“Mummy, mummy! I’ve hurt my foot!” I am in the bathroom changing B as E charges in, frantically hopping. I am assuming from all the yelling and bouncing around that I will not be reaching for the phone to dial 999 any time soon, and he may, indeed, be making a Bit of a Fuss.
“There’s something in my toe!” he yells, threatening to cry. I put B on the floor and pull E onto my lap to inspect his foot, anticipating that there will be nothing to see. Instead, there is a rather large splinter. Bugger.
I explain to E that we need to get the splinter out and I will do it with my nail. Should I lie and tell him it won’t hurt a bit? At least that way, he will probably let me do it, and by the time he realises that I have sold him a whopper, it will be out. Maybe it is the long-term fatigue, but I decide at this point to go for the truth, because I am an idiot.
“Look, this will hurt,” I start. Already, this doesn’t sounds like a great approach. “But you are a brave boy…” Well, at least I managed to slip one fib in. “… so as I get it out, I want you to shout very loudly, and carry on shouting until I am done.”
I am quite pleased with my shouting idea. The theory is that he will be so busy yelling he won’t notice what I am doing. Theories. I am bloody full of ’em.
I lean into his toe and he starts to shout. With one fingernail at the end of the splinter I start to push, trying to get hold of it at the other. E is trying to yank his foot away, so I tighten my grip and go in again for another attempt. The splinter will not budge, and finally, E gets free and jumps away from me, still yelling. He stands in the corner of the bathroom, looking at me reproachfully, still screaming. Ten minutes later, I have left the room with B, gone into the kitchen and E is still yelling. Okay, the whole shouting strategy was shit. I admit it.
Eventually, he calms down and there follows a long, protracted negotiation about me having another attempt, this time with tweezers. How can I fail with tweezers? He turns down chocolate buttons, a magazine and a variety of other failsafe bribes but I get him in the end with an ice cream /chocolate sauce combo. So we assume the position again, I know I only have one attempt at this before he pulls his foot away, so this has to be good. I am feeling the pressure as the tweezers approach the end of the splinter. I may actually be trembling. Just a few millimetres to go… I pinch down on something, E yelps and jumps away. I inspect the tweezers, where a tiny fragment of skin is trapped. Bugger.
We are already late for Play Barn, so I get B ready and tell E he will have to go with the splinter in, if he won’t let me take it out.
“Nooooooo,” he wails. “I don’t want to go to Play Barn…I don’t want to go to Play Barn…”
“We are going.” I reply.
“I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go.”
“NOOOOOO. No. No. No. No. No. No.” ” E’s shouting is reaching something of a crescendo, and my patience is reaching something of an end. He screams and yells for a good few minutes more, then sits down, arms folded, tearing dripping down his cheeks. I think the appropriate parental response here would be a sit down next to him, give him a cuddle, empathise with his painful foot and not go to Play Barn. This is what the perfect parent inside of me is telling me to do. But instead, I tell her to fuck off. I have had the sum total of two hours sleep and I’ll be buggered if I am staying in the house with him all morning if he is going to be in this mood. So instead, in one of my finest parenting displays, I stand over him with hands on hips and say: “You either come to Play Barn or I will take you to the doctors. And the doctor will take that splinter out with a HUGE knife.” It is possible that I stretched my hands out to indicate a knife more suited to decapitation than splinter removal.
E’s eyes widen with fear. “I want to go to Play Barn, ” he says quietly.
En route, I tell him that our friend Jane who will be at Play Barn is a doctor and she will take the splinter out with my tweezers and it probably won’t hurt. After my ill-advised truth telling early doors, lies seem to be dripping from my mouth like dribble from a teething baby. Jane is not a doctor. But I reckon she’s quite practical and could probably give the splinter a go. He declines, however.
After what turns out to be an expensive sit-down at Play Barn, with E refusing to join in for most of the session, we return home and I call the nurse for splinter advice, meaning we spend an entire weekend dressing the wound with some nasty smelling paste and with E making an inordinate amount of fuss every time I have to take the bloody plaster off.
By Monday, the splinter shows no signs of moving, so we end up at the nurses. E enquires as to how big the nurses knife might be, so I am glad I haven’t given him a deep-rooted fear of the medical profession, or anything.
E sits on the couch, his foot de-socked and ready. A second nurse appears, claiming she saw there was splinter removal going on and came to have a look as she loves splinters. Right-o.
The nurse approaches the foot with the biggest pair of tweezers I have ever seen, and already E is getting jumpy. I have my arm around him, ostensibly for comfort, but actually as a restraining device. The nurse dives in. Blimey, there is no fannying around with this one, she goes straight in for the kill. E starts screaming at the top of his voice, kicking and lashing out. Splinter-Lover grabs his legs, whilst Tweezer Nurse leans across his ankles to try and keep him still. E thrashes around more, twisting and turning his body. I throw myself over his torso to stop him twisting right off the couch. Three grown women struggling to keep a four year old under control. I wonder if we should call for back up. Like the entire local rugby team, perhaps. The splinter removal seems to be going on for a long, long time. The people in the waiting room must wonder when the GP started torture as a side-line. E is screaming like a wounded banshee and my words of comfort are buried in his tee shirt as he struggles violently and I get a violent faceful of arm. Eventually, she gets the splinter out and almost immediately calm is restored. E sits up, smiling.
“Well, he’s got a bit of a kick on him, hasn’t he?” Splinter Lover says, breathlessly. We are all breathing hard and sweating slightly. I rub my face where I was karate chopped by my son.
“Do you want a sticker for being brave?” asks the nurse.
“Yes I bloody well do,” I reply.