When you think fast, what do you think of?
Cheetahs effortlessly tearing after prey.
The majestic dive of a falcon as it hones in on dinner.
Usain Bolt slicing through the air with feet barely touching the ground.
I don’t. I think – toddler.
I want you to picture the scene. The starting line; at the entrance to the shopping mall our three competitors limbering up.
On the inside we have the distance runner. Mum. Built for plodding along and stamina, not for speed. She’d serve well in the army when we analyse her pack: rucksack containing 10kg of snacks, a billion wipes and several changes of clothes; a travel potty; a cross-the-body mulberry handbag giving her just a hint of her former identity, a buggy to navigate and a cap that has already been flung across the car park. It may be a weighty load, but there’s no stopping this Trojan of motherhood; she is a bonafide mumthlete.
Heading up the middle lane is the whippet. Dad. Lean and toned from all those many hours on the golf course. His stride is long and his mind is focused. Nothing, bar a slice of Patisserie Valerie Black Forest Gateaux, will deter this sinewy, strong sportsman from the finish line.
And last but not least is our newest contender. The toddler. He may be small but don’t doubt his potential. He is almost cheetah-like in the way his little feet barely touch the ground once he gets going. Certainly a wild-card in this race but one thing that is consistent about toddlers is their unpredictability.
The starter’s gun fires to the sound of the automatic doors of House of Fraser sliding apart. And they’re off.
It’s the toddler immediately out front, making a bid for freedom with a maniacal laugh. Daddy sprints after him. Mummy is left bringing up the rear with her kit jiggling and regret plastered over her face that she omitted to wear a sports bra.
There’s no sign of slowing as the toddler bounds past H&M with abandon. Daddy is hot on his heels, relieved that COVID has clearly kept the masses from the track. Mummy decelerates as she spies a maxi dress that has 15% off in the window. What a bargain!
As our leading pair approach the midway point, Mummy has faded in to the distance. It becomes an assault course as the escalators are ridden up and down and up again. Any assistance from Daddy in ensuring safety is shirked and the wails begin as he insists on hand-holding. Is this just a tactic employed by the Daddy to hold back our underdog-underage-challenger?
We’d all but given up on our intrepid weighted-down contender. However, she steams in to view, navigating the buggy on to the moving stairway whilst retaining balance, potty in hand. It’s an artful manoeuvre but not enough to give headway on the two front runners who are now bolting past Spud-U-Like and Five Guys, flinging themselves into the final furlong.
Mummy looks wistfully at Zara, longingly at Next and dolefully at Dune as she tries to narrow the gap. Dejected at all those missed purchases, she arrives at Debenhams – the finish line.
The winner is clear. The toddler is doing laps around the base of the escalators with Daddy chasing him. But what’s this… whilst the littlest athlete screams in delight and the Daddy fails in his platitudes to ‘slow down and come and find mummy’, the Mummy sneaks in to Caffé Nero. Before you can say ‘two flat whites, a blueberry muffin and a gingerbread man’, she’s firmly installed in a booth sipping the God’s nectar and dabbing her sweaty brow. It’s like a modern day ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ as she smugly welcomes the exhausted pair to the table.
The athletes sit together and recharge as they marvel at the little one’s speed and agility. They draw breathe. They plan the shops the might even attempt entry to on the way back.
But who are they kidding… fuelled on sugar, fired on adrenaline, there’s no stopping the toddler-champ as they about-turn for the return journey. Daddy silently rejoices as his credit card remains securely in his pocket with not even a hint of usage as he once again breaks in to a sprint. Mummy straps on her baggage and trundles off behind them.
Cast aside your cheetahs. Farewell falcons. Usain Bolt who? The world land-speed record is now held by a toddler clutching the arm of a gingerbread man.
Other than bungee cords, any suggestions for a child who insists on running everywhere? There aren’t enough Tena in the world for me to keep up with him when out and about( in that sense lockdown has almost been a captive blessing). He’s passed the stage of reigns. He laughs in the face of “slow down”! Any advice, bar lead in his shoes, would be gratefully received.