This realisation dawned on me during, of all places, a trip to Build-A-Bear. Against my better judgement, I had bought my daughter a voucher for a bear for her 10th birthday. A Build-A-Bear has been on the poor girl's wish list for the last couple of birthdays and Christmases, and so I felt I should buy her one while a teddy still meant something furry with four legs.
Despite my best intentions, I just couldn't help myself.
'I don't mind the bears, but I'm not getting any stupid clothes,' I said graciously on the morn of our visit. Zena's face fell. 'But that's the point of going to Build-A-Bear,' she wailed. I grunted and left it at that.
There are some things in this consumer-led economy we live in that I just can't deal with - and clothes for bears is one of them. Clothes for dolls are fine, they are human-like in form and therefore require clothing. But bears don't wear clothes. I often wonder what the people in the factories far away who make these things think. Do they long to live in a place that is so rich it can afford to buy wardrobes for bears - or wonder at the decadence of it all? Who knows.
Anyway, three hours later my mood hadn't improved. We were in the shop and Zena had gone into a consumer frenzy - flitting around, exclaiming and cooing over bears dressed like Rihanna, bears dressed like policeman, and, heaven help me, a bride and groom bear complete with vicar. And shoes. Shoes! Why do they have to make 'em shoes?
Despite having spent her ten fabulous years living with a daily diet of anti-consumerist propaganda, shoes somehow temporarily disable the pre-frontal cortex of my daughter's brain. Last summer we popped in to Brantano for some trainers. In aisle sizes 12 to 13, Zena soon became lost in a pile of shoes, all of which I had vetoed on grounds that there were too tarty, too bad for her feet, too high, too expensive, just too hideous.
I telephoned my friend Sophie. 'I'm in Brantano,' I whispered. 'I don't think I am ever going to get out.' An hour later I finished the phone call, Zena was still trying on footwear. I lay down for a while between shoe size aisles 1 and 2 hoping it would help. It didn't. We finally left, Zena skipping out clutching a pair of polka dot red sandals, me reeling into the only sunshine we'd had all summer. We hadn't bought any trainers.
I was experiencing the same feelings of despair in Build-A-Bear. 'No!', I said to roller skates. 'No!', I said to a sleepover kit. 'No! No! No!', I said to a pair of khaki boxer shorts.
'Look,' I said. 'You can have a pair of shoes and one other non-clothing item.'
'Why can't I have any clothes,' she asked.
'Because,' I said firmly. 'We can make them at home out of bits of scrap fabric.'
And that was it - the point where I knew I had turned into my mother. My mum is an excellent dressmaker. She made most of our clothes when we were kids as well as the soft furnishings. I well remember the frustration of wanting an item from a clothes shop while she wrinkled her nose in disdain, pronounced the seam work lacking and that she could make the same thing at home for free.
Back in Build-A-Bear, Zena finally settled on a pair of flip-flops, a stuffed guitar and a kind of leapoardy bear. This needed stuffing and a heart inserted. 'Now wave the heart above your head, make a big wish and give it a kiss,' trilled the shop assistant. I caught the eye of eight-year-old Matty, his face a picture of abject contempt. It cheered me up no end.
The bear, called Grrrr, is very loved but one of the flip-flops is missing.
'We'll have to go back to buy him more shoes,' said Zena.
'No,' I said grumpily. 'Find the missing one.'
'I didn't mean that,' she said happily holding him up for me to see. 'Look, he's got four feet!'