Despair at the horror of half-term last week made me forget my cardinal parenting rule: never go anywhere in the car with the children if it takes longer than
ten minutes half
an hour. And so it was that I found
myself packing up the car last week to visit my friend H, mother of the Boy’s
separated-at-birth-twin, Jack, in deepest Hampshire.
The lawyer in me had to cover every eventuality: what if we get stuck there? (pjs and toothbrushes. JUST IN CASE); what if the weather is fabulous? (t-shirts. Shorts. YOU NEVER KNOW); what if it snows (Snowboots; puffa jackets; thermals. Standard UK spring-wear); what if they fall in the mud (spare trousers); what if they’re sick in the car? (big towel, lots of wipes); what if the boys want to play swords? (Swords); etc. And so it was that we left an hour later than planned, with a MUCH fuller car than planned. 7 minutes later, we were in the Asda carpark, with me muttering under my breath, while I untied the kids and ushered them into the toilet. Bastarding Asda toilets are located past the toy section, rendering me both poorer (cash) and richer (swearing). An hour and 40 minutes later, we were ON OUR WAY.
The whining started almost immediately. “I sick”, announced the Girl. “No, I’M sick”, countered the Boy. This ping-pong whinging went on and on, until eventually I could stand it no longer, roaring “IF ANYONE IS SICK HERE IT IS M...” before being rudely interrupted by the Girl vomiting all over her seat. So I guess she was a bit sick, after all. Just as she was belting out a second round of quasi-digested bagel, while I was in the middle of barking instructions at the Boy (“The towel! The TOWEL!!! GIVE HER THE TOWEL! The TOWEL AT YOUR FEET, put it UNDER HER NECK...”) I realised the thick bitch of a GPS woman was sending me the wrong way. Two more sicks later I was able to stop, clean up and strip the Girl (fuck it, I forgot spare tops, but nothing nicer than spending the day in your PJs, no matter how old you are), and we were ON OUR WAY yet again.
3 minutes – I am not joking – later, the Boy piped up.
“I need a wee-wee...”
“You have GOT to be joking.”
“It’s not a joke, it’s not funny. It HURTS.”
“You’ll just have to hold it in.”
“I CAN’T! I’ve been holding it in for HOURS. It HUUUUUURRRRTS!”
“Here, put this on” – rooting in my passenger-seat handbag, and handing him a nappy. (A BIG nappy. I am nothing if not a speedy learner re the importance of an adequately-sized nappy while mobile.)
“Put it on myself?”
“Jeeesu... [deep breath] Just pull down your pants. [glancing in mirror] TROUSERS FIRST. Pull down your trousers then your pants. Then just sit on the nappy and bring it up over your willy. You KNOW how to do it.”
[glancing in mirror again]
“Ok, stand up. TAKE YOUR SEAT BELT OFF FIRST...”
I swear, it was like trying to talk a dog into a nappy. Eventually we both gave up, I pulled into a service station, he jumped out of the car, half naked (much to the amusement of the people eating their sandwiches at a picnic table - yes! At a service station! Mind you it did have a lovely view of the motorway) and then pissed all over my boots.
We got there, eventually.
It was wonderful. It was probably the best day of parenting - the first four hours notwithstanding – I’ve ever had. The boys fell into each other’s company shrieking with happiness and excitement, as they always do; the Girl followed them everywhere, wide-eyed and giddy with excitement (buoyed along by her crush on Jack). Hand in hand they took exploring walks around the farm, followed dinosaur foot-prints over fields, rode ponies, mucked out stables – all with a teeny swagger of independence. Because it transpires that the kids LOVE the countryside. They were the happiest that day that I’ve ever seen them.
As we left, the Girl looked up at the properly dark sky, pointed, and asked: “What’s dem?”
“They’re stars, sweetheart.”
“Why we do not have ‘tars?”
“Because we live in London.”
“I want to live here.”
Me too, darling. Me too.