Sunday, August 24, 2014


The grind of shopping is best done alone. I'm talking about essentials, not retail therapy, which is best with soul mates. The daily shopping for essentials is much more difficult with children, even more so with foster children, generally. You spend half the time explaining why you can't spend vast amounts on things they suddenly see and want.

Seems as though round every shelf corner, at the end of every aisle, especially near the queue for the till, is stuff stacked at child's eye level and packaged at children, and priced just within their reach.

That's the retail industry. They are so unbelievably clever at pressing people's buttons, especially children's buttons. All we parents want to do is sweep through the supermarket or dart along the high street and get home, unpack and get on the outside of a cup of tea.

No chance.

"Can I have some sweets? Can I have a toy?"

There are a thousand ways to say "No" and none of them do the trick. They fail because around the next aisle, at child's eye level, is something else packaged, priced and stacked exactly for them.

It's not the child's fault. They are in no way whatsoever to blame. We parents are out buying stuff, their logic is "How come the grown-ups can go on a buying spree and we can't?" I have tried explaining to one of my foster children that I am not doing retail therapy, I'm buying essentials.

"Oh yeah right." came the reply, as he looked at the trolley "Prima magazine, chocolate digestives, a bottle of wine, like you'd die without those yeah?"

"Er fair enough..but..."

"Grapes, muffins, moisturiser..."

I've mentioned this foster child before, the one who's going to be a lawyer unless he's careful.

"Well you like grapes and muffins."

"Yeah but my point is; you're not just buying stuff we need. You're buying stuff that's fun for you as well. So why I can't I buy stuff that's fun for me?"

"Because I'm not made of money"

"How much money do you have in the world?"

"Not enough to buy everything you and I want"

"I only want a bag of Tangfastics"

It's not the child's fault. They never want to go shopping anyway, why would they? I never wanted to trawl around the shops with my mum when I was little, it was boring. Scary too for some reason. I would have wanted to trawl round the shops with someone else's mum even less.

Foster children often seem to have a very poor understanding of the value of money, maybe the adults in the home they were brought up in had the same problem. Foster children may not have been gently tutored in the difficult skill of going round the shops and behaving yourself. 

But also, in my mind on many shopping trips, is the simple fact that children who are taken into care have had a rough time of one sort or another. So then you find yourself asking yourself "Should I cave in out of basic kindness and agree to the spot purchase I'm being battered into submission to buy?" 

To be honest, I cave in sometimes. More often than I did with my own children, though they tended not to hassle so much or so fervently. Or so cunningly. When I give in, of course, and the child has the peace offering - a bag of sweets or a knick-knack - it's usually not enough. Scenting blood they will pitch for the headphones/GTA5*/puppy/flying lessons.

The solution to this particular fostering problem is easy, of course. Don't take them on the shopping trip. Not always possible, but by far the best thing.

Second best is trade-off: "If you don't ask for anything in the supermarket you can have an extra half hour before bedtime tonight". 

Doesn't always work. Because round every shelf corner, at the end of every aisle, especially near the queue for the till, is stuff stacked at child's eye level and packaged at children, and priced just within their reach.

Just like the Prima, chocolate digestives and moisturiser that take the curse off shopping for us adults.

*Grand Theft Auto 5, I'm told.


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