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  • Writer's pictureRichard - Daddy with a View

My daughter - the model employee

Have you heard about Waitrose’s newest employee? She’s about 2 ft 7 inches tall, weighs in at around 2 stone, has blonde hair and if you ask her where the lettuce is, you’ll be met with a stern “no!”

Okay, you got me. Waitrose have not actually employed Rosalind. But she COULD work there. Prior to the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, going to Waitrose in Ringwood used to be a family activity on a weekend. Granted, Rosalind was so little that she slept most of the way around the shop (and according to Charlotte I couldn’t be trusted to purchase everything that was actually written on the hit list), but it was nice making it a family outing. We spent little time together as a family during the week; so going shopping was almost a sense of occasion (I know that probably sounds a bit silly).

Naturally, once the pandemic hit, we were unable to continue our mini family outings, and we instead took it in turns to each go to Waitrose once a week to get the food shop. That lasted for about 3 months – after which Charlotte decided that because I kept bringing home the “wrong” type of vegetables (who knew there were types?) that she would be the better shopper, and I the better “baby-wrangler”.

This arrangement worked out well for the vast majority of the intervening year – and then Charlotte created her business; and started her blog, in April. She has taken to writing her weekly blog on a Saturday morning, and she really prefers peace and quiet in which to write, so to help provide the right environment for her creative “process”, I have taken over shopping duties, with Rosalind in tow.

I expected it (and I bet you’re silently chuckling to yourself with the mental image) to be bedlam. Literal bedlam. I expected that putting a wriggly toddler into the front child seat of a trolley was essentially giving her license to pull everything and anything off the shelfs at breakneck speed. Think Supermarket Sweep without Dale Winton (and no prize of cash behind the tinned veg) and you’ll have an impression of the mild sweats and panic that I was in when we drove to the supermarket on our first Saturday morning as a father-daughter duo.

But alas, dear reader, although I hate to disappoint a crowd, bedlam couldn’t be further from the truth.

For those of you who may not be familiar with supermarkets; many of the big players on the grocery “scene” now offer you the opportunity to scan your own shopping with a handheld barcode scanner – meaning that you can pack your shopping as you’re going around the supermarket. This saves time at the checkout, and (largely) reduces the need for you to unpack your shopping until you’re at home (unless you get “pinged” for a rescan – and feel mildly embarrassed if you find out that said toddler has been throwing things into the bags without scanning them).

Rosalind took to the handheld “scanner” immediately. When I say “took to” I really mean “took ownership of”. Quite literally. Nothing that I picked up could be scanned by me – she had to scan every single item. Even if that doubled (or tripled) the amount of time it took to actually scan the barcode. Thankfully she did let me pack the items (although I have a sneaky feeling that I won this job because she felt it was “beneath” her supervisory and scanning role – hence getting her “slave” to do it).

Why am I telling you this story?

That’s an excellent question. The reason is simply as a reminder. As parents we see our children every single day, so we don’t often stop to acknowledge or even really think about, how quickly they grow up, how much they assert their independence from us, and the little ways in which they start to demonstrate their individual personalities. Rosalind is only just two years old, and yet even at that tender age, is very much a “boss”.

Now I know that is probably true of most toddlers – they all like to be in charge of something. But the supermarket story above sits as a reminder for me, particularly on days when she has a meltdown over not being able to do something; of exactly WHY she is experiencing those meltdowns, those big feelings.

Our job as parents is obviously to keep our children safe, to look after them, to teach them and to show them the “way” of life. Being a parent means, in the vast majority of cases, being incredibly busy and stressed at the same time. That means it is easy for us to simply “do things for” our children – because getting them involved in the process, giving them “autonomy” or ownership might slow things down, it might make us or them “late”, be that for nursery or school, activities, work or appointments.

But in doing those things “for” our children, we sometimes deprive them of the very thing that they want (and need) to start learning – independence, maturity and a “can-do” attitude.

Learning to be a father is as much about learning what TO do as learning what NOT to do, and when not to do it. I’m not perfect of course, I still end up cutting up Rosalind’s lunch when she pushes big pieces around the plate, I am as guilty as most of picking her up and simply “taking her to” the car, the house or wherever it is we’re going if she’s dawdling.

But I am trying to gradually be more mindful of occasions where I can help facilitate and foster her independence, because ultimately those are the key skills that she will need to enter the world as an adult. Perhaps I should ask Charlotte for one of those catchphrase type t-shirts for Christmas. It could say:

“Strong independent women come from independent daughters who are the boss of their own supermarket scanner”.

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