I suggest you brace yourself, readers, and buckle up, because this is going to be a bit of a ride. The next time I mention that I’m going to take The Beasts for any kind of appointment single handedly, you have my permission to give me a good slap and ask WTF is wrong with me. I won’t slap you back I promise.
So the day started badly with a 5.22am wake up and general bad tempered-ness from Beast 2. If ever the phrase ‘got out of bed the wrong side’ was relevant, it was today. Two meltdowns before breakfast because 1: I wiped poo off his bum and 2: put his weetabix in the wrong bowl. But I pushed on, thinking, a bit of breakfast and a trip in the car, along with the snacks and bribes I have lined up, and he’ll be fine. Totally. Yep.
He was not fine. I first had an ominous shiver of foreboding when I had to wrestle him into his car seat. Sticking all limbs out like a starfish and going stiff as a board to boot, it took a fair amount of force to man-handle him in there and do up the buckle. He was comparable to one of those display starfish in the sealife centres that are long dead and hard as rock. That is, if dead starfish looked you straight in the eye and screamed in your face the whole time. Beast 1, while this drama was unfolding, was busy perching in his seat and yelling ‘I’M A GOOD BOY AREN’T I MUMMY, HMMM, HMMM’ over and over again.
Finally, beast contained and still snarling like a feral skunk (because he was so angry the involuntary farts just kept coming), we set off – narrowly avoiding reversing over the stupid cat who was sitting underneath the car.
The journey there at least was uneventful, other than the general hysteria that we might have squashed windmill (the cat, and I knew we hadn’t) and in we go to the opticians. Being first thing in the morning, there weren’t many customers and all of the staff had not much to do but stand around and watch us. This proved uncomfortable when meltdown no 3 occurred because Beast 2 wasn’t allowed to press the buttons on the keyboard while wearing the designer glasses on display, and had been unceremoniously strapped into his buggy. Which he hates. Beast 1 at this point is declaring to anyone who will listen (which was everyone, whether they wanted to or not) that he’s a BIG BOY and is allowed out of school to have his eyes tested. A BIG BOY don’t you know.
Forms filled out and my patience already waning, off we go to the machine thing that blows puffs in your eye and has pictures of balloons. I’ve never felt so relieved as when the lady announced that neither of The Beasts needed the puff in the eye (thank god) but that Jasper would need to look at a balloon through some binoculars. Fine – I thought. He can do this. What could go wrong? As it happens, a five year old finds it tricky to follow instructions and despite being asked near on 100 times to put his chin on the chin rest and his forehead against forehead rest, suddenly he seemed to have no neck muscles at all and couldn’t possibly hold up his own head. As well as marveling in wonder at the removable paper hygeine strips on the chin rest. ‘Oh don’t worry’ said the lady, ‘we got one eye and I’m sure the other one is fine’ *laughs limply*.
Then it’s my turn and I do need the puffs, at which point Oscar decides that actually, he’s not going to remain sitting in the buggy so nimbly climbs out, making a mockery of the whole system by shimmying easily out of the straps, and goes to make a hasty exit. With lightning fast reflexes (if I do say so myself) my arm shoots out and I’m able to grab his wrist and (barely) restrain him. So just to set the scene, what’s happening now is that someone is blowing puffs of air at my eyeballs whilst octopus boy, because suddenly he appears to have enough appendages to beat my arm with his fist, give his brother a shove and smack the floor all at the same time, is trying to wriggle out of my grip. So that was fun – and we haven’t even got to the actual tests yet.
So moving swiftly on, we are ushered upstairs. Having bought the buggy, mostly to secure beast 2, *scoffs* and laden with coats and bags and drinks, I have to abandon it at the bottom of the stairs, so there goes my (only) plan. We’re called promptly in by a rather unenthusiastic optician who appears to be less than thrilled at the prospect of checking four Beastly eyes along with the woman who’s dragging them around, (unsuccessfully) trying to contain them, and barely holding on to her shit. I think it was doomed from the beginning to be honest.
So anyway. Mr ‘would rather be anywhere than right here’ optician – we’ll call him Phil – starts with Beast 1. ‘Come on’, he says, ‘sit down then.’ Beast 1 hangs back a bit, and says ‘I’m a bit scared’ while I elaborate – ‘he’s just a bit nervous.’ Now I know not everyone knows how to talk to children, me included, but he’s five. So a little empathy would go a long way. Instead, Phil says ‘nervous? Well are you not a big boy then?’ Beast 1 looks slightly abashed and sits down while I bristle in the corner but decide to let it slide because moments later, they are getting on with Jasper’s test & he’s doing marvelously. Beast 2, meanwhile, still fuming from being restrained earlier but making the most of his freedom now, has discovered the stack of maom sweets and the bag of snacks and is munching his way through while declaring, very loudly, that he wants a ‘NEW FIREMAN SAM ON THE KINDLE MUMMY’. Clearly I should have done my research before bringing the kindle out, because as it happens, you can’t watch Amazon prime unless you’re connected to wifi. And I knew nothing of the ‘offline mode’ my husband has just now, helpfully informed me, does exist. At that point I didn’t know this, and we weren’t connected to wifi, So unfortunately fireman Sam was a no go. To an already irritated small beast, this went down like a lead-bastard-balloon and he spent the next five minutes rolling around on the floor yelling for Sam. Nothing would appease him. Not my Fitbit, or my phone, nothing. Nothing other than Fireman twatting Sam. He was only distracted enough to snap out of it when Phil turned the lights off to bark some more orders at an increasingly fed up Beast 1 whilst muttering that he didn’t usually work in this (clearly godforsaken) office and didn’t know where anything was. Here’s a tip for you Phil – maybe get all your shit together before you see patients in a new office. I later discovered he was a locum optician. Finally Beast 1 was finished and good old Phil looked like he’d really had enough of us. So it’s ‘his turn now yes?’ I asked, pointing at Oscar.’Oh no,’ Phil says. ‘I can’t test him here, he’s too young.’
‘….er…oh, well I had Jasper tested here two years ago at exactly the same age so….why can’t you test him?’
‘Well I haven’t got the right equipment in this room’
‘Erm- well could we move to another room? I really would like to get his eyes checked and to be honest, no one mentioned this would be a problem when I booked the appointment – and they took his date of birth.’
‘No we can’t move to another room.’
*eyeballs me while both beasts turf out the contents of our bag in the corner.*
‘Why can’t we move to another room?’
‘Well listen’ (impatiently) ‘is there anything wrong with his eyes?’
I stare at him, mouth agape…..WTF is happening? ‘I don’t know Phil, i’m pretty sure it’s your job to tell me that, seeing as how you’re an optician?’
At this point I’m really starting to struggle with holding it together. I’m down to my last nerve and phil’s doing a bloody jig on it.
‘Well look at him’ *gesticulates towards mini beast* ‘he’s not going to cooperate is he? Does he even know the alphabet? Have you taken him to the GP?’
Somewhere in the distance I fancy that I can feel the warm sun on my face and hear waves crashing against a lovely sandy beach, until I realise that it’s actually just my temperature increasing by about 10 degrees and there’s a dull rushing in my ears where I’m about to go batshit crazy.
‘Look Phil, I’m sorry but your bedside manner could really use some work and you’re actually being really unhelpful. Of course he doesn’t know the alphabet but when Jasper was tested in this office two years ago when he was exactly the same age, they just showed him pictures of ducks and aeroplanes and bloody houses so I don’t understand why you’re telling me you won’t attempt to test my child’s eyes and why you’re suggesting I waste the time of our GP when I’m sat I front of an *deep breath so you don’t swear* optician. So I’d like to see someone else please. Right now.’
‘Oh. Well have I done something wrong?’
I feel like a hideous monster by this point. All I want is to get this done because I work nearly full time & today is the day that was planned for eye tests. And having plenty of experience working in a customer facing role myself, I can appreciate how horrible it is when someone doesn’t want to talk to you anymore and it’s worth noting at this stage that I’m not usually that woman. I’m generally pretty easy going and I certainly didn’t enjoy ruining Phil’s morning by demanding to see someone else, and what with being terribly British, still feel pretty dreadful about it now; but goddammit I’d driven 12 miles, paid a fiver for parking, taken beast 1 out of school and used up half of my ‘day off’ – although calling it a day off is a bit strong to be honest – to get both sets of eyes tested, so he was having his eyes tested.
And double whammy on the guilt here now because it’s quite clear, what with the coughing and general snottiness going on upstairs that Beast 2 actually doesn’t feel very well, which would go some way to explaining his temper today. Terrible mother alert that I didn’t realise earlier.
‘Phil. Could you just go and get someone else please.’
So off Phil goes to find someone else in a different room, and lo and behold, this new optician (we’ll call him Bob) is able to check Oscar. Bob is actually really helpful and we liked Bob a lot. Bob was also pretty hot – and what woman doesn’t like a hunky optician staring into her eyes when she looks like an actual crazy bag lady and has just caused a massive scene?
Anywho, only two minutes after we get in there, after kicking up such a fuss, Oscar’s hollering for a wee and is now drunk on sugar, having worked his way through every snack in the bag. Hurriedly we’re ushered into the staff toilets where, as he’s a bit hot and bothered by this point, his willy is squashed against his little boy bits so when he wees, instead of going in the in the toilet, it goes all over his leg and the floor. To which he then responds by yelling (exceptionally loudly) ‘MY WEE! MY WEE! HOLD MY WILLY MUMMY! HOLD IT!’ So after desperately mopping up the floor with loo roll, which disintegrates as soon as it touches something wet, I turn to Beast 1 who’s managed to find a box of Biros (of course) and has taken the lid off every single one. Sorry specsavers.
Back in the room I say ‘ok Oscar your turn now.’
Well the man just needs to look at your eyes so come on please’
What about being a good boy for mummy?’
‘No. I want to wash my hands in that sink’ <points to sink in corner> and then proceeds to have a massive tantrum, number 5 if I remember rightly, until allowed to wash his hands, even though he just washed them in the toilet.
Now this is awkward after the kerfuffle I’ve caused and Bob is eyeing me beadily.
‘Perhaps it’s better to just do mine first then he’ll see it’s ok.’
Bob looks dubious but agrees and we begin. Half way through my test, Beast 1 of course decides that he absolutely needs a wee now and I feel what’s left of my sanity shrivel up and die. So another quick jaunt to the bathroom later, my eye test finished, and Oscar finally lets Bob start looking at his eyes. He did pretty well considering how long we’d been there and how fed up he was, particularly as we were way past nap time by this point. But every time he was asked to look straight ahead he looked everywhere except straight ahead and every time he was asked to look at the picture in the mirror he craned his neck round to look a the screen projecting into the mirror, thus proving good old Phil (partially) right in that he wouldn’t cooperate. So although Bob got enough done to know that he probably, possibly, maybe, needs some kind of prescription, he can’t be sure so we have to go back next week. FFS. And hats off to Bob for doing all this while being constantly offered soggy pecans by Beast 1. And of course, Beast 2 might not need anything at all because it could be a false result and his eyes might be fine. Which they probably are.
‘Well Bob, could we see you again next week? I’m free Monday and Wednesday?’
‘Oh’ *chuckles nervously* ‘I’m only working Fridays here from next week so you’ll have to see someone else.’ He struggled to keep the relief out of his voice if we’re honest.
Finally, an hour and a half later we trot downstairs, having left a trail of soggy apricots, crushed pecans and sweet wrappers, and I’m apologizing to anyone that wil listen on the off chance they find a chewed up apricot squished in any of their expensive equipment. Because let’s face it, that’s probably happened.
The helpful lady downstairs (we’ll call her Sally) says ‘Would you er….I mean do you want to try and choose your new glasses now? I mean, what with….’ Waves arm in direction of the little monsters who by this point can only be described as Feral. That capital F was intentional, by the way. Sally’s clearly aghast at what appear to now be delirious little chipmunks full of sugar, running round the expensive designer frames. Which if we’re honest, I can’t afford.
‘No Sally. No Thank You. I don’t think I will choose my frames now. I’ll come back. ON MY OWN.’ *glares at offspring who are now hanging off my legs whilst considering whether to flip the finger to the old man staring at us in disgust. Decide against it as I’ve caused enough trouble already. And, I am a lady *holds head aloof.*
Having been significantly longer than planned and having run out of food, The Beasts need lunch. We’re not going to make it back to school in time for Beast 1 to have his school dinner there, so I need to find some food. Anyone who has a kid with a dietary restriction (like dairy) will know that being in the middle of town with no lunch planned or packed, with a hungry toddler who can’t have most of the food on offer, is less fun than the least fun thing you can imagine – let’s go with a smear test. It’s even less fun than that. So we hotfoot it to Costa because at least I know the gingerbread is dairy free and I can shut them up with a fruity cooler split between two cups. Karma finally chucked me a bone when I looked at the ingredients of the egg sammidge to see that it is in fact, dairy free. Halle-bloody-lueja.
Exhausted, we stagger back to the car so I can return Beast 1 to school, get Beast 2 home and in bed, and at least try and get a few of my other errands done with the time I have left in the day.
I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some kind of warning note attached to our records when I take Beast 2 back on Monday and I’ll have become that customer everyone can remember who couldn’t control her children and left a trail of destruction, offended staff, and squashed, sticky apricots. I’ll be surprised if they let us back in at all to be honest. 👓😱🤔
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