing or a curse. Also plonked on the main avenue, if your child does manage to escape your vice grip, this is where they will most likely be found, drooling unhygienically over the plastic boxes of sugar. This leaves you two options; drag them away screaming with the bribe of sweets later ‘if they’re good’ or bribe immediately and conclude your business quickly before the sugar rush kicks in.

And don’t even get me started on the beaming, shiny Sky man who has set up shop in the middle of the avenue, trying to “talk for a sec about your Sky package…”

You’ll be getting an offer on your own package if you don’t move out the way quick sharp young man. I have a child to capture!

Having survived all these challenges, your final hurdle is upon you. Steering an independent toddler and an over-excited four year old onto an escalator is somewhat akin to herding forty cats through a tiny cat flap.

Your timing has to be spot on. Overshoot and you’ll be retrieving a stray from the men’s toilets. (Why don’t they ever wander into the ladies??). Or a last minute two year old u-turn could involve you sprinting like an Olympian down the entire length of the centre. (How do two year old legs move faster than a grown human’s??!!)

Finally, as you gracefully step onto the escalator to ascend to Debenhams heaven, brood hopefully intact, having survived the gauntlet, you look down and realise you could have just come in the entrance at this end.

F&*%!

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