I have always been a seat of the pants kind of girl. I tend to leave things to the last minute. It drives my husband insane when I’m ‘just putting a load of washing on’ as the children are clambering into the car. We are invariably late but it’s usually fine because firstly, my family are used to this (my mother swears it’s because I was two weeks late being born) and secondly, I have whittled my group of friends down to an elite selection who share my tardiness. It’s all good, apart from my husband’s irritation but hey, I hate the way he leaves his shoes next to rather than on the shoe-rack. I know. Let’s not sweat the small stuff, people.
So anyway, on the particular day in question I was late. It was during the time when I was writing my first book. My daughter had just started primary school and my son was still reluctantly having naps between the post-lunch, pre-pick-up golden time known as, ‘Mummy’s writing time’, or, ‘Quick, get some words down on the page – you never know when you might get another chance!’ The first label is probably catchier but you get the gist.
Despite having perfected the art form of lateness, I am also a consummate time-checker. When working, I live and breathe by the tiny clock in the bottom right-hand of the screen. On this particular day I was having an unusually productive writing session. The words were flowing, my fingers dancing over the keyboard. The writers amongst you will know that this doesn’t always happen. Some days it’s like your brain is full of treacle and on other days, it’s almost effortless. These are the best days and I’ll be honest, I didn’t want it to end. I glanced at the clock. 2.59 pm. This was okay. My daughter needed to be picked up at 3.30 and it was only a five minute walk, provided my son rode his scooter. I still had a good ten minutes, allowing fifteen minutes to wake my son and give him time to work through his post-nap grumpiness.
You see, I was a model mother, making allowances for the moods and whims of my children. My son is a lovely boy; a real treasure. He’s funny and engaging and wonderful to be around. Unless he’s only just woken up. To describe him as grumpy doesn’t really get to the nub of the matter (and I’m all about nubs). Imagine if you will, a Grizzly Bear, who has been hibernating for around three months. His snooze has been interrupted much earlier than he intended and he is very hungry and possibly needs a really long wee. Multiply that by ten and you have a rough approximation of what my son is like when he is woken before he wants to be. So really, I needed to go into his room at 3.09 pm, marvel at how angelic he looks whilst asleep, try to wake him as gently as possible and then retreat as this tiny monster rampaged for the next ten minutes.
That’s what I should have done. I know you’re ahead of me on this one (you’re clever; that’s why I like you). On this day, I decided to wing it. I conveniently forgot about the potential fall-out. I just wanted to finish my chapter; to feel that I had actually achieved something that day, aside from keeping two small people alive. I think I stopped typing at around 3.17 pm and had little panic. Then I told myself to calm the flip down and focus on getting to the school on time. I climbed the stairs, the adrenaline pumping, praying that my son would wake full of smiles, complying immediately with my dearest wish to be out of the door and on our way.
I decided that blithe cheer masking my panic was the only way forwards as I breezed into his room.
‘Wake up darling! It’s time to get your sister.’
His perfect sleeping face was immediately blotted by a small frown as he registered my presence.
‘Wake up sleepy head!’ I sing-songed. ‘Time to get up!’
The bear opened one eye and scowled at me.
It was uttered with terrifying finality. Bugger. This wasn’t going to be easy. I glanced at my watch. 3.21 pm. We had to leave within the next four minutes or we’d be late. There was only one thing for it.
Bribery is not a pretty thing. It’s the refuge of the desperate and morally wonky but by heavens, it works. Show me a parent who hasn’t used bribery at some stage of their child’s life and I’ll show you a person who’ll never be on my Christmas card list.
I can’t remember what the bribe was. It probably involved doughnuts or sausages but then, the best bribes usually do.
As a result of my quick-thinking shady dealing, my son plodded down the stairs and allowed me to put on his shoes for him. All the time, I kept up a cheerful one-sided dialogue (if such a thing exists), which I think was more for my benefit than his. It went something like this:
‘Okay, good boy, down the stairs we go, here are your shoes, let’s get your coat, okay, okay, great now, we need to be really quick, so jump on your scooter and off we go.’
All the while my son was regarding me with a look that said, ‘Who is this numpty and how did I end up with her as a mother?’ Fair point, well made. The only time he spoke was when I told him to get on his scooter. I can still picture this small, determined boy as she sat on the bottom stair, folded his arms and declared,
‘No. Doan want to.’
I wracked my weary brain. I had already used bribery and didn’t know where else to go. In the event, I turned to the tried and trusted method of desperate pleading.
‘Pleeease. I really need you to scoot. We don’t want to be late for your sister, do we?’
His frown deepened. This had got him. His emotional attachment to his beloved sibling was as unbreakable as titanium. He glanced at the scooter and then back at me.
‘Buzz Lightyear fell off,’ he said forlornly, pointing at the bell on his scooter and the plastic Toy Story badge that I had promised but failed to re-attach following that morning’s school run.
‘Okay, okay, if I stick it back on will you scoot, please?’
He took a deep breath, considering his mother’s discomfort. ‘’kay,’ he replied with martyred resignation.
‘Great!’ I cried, leaping up and rushing to the cupboard under the stairs where we kept the super glue. I wasn’t messing about. No PVA or Pritt Stick for me. I was rolling out the big guns. I seized the circular badge and applied a liberal squirt of glue, then I knelt behind the scooter and squashed it back into position.
‘There you go, Buzz.’ I smiled. ‘Now, don’t touch it while it dries,’ I added, turning to my son. I glimpsed the time. 3.26 pm. We might just make it. ‘Come on, let’s go to infinity and beyond!’ I think my son might have rolled his eyes.
It was as we were jogging along the road that I notice the splodge on my trousers. It was quite distinct and rapidly turning white against the black fabric. By the time we reached the school, it was an opaque blister. I was momentarily distracted by the incredible fact that we were on time. I felt jubilant and exhausted. My daughter appeared minutes later full of smiles and reported tales of her day on the walk back home. It was as we re-entered the house that I remembered the glue on my trousers.
‘What’s that Mummy?’ asked my daughter, gazing towards where I was looking.
I pulled at the fabric, feeling a rising sense of dread. ‘It’s super glue,’ I explained. ‘I used it to mend the badge on your brother’s bell and got some on my trousers. I think they might be stuck to my leg.’
‘You’re funny, Mummy,’ giggled my daughter.
‘Buzz fell off again,’ reported my son without emotion as he parked his scooter in the hall and wandered towards the kitchen in search of biscuits.
I stared at the sticker-less bell and then back at my stuck trousers. ‘Brilliant,’ I sighed. ‘That’s just brilliant.’
As I headed to the kitchen to google, ‘trousers stuck to leg with super-glue,’ and join the biscuit-eaters, I had to admit that the situation wasn’t all bad. The children had survived another day of me being their Mum and I did finish that chapter.
‘Seat of the pants Girl’ had done it again – just.