Before Dexter came into our lives, we were pretty ambivalent about parent and child parking. It seemed like a ploy by supermarkets to engender loyalty from high-spending parents. Parents with small people could park closer to the door, and get an extra wide spot – it was almost like getting a flight upgrade to Business Class. Even the disabled spots weren’t as glamorous!
They seemed unnecessary but a little bit cool – like the Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s of this world were so desperate to win the family vote, they were prepared to blatantly prioritise the needs of family shoppers. I remember thinking, If parents are getting such star treatment in the car park, maybe they would be other perks inside! Maybe parents got extra Clubcard points, more money off vouchers, or maybe special ‘check-out’ passes to avoid the queues. It was a nice thought when I was hauling my pregnant belly around Tesco earlier this year.
When we got pregnant, Craig and I used to joke that this Holy Grail of supermarket parking was imminent – we’d soon be able to park up, spend ‘far too long’ getting our baby out of the car (just to gloat in front of the non-parents), and then casually stroll the 10m to the front door. It would finally be our turn to join the ‘club’ and enjoy these new privileges.
The problem is, we’ve only managed to park in these exclusive spaces a handful of times. Dexter is now 28 weeks, we shop every week at Tesco, and I’d estimate we’ve only managed to snag one of these spots 10 times. The problem isn’t that there are too few spaces, the problem is that these spaces are so often occupied by those who don’t fit the brief. Some of this is pure ignorance, some of it is nothing short of good old Machiavellianism, either way – all culprits will fit into one of these 4 categories
- The Pretender’s – these are parents who may well have a child that qualifies for the spot. They have all the paraphernalia (car seat, window blinds, baby-on-board stickers) yet the child hasn’t made the trip. The child is safely at home watching CBeebies, at the swimming pool or doing arts and crafts with parent 1 whilst parent 2 gets the weekly shop done.
- The Hanger On’s – this strange breed of parent still see their aged 13+ children as their babies. These are the parents who refuse to remove the Winnie the Pooh stickers from their teenagers room. They’ll still use the phrase ‘she’s gone to play at a friend’s house’ – in complete denial of the fact their little princess is escaping mum and dad to try on make-up and post provocative pictures of herself to Facebook. Their flat-out refusal to do away with the booster seat from their car, means that they operate under the misguided assumption they ‘need’ a parent and child parking space. They’re easy to spot as they have people carriers despite only having 2 or fewer children.
- The Activists – They are the Equality Champions. They will donate to the RSPCA and have those awful little signs in their toilets saying “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; If it’s brown flush it down”. I still have a teeny bit of respect for these fellow ranter’s as at least they aren’t duplicitous – they’ll have an indignant air about them and are utterly shameless about their actions. They’ll have a pre-prepared script if they’re challenged and will surprise you with some fairly valid points – they’re best avoided at all costs as arguing with them will be noisy and time-consuming.
- The Chancer’s – these idiots need no introduction. They are the prats that we all love to hate. They’re only ever ‘popping in’ to get some cigarettes or a sandwich deal, and avoid eye contact with everyone as they know they’re in the wrong. Annoyingly it’s a type of ignorance that can pervade any age, class or sex so it’s a widespread problem that supermarkets and parents are powerless to contest. They’re the type of people who shuffle and bolster their newspaper on the tube in an attempt to fend off pregnant or disabled people who may (or may not be) petitioning for their seat. They are wholly incapable of empathy for others.
All of the above get on my wick. They’re all equally to blame for denying me my space. It makes me mad to see fellow parents resort to acrobatics in a bid to extract their child from their cars without scratching the door of the neighbouring car. The truth is that getting your child ‘out’ of the car is only half the story. When you’ve finished your shopping you can guarantee that the car next to you has been replaced with a bigger, even more intimately parked motor.
The supermarkets refuse to challenge their customers so are equally to blame in my opinion. They’re so concerned about profits they’d be delighted to see people stampede over one another to do their weekly shop in their store. It’s left to parents themselves to try to defend these parking spaces from illegitimate advances. Yes, with our young impressionable children in the backseat we’re supposed to have a swear-free and polite exchange with these contemptible idiots. For those of us brave enough to have a go, we try to frame our arguments as follows even though we are seething with rage:
“Hi there. Sorry, I couldn’t help but notice you don’t have a little one with you. These spaces are wider you see. They’re meant for getting car seats / lifting kiddies out of the car. Would you mind if we parked there instead as we have our son with us”
In reality – we turn into childish morons shouting out the car window – “WHERE’S YOUR KID THEN?” – then duck down and quickly park our shit-heap a mile from the door to avoid any repercussions.
To my mind it would be better all round if these spaces had never come into being! The struggle of parents to free their child from his / her car seat would just be another weekly challenge. It’s almost as though the supermarkets have done a ‘half job'; given parents a solution then failed to ensure its availability. I’d rather see them gone altogether than watch another Chancer nick my spot and send me into a murderous rage right before the chaos that is Christmas shopping.Yes, parent and child parking has turned us parents into feuding, angry and stressed shoppers. Get rid of them and restore a bit of harmony to our car parks please.