Mum-of-three, Becky Dickinson, battles with lost keys and soggy bottoms on the school run
Barely a day goes by when I don’t lose something. Sometimes it’s the plot, occasionally it’s my sanity, usually it’s my phone. Fortunately, I haven’t yet lost one of the kids. This I count as one of my top five parental achievements, along with being able to pee with a child on my lap and recite the words to Sleeping Bunnies. Though I’m not quite sure what the other two are.
Today, I appear to have lost the car keys. Again. What’s more, it’s 8.34am, J and D need to be at school in precisely 16 minutes’ time and The Toddler isn’t even dressed. She is currently running around in a too-short pyjama top and an extremely saggy nappy, because I’m too busy looking for the frigging car keys to change her. And the clock is ticking.
We could always walk or scoot to school, but even if nobody falls off, it takes a good 30 minutes and that would make us even later. And there’s another problem: the car keys are attached to the house keys and the front door is currently locked. This means not only are we locked out of the car, we are also locked inside the house. Even by my standards, this is not a good start to the day. I search in all the usual places: behind the kettle, in the fruit bowl, underneath the pushchair, underneath the doll’s pushchair, all to no avail. I can almost hear my own mother asking: “where did you last have them?” A pointless question, for if I knew the answer they wouldn’t be lost. I try asking the kids instead. Which is almost as pointless.
“Has anyone seen the car keys?’’ I holler, somewhat ineffectively above CBeebies. “Nooooo,’’ they chime.
Perhaps Unhusband knows. He never loses anything. I call his mobile repeatedly, and he repeatedly fails to answer. I try his work and hang up when a colleague answers. It’s now 8.39am. Adopting my best unfrazzled voice, I resort to phoning the school office and informing the punctilious receptionist that the children will be late because the car won’t start. Which is kind of true, it won’t. I just don’t mention the temporary displacement of car keys.
What if they are actually lost? It must be The Toddler’s fault. I catch her and look her roundly in the eye. “Have you seen mummy’s keys?’’ I ask, trying to figure out from her facial expression if she is responsible for dropping them down the loo or feeding them to a drain. “Mummy’s keys!’’ she repeats gleefully. “Yes, do you know where they are?’’ I reply. I may as well be asking her if she knows where the Elgin Marbles are. Perhaps they’re in the toy box (the car keys, not the marbles). It wouldn’t be the first time, so with a heavy sigh of resignation, I begin emptying eight years’ worth of toys onto the carpet. Five minutes later it looks like we’re at a car boot sale, surrounded by a surfeit of plastic vegetables, fake stethoscopes, LEGO and puzzle pieces, dinosaurs, stuffed animals, an ancient rice cake and Sophie la girafe – missing since the last molar appeared – and who is immediately seized by The Toddler. Reunited with her favourite rubber animal, she bounces off without another thought for the keys, nappy practically at her knees. Mary Berry would certainly have something to say about that soggy bottom.
J and D couldn’t give a monkey’s about the keys either – or the mounting lateness – and are making the most of the extra CBeebies.
“Help me look for the car keys,’’ I instruct, “or we’ll practise spellings instead.’’ They pretend to rummage under some cushions without actually turning the TV off. And 10 minutes later we’re still looking. The car keys are still lost, and I too, am about to lose it. Short of digging up the garden, I really don’t know where else to look.
“Right, we’ll have to climb out of the window and walk,’’ I say, picking up my bag decisively. And as I do, something silver glints back at me. And there, right under my trusty changing bag, on a kitchen chair, are the keys. The frigging keys! It’s no use blaming the kids. They must have been there all along, only some muppet plonked a sackful of parenting paraphernalia on top of them.
At least they weren’t down a drain as feared. I unlock the door and herd the kids into the car, still ignoring The Toddler’s soggy bottom. On the plus side, we are so late we get a parking space right outside the school gates. “Don’t say we lost the keys,’’ I hiss at J and D, ushering them in to sign the late register. With the eldest two safely deposited at school, I return home to a house that looks like it’s been burgled and 24 missed calls from Unhusband. He’s clearly seen my barrage of calls and thinks something calamitous has happened. I decide to let him sweat for a minute while I change The Toddler, but half way through the phone rings again. I pick up.
“What’s happened?’’ asks Unhusband. “Oh nothing, I couldn’t find the car keys,’’ I say with fake nonchalance. “I’ve got them now.’’
“You muppet,’’ he says.