Before I became a mother myself, I dreaded telephoning my friends with children. Always trying to plan the call so the kids were sleeping but mum still awake, I inevitably failed. Attempting to conduct an adult conversation whilst suffering constant interruptions from little whingy, demanding voices in the background, tests my patience to its limit.
So what is the correct etiquette? Ignore it and keep talking? Stop talking? Feign interest and ask what the child said? Even when the parent ignores the interruption, my excellent upbringing (damn it) doesn't allow me to keep talking over someone else, child or not.
What was wrong with these women, I grouched? It's so rude! Had they no control over their offspring? Of course they would apologize profusely, instructing you to "just ignore them" and "no, please go on" even after your polite suggestion to call at a more suitable moment. So you battle on but your heart isn't in it. You know your blither is not going to get the full attention it deserves.
Now I am a mother.
Now I know.
Finje has excellent manners. She asks for permission before leaving the table, knows her pleases and thank yous (in both languages) and I'm proud and delighted to say we can comfortably take her anywhere without worrying she will start a food fight.
But what is it with the under fives and the telephone? My regular disciplinary techniques don't function effectively when attempting a peaceful chat on the blower. She knows the rules and she disobeys them with wanton abandon.
Instead of speaking normally she'll stage-whisper and gesticulate, insisting that what she has to say is of such immense importance it simply cannot wait. My best Paddington stare fails to impress and I would consider going out to the phone box if they still existed! The last time it happened though, we had a serious "chat". I thought with success.
But recently, whilst I was on the phone to the GP surgery, Finje seemed to want to prove me wrong, pulling at my clothes and managing to whisper so loud she scared the cat. Furious, I ignored her. Then she disappeared.
Call over, I found her in the bathroom and the sight (and smell) was not pleasant. She was home from kindergarten that day due to a stomach upset.
"I did try to tell you" she managed to say through her sobs.
I am The Mother from Hell.