Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bath-etic tragedy


Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mother

Last week I made the mistake of throwing away the bath toys, a ruinous act that prompted my six-year old son to say he could never forgive me. The drama that ensued contained elements of a Greek tragedy: mother-son ructions, moral failings, hysterics and even some soul-searching. Who would have thought that a string-bag of decaying bath toys could have sparked such a crisis? Such are the vicissitudes of family life. One minute it's plain sailing and the next you are caught in the eye of the storm.

Bath toys: Thomas the tank engine, ducks and a pink tortoise
Reprieved at the last hour
It all started with a spot of belated spring cleaning. In a rare fit of enthusiasm, I went through the house like Kim and Aggie on speed. Jigsaws were dispatched to Oxfam, wardrobes were ransacked for old clothes and dogeared drawings from school 'mysteriously' found their way into the recycling. 

So far so good. Then my tyrannical eye alighted upon the bag of bath toys, each covered in a veneer of black mould. Middle child (my son) barely noticed them anymore and the mould, I decided, presented a health hazard to Non-walking toddler. Into the wheely bin went Thomas the Tank Engine, stacking cups, one puffer fish, a pink squirty tortoise and several yellow ducks.

Fast-forward to bathtime. Middle child was lying stretched out in the bath, refusing to wash himself while I rubbed Non-walking toddler dry.

"Mum, where are all the bath toys?" he asked languidly. 

"Oh, I threw them away. They'd gone mouldy."

"What?" He sat up.

"We'll get some more."

"You mean you threw away my squeezy Thomas the Tank Engine?" he wailed. "That was my favourite!"

"Darling, they were covered in mould! It wasn't even worth cleaning them."

"And what about Torty? Please tell me you haven't thrown away Torty!"

"Who?"

"The pink tortoise - that was my absolute favourite. I can't believe you've done this!"

Inevitably tears and lots of shouting (from him) followed... and persisted all the way until bedtime. Never mind, I thought as I switched off his light to the sound of distant sobbing under the duvet, he'll be over it in the morning.

Bathtime, day two, continued in much the same vein. He even muttered the immortal words: "I will never forget this, Mummy, not ever." On day three, he told me, "I can't believe what you have put me through." (See earlier reference to Greek drama.)

Needless to say, I was losing my nerve and sought advice from friends and family. One advised that next time I should "transition" the toys, in other words park them in a cupboard until their absence has gone safely unobserved. My mother advised, "Don't give in - you need to let him know who's boss." Hmm... 

Day four found me rifling through the wheely bin in the front garden, only to discover a now fetid bag of bath toys, coated in dead leaves and the entrails of the hoover bag. After half an hour of scrubbing them with hot water and Dettol, I returned them to the side of the bath. As soon as I picked Middle child up from school, I told him I had a surprise. His reaction was euphoric and he has been playing manically with the toys ever since. 

"Do you forgive me now?" I asked tentatively.

"Sort of."

"Sort of? After every thing I did to get them back..."

"Alright, keep your hair on, I forgive you," he said, giving me a magnanimous hug.

When I told my mother, she was outraged, but I still think I made the right decision. Knowing Middle child as I do, the purge of the bath toys would have become a stain on his childhood. I also had another (self-justifying) motive. By returning the toys, I showed Middle child that if you want something bad enough, and you are willing to persevere, you might just succeed. Not such a bad life lesson. What's more, Torty and Thomas lived to see another day. Now that's a happy ending.



Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam
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