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&*ck Shop Duty

One of my greatest childhood traumas is that my mother never signed up for tuck shop duty. Never mind the fact that the poor woman ran her own business, looked after 3 children and taxied us to and from a zillion extra mural activities each afternoon, I have never quite recovered from the deep psychological scars that resulted from her absence from the tuck shop roster.

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You can therefore understand why I immediately signed up for tuck shop duty at Kayla’s new school earlier this year. I mean, what a beautiful memory for Kayla to have one day – the memory of her saintly mother patiently serving her friends and school mates from behind the counter. It was going to be such a special time for the two of us...

Or not, as it turns out.

My first time, to be fair, was a little hairy. Both of us mothers were Tuck Shop Virgins and had no cooking clue as to what we were supposed to be doing. We made (and burnt) toasted sandwiches, failed to leave lettuce off some of the tuna rolls (a sin punishable by death if the disgusted expression on the girls’ faces was anything to go by) and ran horribly late because we couldn’t quite figure out how to unlock some of the cupboards.

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And then it got worse – the girls arrived. A massive stampede of at least 300 000 children who descended upon us like a horde of blood-thirsty zombies. Gone were the cute little pony-tailed angels that I had come to know and love, and instead I was faced with a menacing bunch of wide-eyed terrors that I SWEAR were growling at me from deep within their throats.

I was so stunned that it took two full minutes for me to realise that the Other Mother was not by my side, and had retreated against the back wall with wide-eyed terror, a thin veil of sweat forming on her upper lip.

“I don’t think I can do this,” she whispered while looking at me with desperation. “I’ll just stay here and ... Um ... Look after the toasted sandwiches.”

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I was stunned. What on earth was I supposed to do? The panic button was on the other side of the tuck shop, and my attempt at screaming “HELP!” came out as a rather pathetic little squeak that immediately identified me as a weak target. To this day I believe the girls could smell the fear that was radiating from every pore of my being.

And so, I did what any mother worth her salt would do. I rose to the occasion. (And by “rose to the occasion”, I do of course mean “stumbled my way through it while trying to pretend that I had everything under control”.)

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And I honestly thought I was doing a rather good job. Until a VERY nice teacher came over and mentioned that while she completely appreciated my “entrepreneurial spirit”, it might not be the BEST idea to try and “upsell products to primary school children”. And that perhaps, instead of telling them what ELSE they could get for their money, I might instead consider actually  “giving them change”.

Later that morning, sitting slumped against the wall while googling “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” on our cell phones, the Other Mother and I agreed that this Tuck Shop malarkey was not going to be as easy as we had thought it would be, and that perhaps our second time would be better.

It wasn’t.

The children, fresh from saying their prayers at chapel, thought nothing of lying to us about whether or not they had ordered hot food, which meant that we quite simply, ran out. This then necessitated consoling starving children who were staying at school for the rest of the day without anything to eat; consoling each other at the thought of children starving to death on the school premises because we hadn’t fed them - all the while holding back the ever-increasing horde of children who wanted to know what they could “get for R2” before the bell rang. It wasn’t pretty.

So, if you think about it, I shouldn’t REALLY have been surprised when the Other Mother found a replacement for her next tuck shop duty, or that she entered the Witness Protection Program and moved to Slovakia. Leaving me, with a New Mother, who never actually arrived.

Always one to stay calm, I diligently made tuna mayonnaise sandwiches and toasted cheese and tomato rolls before realising that I had got it all back-to-front. I also successfully burnt two batches of food, nearly setting off the school’s fire alarm and making the children walking back from chapel wonder what on EARTH smelt so bad. (FYI – they were promptly put out of their misery by one of the Grade Two’s who said, “It’s okay – it’s probably just Kayla’s Mommy burning the food again.”)

I also diligently sold ice creams that were sadly NOT for sale and were supposed to be for a fundraiser taking place later that day. Not to mention burning my cheek on the sandwich maker, which necessitated serving the masses while holding a bag of frozen viennas to my face.

Later, while handing over the keys and money to the school secretary who very kindly dried my tears and gave me a much-needed hug, I had to wonder if I was just not meant for tuck shop duty and that maybe my mother had the right idea all along.

Or, if I am just too bloody nice and should instead channel my aggressive pregnancy hormones and arrive for duty armed with a large Tazer Gun and some Pepper Spray. I think it would be a LOT more fun – for me, at least....

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