You know you’ve got up too late when you have to physically jog around the house to get ready on time for the school run. You can tell it’s just been the summer holidays when you stand in your kitchen, looking round with a panicked expression on your face, knowing that there’s stuff you’re meant to do in there but you’re damned if you can remember what. It’s a bugger when you breathe a sigh of relief that the kids are dressed, fed and watered, teeth are cleaned, lunches are packed and you have ten minutes to spare…and then look down and realise you’re still in your pyjamas.
This was us on Monday morning so at 8.25am I had a record-breaking shower leaving my legs unshaven (who gives a crap? It’s jeans until May now), applied the bare minimum of make-up, scraped back my still-wet hair and hastily straightened my fringe, ignoring one side that refused to lie down and remained stuck up at an angle.
Panting and sweating, we left the house at 8.45am and set off at a brisk trot, thinking that if nothing went wrong, we could still get there on time. A stupid, treacherous, traitorous thought it turns out because my toddler is, of course, a bastard mind-reader. He sniffed out my optimism in the same way a dog can smell fear and as a two-year old, felt it was his job to put a spanner in the works…by refusing to walk.
We got rid of his pushchair a few weeks ago with varying degrees of success but obviously Monday, the day when we needed to go quickly, the day that we had no time to spare, the day that dawdling just COULDN’T feature on the menu…was the day he decided he wanted to be carried.
I know it’s important to stand your ground as a parent and I had been doing just that, refusing to carry him despite excuses of ‘my tummy hurts’ and ‘bit tired, Mummy’ and simply, ‘tuddle peeze, Mummy’. But this is Z, the kamikaze streaker, the Pet Warehouse runaway, the Little Shit Extraordinaire who seems to know exactly when I can choose to fight this battle and when I can’t…and with seven minutes to get to a school which is at best a seven minute brisk walk away is one of those times.
As usual we had a stand-off. Once again, we re-enacted a scene from a country and western film where we looked as though we were about to flick back our hats on our heads, spit tobacco into a bucket and slowly curl our fingers at our sides, itching to withdraw our weapons.
But on this occasion the toddler had a secret weapon. He DIDN’T GIVE A SHIT about making his brother late for school…and therein lay his unique power on Monday morning. Because I did.
He stood in the middle of the pavement, arms folded, lip out. Normally I can convincingly turn my back and walk away but on Monday he KNEW I wouldn’t stray far because we were next to a main road that he could run into it at any moment.
I took a few steps warily, head half turned in his direction. He didn’t budge. I started to walk in slow motion, not looking at him, making exaggerated steps but barely moving at all, hoping that my bluff would have him following after me as it usually does. But not this time.
He’d seen his opportunity and was intending to make the most of it. Behind my back I heard J shout, ‘Mum, we’ve got a runner!’ and I turned just in time to see his little figure retreating full pelt, legs going ten to the dozen, podgy hands curled into fists at the end of determined little arms pumping and his slightly too large head leading the way down the hill.
The spell broke and at approximately 8.48 on Monday morning I stopped the pretence of being in control and started hurtling hell for leather in the opposite direction of school, chasing an impressively speedy toddler. As I gained on him he turned, saw me coming, gave out a blood-curdling scream…and somehow sped up.
I thought I might have to tackle him to the floor by his ankles like you see in the films but finally managed to rugby-ball him and march back towards school with as much dignity as I could muster with a writhing, apoplectic small person under my arm.
Ridiculously late by now, we virtually ran the rest of the way to school. As we neared the school gates, I noticed that his cries of protest had died down. It was as I kissed J goodbye that I slowly realised I had been played good and proper. For there, in my arms, was Beelzebub himself, smiling beatifically. I inwardly cursed. The Toddler had won this round; he’d been carried to school.