I once saw a man limping down a supermarket aisle, a demanding toddler in each arm and a basket crashing rhythmically into his thigh. Both his children had obviously required an urgent cuddle, but he also needed to buy his groceries. He looked exhausted. And faintly hunted. I would not do well in this scenario. I do not have the muscle. The three of us would end up cowering in a huddle by the bakery counter.
I therefore don’t have the confidence to take my two sons to the supermarket on my own. The issue with the one-on-two ratio is that my sons do not share common goals. So for instance when we step outside on the green over the road one of them might head off to the nearest large stick while the other practises his dribbling skills with a beach ball. The triangular geometry of the green presents a busy road at every turn, not to mention aggressively friendly Labradors sprinting across the grass.
Admittedly the supermarket doesn’t offer the same dangers. I could stash my children in a trolley to reduce the threat further, but it doesn’t leave much space for anything else. I could also stuff them with produce grabbed from the shelves. But I am irrationally repulsed whenever I see a fellow shopper eating goods before they’ve reached the check-out, so my own sense of supermarket decorum prevents me doing this.
However I have manage to master the supermarket mission with the Major on his own by providing him with entertainment. It’s basically the same strategy that Mary Poppins proposed in A Spoonful of Sugar. If you make the most mundane chore into a game, then it becomes a lark and a spree. Even today I heard an Underground operative use the tactic by pretending to be a darts commentator while announcing the next tube. I wouldn’t suggest it for workers in the emergency services or medical profession, although perhaps certain members of the current American political establishment might be using it.
The Major’s game is simple: essentially it’s bingo. I’ll draw him a sheet with a selection of supermarket items on it. It gives him the simple distracting pleasure of searching things out and then crossing them off by scrawling in a little box. We go on a treasure hunt through the aisles, picking out broccoli or breadsticks or anything. I’ve recently upgraded the trail to the next level, drawing pictures of cows or wheat and asking him to identify the food that they produce (he is aware for example that Peppa Pig and her kin constitute the contents of his ham sandwich). In a few years, I’ll be getting him to search out individual barcodes.
Of course there has to be a prize at the end otherwise there is no point. I normally incentivise the Major with an iced doughnut (pack of four, I’ll have the other three). This can only be consumed after it has been purchased, beforehand would be repellent.