When stepping in dog poo was the easy bit.
Not long ago, I happened to be scrolling through my old blog posts when I found my first ever post written two years ago. It recounted my hapless adventures when I attempted to take a one year old who refused to sleep anywhere but in a bed, on a day trip to London, on the train, on my own. The notable thing about that incident wasn’t the series of mini-disasters that befell me on that trip, but the fact that I was so woefully unprepared for them…and by unprepared, I don’t just mean that I did not have the necessary resources to deal with disaster, but that I literally did not expect any disasters to happen. In my head, as I left the house that morning, there were no stumbling blocks to a great day out. My spiddey senses were – it would seem – duff.
I mention this here purely because my day trip to Brighton last week demonstrated that in 10 years, this has not changed. We visit Brighton often and always go on the train, but due to the recent strikes and slightly unpredictable state of the Southern Rail trains, I decided that this time we would just hop in the car and drive because ‘how much harder can that be?’
On the morning of our trip, we (by which I mean me and my 11 and 8 year old children) left the house bright and early (you could substitute ‘rushed and late’ but that would be churlish), fully expecting an uneventful day meeting friends in Brighton and yet, on reflection, there were perhaps things I might have anticipated and been slightly more prepared for.
The day panned out something like this:
- The Poo – The fact that the disasters began immediately upon leaving our front door should really have alerted me to the imminent danger ahead. Having chivvied the children out of the house to head to the car with their father (who was hopping in for a lift to B+Q before a day of blissfully quiet, solitary DIY) and sprinted round the house to grab last minute snacks and drinks for the car, I arrived at the front door to find Faith hopping down the road, shoe in hand shouting that she had ‘got poo on my hand!’. I sighed, grabbed the baby wipes that were miraculously in the hall cupboard where they were supposed to be, and set to work establishing first that yes – that really was dog poo covering her hand and yes – it had come from the bottom of her shoe and yes – it had transferred to the back seat of the car on the journey from pavement, to shoe, to hand. Cue much hand washing, shoe cleaning and car wiping before we could even consider gathering ourselves to set off (now even later) for our ‘great day out!’ in Brighton.
- The Sickness – This disaster came with multiple warnings, all of which I ignored and therefore I freely admit that I deserved to serve my penance with every last swipe of the baby wipe across the sick stained car floor that was to follow. About halfway to Brighton, Faith began making murmured noises that she ‘felt a bit funny’. This led to a conversation about the fact that she had had similar feelings on our summer trip to Northumberland and ‘wasn’t it odd that you were sick then and you are never normally car sick?’ We all agreed it had been very strange, but yet nothing on my spiddey radar told me that this was anything other than a slightly melodramatic over-reaction to having been colouring too long in the back seat. Even when Faith was on the verge of puking, I still thought it would be fine and she was just making a fuss…and then it came: wave after wave of full-bellied retching straight into the foot well of the car. And suddenly it became clear that she hadn’t been over-reacting and this new travel sickness was clearly now ‘a thing’ that had come to further torment us. And what did I do after she was sick? Did I stop the car? Did I find a convenient layby to pull over and clean things up? Of course not! I did what any unprepared mother does when they have no real plan… I just kept driving. On and on and on because then we hit issue 3:
- The traffic – This began with near permanent queues through Worthing and continued on and off until we found ourselves (post-Sickgate) in a solid line along the A23 into Brighton, all the while with a vat of vomit in the back of the car. But I figured that stopping would be futile without access to running water and chose to ignore the untimely delay and keep driving with the windows open and a now manically cheery, post-vomit Faith chattering nineteen to the dozen in the back.
- The opera – Just as I could bear the traffic no longer and was ranting to that effect (something along the lines of: “I actually hate Brighton and I am never driving here again!” and other, similar statements), my offspring decided to serenade me with what can only be described as an avant-garde rock opera consisting of songs such as ‘Mummy’s really had enough now’ and ‘I think she’s going to go mad soon.’ Suffice to say, this tipped me over the edge into a state of hysterical madness, which only served to further fuel my children’s merriment.
- The car park. – I had fully intended to be sensible and savvy by parking a little way out of the city centre where there were no charges and we could saunter into town without a care. However, following the extended, and less than peaceful, journey, I was in no mood to trek across Brighton by the time we arrived and settled for parking as close as possible to our meeting point (at some considerable cost I discovered when I returned to pay the £20 fee at the end of the day). Anyway, here in the very depths of ‘The Lanes’ underground car park I reached the true high point of my day when I discovered I WAS PREPARED for the task of car cleaning. I had a carrier bag in the boot to drop the vomit strewn car mat into and the poo incident at the start of the day had necessitated the finding of the baby wipes which had then made their way into the car, making them very handy when disaster struck and the car was filled with vomit.
‘Ha, ye gods of bad preparation!’ I thought to myself, with more than an edge of hysterical madness in my inner voice. ‘You thought you could break me with your multitude of disasters. Well look who’s laughing now with her hand full of baby wipes scrubbing away at soggy sick. Me. I am winning this one! I clearly HAVE learnt something in the past 10 years of parenting and I was ready for you. Maybe not at the first hurdle, or the second, or even the third or fourth, but come the fifth hurdle, I was leaping like Jessica Ennis and I was prepared!’
And if you learn nothing else from this post, you should realise that preparation may be the key to good parenting, but shoddy organisation makes for the best stories.