One of the absolute JOYS of single parenting is getting to do all the things I never envisaged I would have to do as the mum of a boy-flavoured child. The stuff that I kind of thought his dad would get to deal with. Not in a sexist, gender-based divide up all the parenting tasks, but just because, well, just because. Things concerning pants, and boy-bits, and chats about how to wash properly down there. That sort of thing.
I am thinking this because for the past seven days I have spent an awful lot of time skulking around the boys' changing rooms at school.
It's been a learning process. I have discovered there is a routine that has to be played out before a mum can enter such places. In a loud FOR EVERYONE ELSE'S BENEFIT voice we have to stand outside announcing to our male offspring that we know we 'shouldn't' be going in, but we 'have to' to 'find your missing things, darling' (the 'darling' said through gritted teeth).
Then, once in, you have to continue to speak as though you are addressing the nation and repeating, on a loop, what you are doing in there. Just so Everyone Knows and there's no danger a half-naked child you've either a) never seen before or b) have regularly for tea, crosses your path to the mortification of all parties.
So, last week I ventured in. Ugh. I had no idea that the changing rooms of primary school aged children are just as disgusting and festering as any male 'changing' area. I knew of course that anywhere there was a discarded male sock there would be the cloying stench of death mixed with trench foot, but I didn't realise it was a horror that began quite so young.
So why was I spending so much time taking in the not-so-fragrant vapors of the boys' changing rooms? Because somehow, my darling son had lost his trousers.
Which I have also learned is trait peculiar only to boys. "Lost his TROUSERS?" all my friends with daughters asked me, "How can he have lost his trousers?"
A question he didn't know the answer to either – he had changed for PE, attempted to change back after PE, and his trousers were nowhere to be found, not in the changing room, and not in any other other kids' sports bags. The upshot being, my son spending the school day in his tracksuit bottoms.
This came just days after his SOCKS disappeared at PE and he spent the day sockless, and a week after I spent half an hour after school conducting forensic searches for his new school jumper.
After 10 minutes in the changing rooms and a recoiling-in-horror search of the lost property bin in there, there was no sign of his stuff. Frankly, I didn't care by that stage. I just needed to get out and breathe non-boy scented air.
The trousers did turn up eventually – although I suspect due to my dog-with-bone non-stop texting and emailing of other parents they all clubbed together to buy him a new pair rather than the returned ones being his lost originals.
But it has left me with the unwavering belief that a) this sort of thing does not happen with girls, and b) it would not have happened if I hadn't split from his dad. Well, it WOULD have, but trust me, I would not have been dealing with it at the coal face.