E and I are doing bath time, which passes with only minor splashing incidents and one near-fatal loss of a Play Mobil diver’s helmet down the plug hole.
E obviously decides that this is not enough excitement for one day and whilst I am trying to dry him on the change unit, he starts to pummel me with his legs. As much as I love having my ribs broken by my son, I decide that I can do without this much chest pain, and tell him in no uncertain terms to stop. Which he duly ignores. I tell him to stop again. He continues to kick me. After a couple more iterations, I am incredibly pissed off and distinctly out of patience, deciding the more direct action of clamping my arm over his legs is the solution.
This does work, but I soon realise that we have reached an impasse, as I cannot get him into his pyjamas whilst he is in a leg lock and both my arms are being used as restrainers. I consider my options, trying to ignore his repeated yells of “get off my legs, mummy!” God that boy has a fog horn on him, as my father would say. So now employing elbows, torso and briefly my forehead on his tummy (bringing my nose briefly into contact with his willy, which I fear transgresses the line of motherly duty under any circumstance) I restrain him sufficiently whilst affixing a haphazard nappy. I am starting to sweat now. I thought bedtime was supposed to be a time for calm? I could cut my own arm off without flinching, the amount of adrenaline I have pumping round my body at this exact moment in time.
Finally, somehow, in a blaze of yelling and limb-grabbing, his pyjamas are on. I am exhausted. And furious. Before E, I had never experienced those two emotions together. Either I was exhausted (‘god, that late night is really catching up with me’) or furious (‘and then she had the nerve to ask for a replacement hamster’) but not both. Now, it happens all the time, this state of exhuriousness. A fragile calm settles in the bedroom and he drinks his milk as I read him two stories – minus the funny voices. There are no funny voices for naughty boys.
E climbs into bed in preparation for his final story, told by me or M with the lights out, sitting next to his bed. He gets to choose the topic or the characters, and we have to ad lib a suitable story. It’s like a third rate bloody Jackanory without the comfortable chair. I simply love it, it is just the thing I want to tax my battered brain with at seven ‘o’ clock at night when I am totally knackered, have dealt with multiple boy-strops, have a shit load of things still to do and just want a bloody glass of wine for crying out loud.
“So what do you want in your story?” I ask.
“Sandy, Brandy, Rosie…” E pauses. Pops’ three dogs make it onto the request list most nights, so I have quite a range of crappy dog based adventures up my sleeve.
“… and snow.”
Fine, snow it is. I start the story, but no more than a minute in, E shouts: “No! Not snow!” I carry on regardless (story rule number 4c: no request retraction allowed) but he repeats himself in an ever-louder voice until we are both almost shouting to be heard over one another. Eventually I stop, mostly out of concern that the neighbours can hear me ranting about three talking dogs and a magical snowman with conkers for eyes (well, who has coal to hand in the middle of the bloody forest?) and will shortly request to have me sectioned. I give him a final warning to be quiet, which he ignores, so I leave the room with a cursory, gritted-teeth ‘goodnight’.
E is immediately out of his bed and out the door, at which point I usher him firmly back. And then again. And then for a third time. And possibly a fourth, I am not sure as I am so pissed off I can’t see properly, let alone count.
So I bring out the big guns: the threat of locking his bedroom door. Now, his door does not actually lock. I know that. The door knows that. Luckily, E doesn’t, and long may his ignorance remain. This always works an absolute treat to keep him bed-bound long enough for him to fall asleep. But tonight, of course, it doesn’t work. He reappears at the bedroom door.
“Right, that is IT,” I shout, my last atom of patience dribbling out my arse as I carry him back to bed, leave the room and shut the door behind me.
A plaintive crying starts up and E rattles the door knob furiously. I hold the other side, wondering if this actually constitutes child cruelty – he sounds so upset. Nah. If I had rigged an electrical current to the knob, then maybe. This is simply a containment strategy. Although that thought does makes me feel like I am dealing with a bucking bronco. Actually, given the bashing my ribs took, it’s probably a fair assessment. I do feel awful, holding the door shut, but not yet awful enough to desist.
It is then, as I am just pondering how long we are going to keep up this knob-struggle, that I hear it. The unmistakable sound of vomit hitting carpet at high velocity.
I immediately open the door to see E, strings of puke dangling from his bottom lip, looking forlornly at the large pool of sick in front of him. As I frantically look for a mussie cloth in the drawers and on the shelves to mop it up, I try not to think that this is an act of revenge. Lock me in my room, will you bitch? Take that…huuuurrrrlll.
Where are all the fucking mussies? I ransack the change unit in a panic. A year ago, I could stick my hand out whilst standing anywhere in the house and hit the mussie jackpot. But can I find one now? I then realise that the sick might only be phase one of a vomit tsunami, so I abandon my search for a cloth and frantically start to try and locate the sick bowl under the bed, throwing strained and unenthusiastic placations over my shoulder to E, who is still rooted to the spot.
Locating the bowl amongst the dust and an array of small cars, a plastic giraffe and the obligatory piece of Lego, I place it next to E, who is still utterly silent. Now I turn my attentions back to the puddle of sick before it sinks into the carpet completely. I run to the bathroom for a mussie substitute. There is nothing. Loo roll? No, that’ll never work. Can I scrape it up with his bath tractor? Or maybe one of the stacking cups? Wait. I grab his flannel, dampen it, and run back. I start to try and scrape the vomit together. Stop. Corralling a pool of sick with a damp flannel is never going to work. I fly downstairs with a shout of “don’t move!” to E, despite the fact his has scarcely blinked since this whole episode began.
I grab a spoon from the drainer and pelt back upstairs. I am hot, sweating, furious and exhausted – sorry, in a state of exhuriousness – and as I kneel in front of him scraping sick off the carpet with the spoon and dumping it into the sick bowl, am now harbouring a small thought that E could puke on the back of my head at any moment.
After some time elapses, a small voice pipes up: “Mummy, I have sick on my feet.”
I look up and sure enough, E’s feet are swathed in lumpy vomit, which does go some way to explain why his hasn’t moved an inch. Mind you, this is useful information: the next time E won’t stand still to have his teeth cleaned, all I need to do is smear his feet in sick and hey presto.
I crawl toward him, only slightly bothered by the fact that the knees of my jeans are now soaked with puke-smelling carpet juice and I wipe his feet clean. He brightens up considerably at this juncture. Noticing that there are sick splatters all the way up the toy box, I sigh and go to the bathroom to rinse the flannel to clean it up. On my return, E is sitting in the chair. I am aware of the large distance that is now between him and the sick bowl and it is making me slightly apprehensive.
“I’m sitting in the chair, mummy,” he informs me. “But I am not going to be sick.”
I am not quite sure why this last comment makes me feel like quite such a bitch, but it does. I am not sure I entirely trust him not to puke again as a final act of revenge for me being such a nasty, door-locking mummy.
Mind you, I’m not the one who is going to have to use that flannel in the morning.