It was just one of those days. Where nothing and everything happened.
A day when a soothing pot of tea restored the equilibrium after the afternoon's fraught tears.
But the morning began at a snail's pace, frustratingly lazy, the gloomy smog of a head cold setting the dial of my day to red - to not do very much at all. Just chill.
"Little A, mummy is feeling very tired, let's snuggle on the sofa, I'll turn the TV on."
"Mummy, can you get me some dried cheerios in a bowl and a beaker of warm milk?"
"What's the magic word?"
This is often the way, when Little A has woken in the middle of the night, not returning to her sleepy dream world until at least an hour later. And curled under the warmth of a duvet, Little A's hand resting on my crown, the theme tunes of Tilly and Friends and the Postman Pat wash over me, lulling me into a half slumber like the delicate sound of lapping water at high tide - the crunch crunch of my daughter's teeth on her breakfast cereal, the only prevention of my being pulled fully under.
We break fast at 10 am. I have my bowl of 'proper raspberry porridge', Little A - the hungry caterpillar - digests two bowls of cheerios, this time with whole milk, and a bowl of mummy-made nutella pear porridge. Then to feed my cold - unbelievably, Little A still isn't satiated - I toast some thickly cut slices of sourdough bread, generously spread with unsalted butter and mirabelle plum jam. Thoroughly delicious. After time spent colouring in, browsing social media, that extra cup of tea, our morning feast has finally reached it's conclusion.
It's 11.00 am.
In the shower I chide myself with guilty thoughts, I'm such a lazy mum, useless at getting on, other mothers are out and about by 8.00 am.
After such a slow start, the only remedy I can think of is to make the most of the rest of the day. Little A and I dress together in the main bedroom. I watch as she pulls on her red doggy top, flattening the blond hair against her head. She falls over on the bed mattress as her feet catch in her trousers. I rub my tummy with stretch mark cream before clothing myself in what feels like one fell swoop. Little A reads a book bundled in a duvet on the sofa while I methodically sort the dirty laundry from the clothes basket into piles - underwear, Little A's clothes, Younger Dad's shirts, my jumpers (Little A's clothes always take precedence in the washing machine).
At 12.00 pm we are ready for the big, wide world. Well the supermarket to be precise. And it's here, in the baby aisle, were the morning's peace somersaults into a pool of pandemonium. Splash.
"Mummy please can I have this skipping rope?"
"Well I guess I promised you a treat," as I inspect the object of my daughter's desires, turning it slowly around in my hand.
"Mummy can I have this toy car too?"
"Sweetheart, you can't have both - you will have to chose one or the other."
"I want both. I want both. I want both. Waaaaaah."
And so it begins. She shakes her head. She stamps her feet in frustration. She screams. She barricades herself in front of the trolley. I am forbidden to move. So I kneel down at her level, "You have to choose. I am sorry but you can't have both, now I have to finish the shopping, you decide which toy you want as we go around the aisles." Of course, the situation escalates, "but I want both, I want both mummy." I plough ahead with the formidable task of calmly continuing the shopping with a mini volcano following behind.
In dairy, she pulls and pushes against the trolley, tears flying from her angry blue eyes. In wholefoods she is violet with rage, screeching, wailing, channelling her fire into physical strikes against my right thigh. We find ourselves obstructed by a brown tower of stacked crates, and in turn we frustrate a lady behind us. As she passes I notice her severe silver bob, her strong jawline, her ankle length black coat, she's tall but stoops over her trolley. Could she be 75? I don't know but there is something rather resilient about her, clearly made of tough stuff. She reminds me of a hawkish buzzard or vulture. Then she stops, turns to me and says with her nose in the air, "look how angry she is, what an angry little girl, totally out of control, no discipline, you need to discipline her."
The stooping buzzard continues her shopping as if she's just handed me a bouquet of flowers. But I am rendered speechless. And I feel terribly mortified, totally judged and inept. Why do some people think it's acceptable to publicly judge a parent? It's like the modern day version of medieval stocks. Maybe they should hand out tomatoes and potatoes and cabbages so shoppers can lob them at will at unsuspecting mothers.
Little A continues her frustrated onslaught. I feel every eye in the supermarket. At both ends of the aisle I can see customers and shop assistants staring - some smiling sympathetically - in our direction. And then, like passing through the eye of a hurricane, the eerily calm centre of a storm, the tantrum simply stops.
"Mummy I want a cuddle," she says between quiet sobs,"can you put me back in the trolley?" With Little A fully cuddled, nestled in the plastic seat, I turn my back to her pretending to choose a bag of wheat free penne slumped on a shelf while hot self conscious tears roll down my face. I just can't let Little A see that I am crying. I try making a phone call to Younger Dad - sorry I can't take your call right now, leave a message and I'll get right back to you. Frustrated, I take few deep breaths, and a few more still, and one final breath to steady myself. I'm ready to take on frozen foods.
"Little A, I have come to a decision," as I place the petits pois on top of the pork, "because you lashed out at me, and the trolley, you won't be getting any treats this afternoon. And when we get home you are going on the thinking cushion."
"But mummy, but mummy, I want the skipping rope. Waaaaaah."
And so it begins again. The storm continuing apace. I calmly wheel Little A to the baby aisle and place the skipping rope back on the shelf. And then I calmly wheel the trolley to a small checkout queue, my face parked in neutral.
"Look at you - I feel just like that when I shop at M&S," A kind voice interjects behind my back, and it has the effect of slowing down Little A's latest tirade - her shyness dampening the blaze.
I turn around to face a warm presence. Her cheeks are ruddy from tiny broken veins. In her hat she wears a miniature fresh daffodil. She's dressed head to foot in green and brown. A mother hen. And then she says something that's so reassuring, so comforting, that administers an antidote, some happy medicine for the earlier poisonous criticism,
"You're doing a brilliant job mummy, keep it up."
And I wanted to hug her. To say thank you, oh thank you, thank you once again.
I don't think she'll ever realise how much she made my day.
How did you handle a public meltdown?
Have you been publicly criticised for your parenting?
If you enjoy reading Older Mum in a Muddle, please spare a thought for me in the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards - The BIBS - there are sixteen great categories to chose from but I think I'm best placed in the writers category. You can click on the badge below to take you through to the nomination form on the Britmums page - there's only one week left to nominate..... Thank you! X.