Owl Handbag Lady has the last word.

One of my many New Year’s Resolutions is to be a better Mum. More patience, less work while they are awake, less Facebook. I also want to try and be more understanding. I’m going to avoid flying off the handle and making snap judgements that I later regret

Children can be a complete nightmare in public. Mine are up there with the absolute worst, I’m the first to admit it.
‘Mummy is that a lady or a man?’
‘Why am I supposed to pretend I haven’t seen [enter name of person down the road who I am trying to avoid having lengthy and somewhat frenzied, looping conversation with for the fourth time this week]’
And my all time favourite
[Inside closed, packed lift] ‘Why do we hate people who use the lift but don’t have buggies or wheelchairs?’ [no reply] ‘Or people who don’t even look tired?’

Every single one of those gems came from my eldest. And that doesn’t even take into account the tantrums we’ve endured.

Reasons for public tantrum:
I don’t want to be here.
I don’t want you to be here.
I want that.
You won’t let me have that.
I want to walk this way.
I’m tired.
I’m hungry.
I’m thirsty.
I’m bored.
I’m all of the above.

But some days, no matter what you do – no matter how many Peppa Pig figures you have in your bag – you just cannot diffuse the situation. And sometimes, you just can’t walk out and try again later, to save the sanity of others in the shop. Because, well, we’ve got to eat something!

Before Christmas we were in a gift shop that sells many beautiful (read breakable) items for the home , most of which are created in the pottery on site. Gorgeous.

They also have a delightful cafe at the back which I have always wanted to visit. We did, lunch was as civilised as it could be with three children, 5 and under. Some stray beans may have found their way into a decorative urn close by the table, but apart from that, it was pretty enjoyable and the children were complimented on their behaviour by a lovely lady with an owl on her handbag. ‘Mummy, that lady has an owl on her handbag.’ [apparently not just embarrassing details but mundane ones too].

Next came the shopping.

We were remarkably speedy. I was wielding a list and the two walkers, my husband was holding the shoeless ticking time bomb – our 17 month old daughter, shoeless after posting one somewhere unknown that very morning. A mere 15 minutes in, we had all we needed and were heading for the till.

That’s when it happened. The entire list of reasons why a toddler may tantrum in a public place (except hunger and thirst) It. Was. Loud.

I went into full crisis mode. Deploying my husband and 3 year old to stand by the door and pegged it for the queue with my eldest (our boy), to be as quick as I could with the basket brimming.

There were at least 8 people in front of me, there was gift wrapping: it was going to be a while. I tried to signal to my husband to head for the car in that wonderful sign language that wives have… You know, the one that is so obvious to you, you think your actions could be correctly deciphered from space?

Blank face.

To be fair he did have a one year old attempting to gouge his eyes out and a toddler creating a tunnel under his legs.

And that’s when, in slow motion, with all background noise silenced out, I heard her.

‘That child has been screaming uncontrollably for over FIVE minutes and that man has done nothing to stop her.’ The middle aged lady telling this to her husband rolled her eyes and sighed loudly.

Red mist.

Now, I feel it necessary to tell you that I hate confrontation. Despise it. And I had (until this particular day) never, NEVER had an argument with a stranger in public, in a queue. Before I knew what was happening I’d tapped her on the shoulder.

‘Actually, that’s my daughter. She’s been in this shop for an hour and a half. It’s nap time. There’s lots of beautiful, shiny, and VERY fragile items in here she wants to touch. And THAT MAN is my husband, he’s trying to stop her breaking them!!’
Violent beckon to husband and screaming daughter.
‘What’s up with you? Why do you look so cross?’
Sorry, but you have to take her to the car. She’s offending this lady.’
‘Eh?’ Mortified embarrassment from husband that I was making a scene. ‘Right, I’m off. ‘

Excruciating silence.

Owl Handbag Lady was all of a sudden at my shoulder. ‘Honestly, you’d think people would have a bit of understanding. You shouldn’t have had to take her out, she’s just lovely. We’ve all been there, or we all know someone who’s been there. You shouldn’t judge!’

I don’t think I’ll ever forget Owl Handbag Lady.

Then I felt the little hand in mine pull on my arm ‘So mum, why were you shouting at that lady?’

Blimey, the ensuing 10 minutes in the queue didn’t half drag on…



  1. I have been there too many times. When I read that you said something I was cheering you on!! When you speak up and put people in their place you don’t just do it for you and your family, but for all moms!!!! I always remind myself, they won’t be dong this when they are 15. Its okay, kids will be kids.


  2. It is amazing how brave you can be for your children whether it be in the dentist’s chair while they are there or in a queue! However to receive vocal support from a stranger when you need it is most unusual. Well done Owl Handbag Lady!


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