Diary of a Mum: (5) Three boys under 5, an incontinent dog, a husband in Iraq

You know your toddler is wearing you down when your mate turns to you in the middle of melee that is the six o clock witching hour, asks “did you put the bottle in the fridge?” and you reply, panicked, “bugger, no, I left it on the side next to the wine glasses”.

She meant the breast milk.

You meant the Chablis.

Claire Bates is surrounded by three boys under five, an incontinent dog, a husband in Iraq – and in line for a United Nations’ Peacekeeping medal.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be solved by the mother of a toddler.

Forget Pilgrim Blair and his fancy pants new role as Saviour Of All The Earth, it simply needs a Mummy, a naughty step and a good ole fashioned stern-faced “NOW, I WILL COUNT TO THREE….”

I’m being flippant, of course (how very dare me) but I can’t imagine that solving a centuries-old conflict where the opposing sides won’t listen to reason and don’t understand each other’s logic, can be any different to negotiating with a two-year-old.

My second child – Number Two as regular readers of this column will know I imaginatively call him – has lost all sense of proportion.

I spent 40 minutes last night at bath time trying to persuade him that the white, John Lewis, Egyptian cotton bath sheet I’d got out of the airing cupboard to dry him on was the same as the other white, John Lewis, Egyptian cotton bath sheet still sitting on the shelf.

He wanted the other one.

Now, I had Number Three (12 weeks) on his seat splashing around in the water, Number One (five) halfway through a poo, and a husband helpfully on cricket tour in South Africa (how did that one get passed by the Mummy Council?) so in short, there was no bl**dy way I could get the required white, John Lewis, Egyptian cotton bath sheet from the airing cupboard.

It’s three feet away, but Jerusalem may as well have been between me and it.

Cue purple-faced, toddler explosion.

I’ve read all the books and seen all the programmes. It’s easy. You bend down to their level, keep your voice calm, explain why they are feeling frustrated and offer them an “escape for their anger”.

Or – Plan B – you tell them there’s a finger of Twix in it, if they shut up.


So, now all I had to do was get it.

Leaving Number Three all cute, simple, and non-tantrummy in the bath was not an option, getting him out and leaving him wrapped in a wet towel while I went to get it would set him off, and politely asking the purple one to wait five minutes “while Mummy dresses your little brother” was bordering on the suicidal.

So I went for Plan C.

“Darling, why don’t you go downstairs, open the fridge, reach up and get your treat box and take out one – JUST ONE, MIND – of your chocolates and bring it back upstairs to Mummy.

“There’s a good boy.”

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

At what point did I ever think that would work?

I carry on drying, dressing and redressing the other two for at least 20 minutes before I notice the very thing that strikes fear into every Mummy’s heart – silence.

You know what’s coming, naturally – you’re parents.

Greeting me on the kitchen floor was a lopsided Milky Bar kid-type grin, brown smeary lips, assorted bits of crumpled coloured foil and a smug, ‘how-stupid-are-you-Mummy’ look on the face.

Don’t you just love bath time…

Sharing. Now there’s another Toddler Terror.

And it’s sooooooooo boring. It’s such a middle-class Mummy thing to have to spend hour upon hour at toddler groups, sing-alonga-baby sessions (is it just me or are those a bit Moonie-ish? All that repetitive chanting? Frankly scary), and coffee mornings telling Archie, Olivia, Freddie, Oscar or Martha to “share nicely now darlings”.

All you really want to do (and probably should do?) is let them get on with it, have a school playground-type stand-off and sort it out themselves.

But you can’t.

The Boden-clad tsking mothers around you, expect you to deal with it professionally, peacefully, and above all without ruffling your pashmina.

There then ensues long, U.N-style, protracted negotiations about who had Iggle Piggle first, who’s “turn” it is (apparently the trend now is to teach turns, not “sharing”. Puuuurlease.) and who needs to say sorry to who for snatching what.

It’s so dull.

I’m quite sure me and Number Two are THE ones at all the toddler groups we go to that the Mummies all talk about. There’s always one isn’t there? Oh, come on, you know what I’m talking about dear reader.

Have you not huddled in that Mummy scrum in the corner of the room over lattes and traybake rolling your eyes and muttering “why doesn’t she just watch him? No wonder he’s out of control. The child’s a nightmare. He’s always hitting Annabel/Charlie/Hugo/Millie and she never seems to notice”.

OK, so my three-nager is not that bad. In fact, he’s pretty bloomin’ great. He mostly shares, mostly remembers his pleases and thank-yous and only has a total toddler meltdown about three times a week, and usually around bedtime, so it’s only an hour or so until wine-o-clock and I can generally make Supernanny proud.

He mostly loves his new baby brother and has only hit him with his Bob The Builder mallet once (or was it twice?) and with the help of the good old sticker chart, he even eats Sports Candy (if you don’t know what that is, you’re a better mother than me and don’t resort to the odd Lazy Town marathon to help you through a rainy Sunday).

So, thanks for the offer Senator Blair but I won’t be joining you on the plane to Tel Aviv.

My place is here with this gorgeous boy who, despite being a toddler, is pretty darn perfect.

Now, where’s the corkscrew….?