27/11/2012 05:53 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The Single Parent: Where I Neglect My Child...

The Single Parent asks: Am I a fit mother?! PA

Being nine, my son does not like me interfering too much in his ablutions.

Being a single mum, and not having a male around for him to direct any 'bodily' queries to on a day to day basis, this sometimes worries me.

Occasionally I will be allowed in to help with hair washing if it is being done in the bath rather than the shower, or if said hair is mud-caked and impenetrable by usual shampooing means after football.

But generally, when my son is in the bathroom, there is, on the door, a metaphorical big fat red cross through my name.

That's not to say I do not make enquiries. I do. "Do you need any cream for your hands or feet?" "Do you want me to scrub your back?" "Have you rinsed all the conditioner out?"

And, every week: "Do you need me to cut your toenails?"

The latter always met with a firm no. Now obviously, for several nights a month, my son stays with his father, where I assume a similar routine is played out. Perhaps in a more jocular, back-slappy, boys-together kind way, but played none the less, giving boyo the opportunity to raise any 'bodily' concerns with his dad, rather than his bumbling, simpering, red-in-the-face-of-nudity mother.

Anyway. For a couple of weeks, I've had a mental note to buy my son some more socks, both for school and weekends. All his socks seemed to be developing holes in the toe area at an alarming rate. So much so, I had blamed the dog for ripping them up (being a terrier, a sock is the next best thing to a rabbit).

Last night, after his bath, whereupon I had done my usual "Need any help?" "Nails need trimming?" etc routine, my son appeared in my office, ready for bed, but looking for socks as his feet were cold. I was on the phone at the time. He sat down on the sofa and waited for me to finish. As I chatted to a client, I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. Something sharp, pointed, menacing and blade like hanging off the end of my son's foot.

Turning round in my chair I gave it my full attention. Well as much attention as I could give as a brief for an important job was being explained in to my ear. When my eyes properly focused on what it was, I almost fell off my chair. There, protruding AT LEAST half an inch from the tip of his toe was what could only be described as a toe horn. It took all my resolve not to shriek there and then "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME YOUR NAILS WERE THAT LONG!"

I ended my call with no idea what I had been asked to do or what I had agreed to and rounded on my son with nail clippers. "They're FINE" he grumbled as I clipped off a protrusion so great it took two snips – one to cut it down to a manageable length, another to actually make it SHORT.

"How have you even managed to get your shoes on?" I wailed (it really was THAT long).
"Well, the have been a BIT tight where my big toe is," he conceded, before, in a penny-dropping moment adding: "Do you think that's why all my socks have suddenly got holes in the toes?"

I cut the rest of his nails practically down to the quick and insisted immediately on new rules: toenail inspection every Sunday night, no matter how many protestations of 'they're fine' were voiced.

But as much as I tried to blame him for not telling me about his ridiculous talons (really, how could he NOT have noticed?) , I was full of guilt: how could I not have noticed? Why did I not just INSIST on looking every time I asked him if they needed trimming rather than just taking his word that they didn't? What sort of a mother allows her son to grow claws like an eagle? Where did it all go wrong? I can remember lovingly tending to those little feet after EVERY bath time; talcing between toes, gently filing his nails for fear of snipping baby skin, massaging his soles with lavender scented balm to aid sleep...

And, worst of all, HOW bad must it have looked at school when he was getting changed for games? On the upside it has not been swimming this term, so at least I've avoided a call from the headmaster complaining that my child's claws have punctured armbands or had another pupil's eye out during the backstroke.

Really though. If our access and residency arrangements ever end up in the family court, and my suitability as a parent is assessed...heaven help me.

What's the worse thing you've ever done - or failed to do - for your child?