I looked over at my daughter earlier this week and saw her beaming at me. My heart melted as I wondered what happy thoughts might be going through her mind. Then she said, ‘Mummy, I’ve been looking at your bum. It’s just like your back, only squishier and with a line in it’.
Now pardon the pun, but we all know hindsight is a wonderful thing. With hindsight, I would have just agreed with her. With hindsight, I would never have asked ‘Isn’t everyone’s?’ And with hindsight I could have avoided the twenty-minute monologue which followed, on the subject of ‘The Bums of Everyone I Know Or Have Ever Met’. So you live and learn. But you can’t get away.
And believe me, this week I have been unsuccessfully trying to get away from many things. Mainly my children. Specifically, the name yelled out by my children at approximately thirty second intervals for sixteen hours each day. That name is of course ‘Mummy!’ (full name ‘Mummy, can I have…’ or ‘Mummy, where is my…’)
I shouldn’t complain because I really do love my kids with a passion that burns as bright as a thousand suns. Well, when they’re asleep, anyway. It’s just that when you’ve heard ‘Mummy’ seventy billion times a day, and sixty billion of those are requests for food, you start to fantasise about being somewhere else. Exotic places like the car, or the end of the drive, or the depths of hell. It comes to something when the most exciting thing your husband has said to you in over a month is ‘I’m taking the kids and the dog out for a walk’.
It might not be so bad if the conversations differed occasionally. But they are always the same:
Child: ‘I’m starving’
Me: ‘you haven’t finished the last mouthful of lunch yet’
Child: ‘what can I have?’
Me: ‘a piece of fruit’
Child: ‘what else is there?
Me: *lists ten other healthy things*
Outraged child: ‘you never let me have anything nice’
Me: ‘you had half a giant Easter egg as a pre-breakfast snack’
Child: ‘but I’m starving’
This is repeated ten times until they moodily go off with the apple that they said they were allergic to, because they know if they keep going with that lie, there will be no more apple crumble in their future.
When it’s not about food, it’s guaranteed to be about something entirely unnecessary. Recently, I heard the cry ‘MUMMY, WHERE ARE THE TOWELS?’ I arrived on the scene to find my youngest standing in front of the airing cupboard, looking directly at about twenty towels. Turns out she wanted a red one.
Sometimes it’s, ‘MUMMY, WHERE IS MY TOP?’ This one’s easy. No matter which top is in question, the answer is always either ‘stuffed into the gap between your desk and your bookcase/ behind your curtains/in the dog’s bed (delete as appropriate).
And every day at some stage, they will shout ‘MUMMY’ right at the time that my patience has not just reached its limit, it’s gone around in a loop and reached it again. They will then be treated to a five minute rant where I will shout a list of all the things I’m trying to get done, what could they possibly want now, and is it too much to ask to get a second’s peace around here?
And that is the point that they will say ‘I just wanted to tell you I love you’. And even though I know damn well they were actually going to ask for crisps, but clocked the note of hysteria in my voice and did a rapid u-turn, I still add this to the list of ‘things to feel guilty about when they’re in bed’.
But every night along with the guilt, there is also hope. The hope that tomorrow I might get it right. I will somehow become a beacon of serenity, setting a brilliant example of how to cope under pressure. They will explain in future media interviews that this was their inspiration to become the only person ever to achieve world peace.
And then I realise the wine bottle is empty.
Bring on Bedtime!