"It must be a lot easier for you now that your children are no longer babies," a woman said to me recently.
In a flash, I am back in my kitchen toilet-training my youngest who is running around hysterical before my eyes, weeping, chanting, arms flailing, grieving for the end of an era, while I stand in the middle of the floor like a Circus Master, demanding that she sit on her elephant-shaped potty and deliver, for, already, I am imagining the nappy-free years ahead of me, years where I can walk into Tesco and by-pass the nappy aisle with glee. Like a fly, she suddenly lands on the elephant but then is up again within seconds doing the dance of a bee. Back she comes again, and then again and again, until she finally delivers. Now she is dancing with joy and flailing her arms with excitement, and I actually think of the words in the bible about the woman in childbirth forgetting her woes upon the birth of her child, and I am almost dancing with her. I stoop to lift the potty to dispose of its contents but she pushes me back like a policewoman preserving the scene or Livingston cordoning off an archaeological dig: no one is going anywhere, her body language says. On the contrary, the show is just beginning.
"A giant one! A giant one! Come and see! Come and see!" she screams out to her sisters who are watching television in the next room, but they fail to stir, no more interested in her childhood milestones than the man in the moon, though it wasn't so long ago that they were shouting out the same words. I call them to attention, fearing that she won't let me dispense of the potty's contents otherwise. They reluctantly come forth, and she guides them around her masterpiece like folk processing around Brezhnev's corpse in the Kremlin. "Look! Smoke!" she says.
Her sisters go "Yugh!" naturally, and try to escape, but she insists that they wait. I am half expecting her to stick out her hand and charge us for our tour, or ask us for our tickets. There is nothing for it, I realise, but to ask her sisters to parade with us to the loo, for otherwise she will refuse to part with it.
They fall into line behind me.
"No! No! "she howls, objecting.
What? Am I to refrigerate it, I wonder?
"No, don't!" she says.
"No," I say. "Let's watch it go out to sea where the birdies can get it."
Talk of birdies does the trick and we head off to the toilet.
"Clap, girls, clap!" I say to her sisters, knowing that a repeat performance is more likely tomorrow if they feign interest. They give her a rousing send-off and disappear back to Drake and Josh on the television.
"Yes," I say to my friend when I awake from my reverie. "You're right. My life is a lot easier now, but you know what? I'd do it all over again without a second thought."
Parents don't change the world: they help create it.Suggest a correction