I sometimes thinkof what I thought having children would be like before I actually had any. I saw myself sipping tea with a friend while our children played peacefully together. This, despite the fact that I remember distinctly the irritation I felt as a child when I saw my poor mother trying to read a book. But often, even now, I ask myself, why it is so hard. What exactly is the problem with having three small people in the house? Well, take the other night.
The boys were getting cranky. Mr. Waffle had run the bath and was wrestling Daniel (who is very strong) to the ground to remove his clothes. Daniel was keen to get into the bath. He loves it, in fact, the other night he appeared to say “the bath!” when taken into the bathroom. I was very excited but Mr. Waffle discounts this and the time where he looked at a bottle and said “bottle”. I am convinced my son is a genius although he hasn’t been able to reproduce these sounds under laboratory conditions. I digress. Having disrobed him, Mr. Waffle, alas, failed to perceive that Daniel had a dirty nappy (easier to do than you might imagine, I assure you) and plonked him into the bath diluting the water with poo and making all the toys that bit more appetising to suck; cue cursing, bath emptying and disinfectant spraying. Meanwhile, I was distracted by Michael who was howling because he had finally succeeded in catching his hand in the door – something he has been trying to do for some time. The Princess was indignant because nobody was paying any attention to her. She was standing behind the bathroom door with her head under a towel shouting “I’m hiding, look for me, I’m hiding” in increasingly hysterical and irate tones. Our efforts to talk her down were unavailing since she seems to be a bit deaf after having a sore ear earlier in the week (cue general nebulous concern).
We finally packed the boys off to bed. They are beginning to go to bed more easily either because we’ve worn them down or, because their standing up and (in Michael’s case) moving round the room using handy chairs like zimmer frames, has worn them out. This moving around is new and to celebrate we spent 120 euros on shoes for them. They will beggar us.
After dinner, the Princess went to bed and 20 minutes later she got up and announced “I’ve wet the bed”. This is becoming something of a pattern. She will often wet the bed 20 minutes after going to bed and then again during the night. This from a child who stopped wearing nappies at night before the Summer, was generally dry and is, after all, 3 and a half. My mother suggests that it might be a problem at school and it is true that her teachers said that she has been a bit difficult recently. She says she doesn’t want to go to school but when we ask her what’s wrong she just says “there are too many people at school”. On the days I collect her from school, she does seem to be playing alone, but quite happily and she always rushes up to me to press into my hand offerings which she has gathered in the yard (my pockets are full of conkers, fallen leaves and pigeon feathers). If the internet has any suggestions about the whole bed wetting thing, I would welcome them. The books seem to feel that it’s all within the range of normal, but I don’t know.
I hope it’s not a school problem. I remember that I loved nursery school and primary school. Secondary school was vile but those under 12 days were halcyon. I think I must have been unbearable, though. I remember telling my teacher, when I was ten, that our cat was called Hodge. “Why?” she asked “Is he very fat?”. “Not Podge, Hodge” I said indignantly “after Samuel Johnson’s cat” (I would like to clarify that my parents are to blame for this). When another child in the class asked who he was, my teacher said “a writer from a long time ago” and I cut her off saying, quite crossly “he’s the famous lexicographer!”. Quite. And I remember on a sunshiny Friday afternoon walking out of school and saying to a friend “I hope that there isn’t a nuclear holocaust at the weekend because I think that I got 100% in that maths test”. It’s the smugness combined with the warped priorities that appeals. We did live a bit in the shadow of a potential nuclear holocaust; we were all fascinated by it. We frequently had conversations along the lines of “If you knew that there was going to be a nuclear war tomorrow, what would you do?”.
I remember when I was about 14, going to the Gaeltacht and being chatted up by some Dublin boy who insisted on giving me a full description of the SALT talks. He kept filling me in on more details every time we ran into each other. In English, I hasten to add as, notoriously, Dublin people could never speak any Irish and kept getting expelled from Gaeltacht summer schools for speaking in English. So I could only lend half an ear to his descriptions of the arms limitation treaties as I was on constant look out for a supervisor who might find us speaking English and send us back to our respective homes in disgrace. Though I was impressed by his knowledge of nuclear weapons reduction treaties, in the end it was never going to go anywhere as he was 12 and was only as high as my shoulder. This is a long way from where I started. Let me reiterate: any tips on the bedwetting, people?