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I found my husband in front of the computer the other morning, slightly hysterical like Michael J Fox in that episode of “Family Ties” when his character Alex P Keaton took diet pills to stay awake all night. And don’t tell me you don’t remember that episode. It’s a capital C Classic.

He had been woken shortly after 3AM by the unmistakeable thud of a small body hitting the floor. Sure enough, Mr Justice had fallen out of bed but then had immediately leapt up and started running around the house. Which just confirms my theory that my children are a little bit like the SAS – armed and ready to run riot 24/7. By the time my husband had rounded up Mr Justice and put him back to bed, he himself was wide awake.

So when I got up a few hours later, I found him caffeinated up to his eyeballs and staring at the computer screen. The minute he saw me,  he bombarded me with information about land values, negative gearing and the amortisation of fixed rate mortgages during a period of stagflation (not to be confused with ‘stag fellation’, which we both thought was an amusing pun until we googled it. Trust me: Don’t. Do. It.).

The long and the short of it is that he had been house-hunting online. It is a little-known fact that we have been trying to find an investment property in the country. Little-known, perhaps, because just writing that made me feel a little unclean, like I’ve become some fat-cat real estate mogul, feeding off the fat of the land, suppressing the masses, yada yada yada.

But listen, it’s all for a good cause. No, really. My mother is about to be made homeless and we’ve been trying to find a win-win situation for one and all where a) my mother has a roof over her head; b) we have somewhere nice in the country to visit on the weekends; and c) we make a sound risk-adjusted investment in our futures with a positive net-present-value of assets and… (*yawn*)… I think I actually fell asleep as I typed that last point.

So on this particular morning, my husband drove the Love Bus in the heat to the town of [Littleton] to meet a real estate agent who was somewhat refreshingly dressed in shorts and driving a car that didn’t cost more than the house he was showing. And before the day had ended, with a little more caffeine in his system than is perhaps medically advisable and no further sleep under his belt, my husband had bought my mother a house.

Now, you might think that I should be a bit little concerned about the circumstances of his purchase (my mother certainly might be if she reads this post) but you see I trust my husband 100% when it comes to these things. He understands The Criteria.

When it came to buying a fridge, we both became obsessed (obsessed!) with the “twist’n’serve” ice functionality. We wouldn’t even consider any fridge that didn’t have it. Of course we’ve ended up “twisting’n’serving” only about once every two months, and friends we’ve shown it too have been disappointingly non-plussed, but that’s not the point, people!

With house-buying, it seems to have been All About The Kitchen. With our house, affectionately known as The House That Ate Paris, the kitchen is very much its heart. It doesn’t matter how we rearrange furniture for parties, everyone usually ends up sitting or standing around that little kitchen of ours. Which often results in me trying to prepare food and drink in 100-clowns-inside-a-mini-type circumstances. Not to say any of my friends are clowns, I should add. At least not professional clowns. 

Anyway, it turns out this house has a charming little 50s kitchen, plus “some other stuff” – the details of which my husband was a little vague. Which is a bit concerning considering his father bought their family home without realising it had a pool. True story. At least it was a pool he later discovered in his new back yard and not, say, a uranium mine or a Today Tonight news team. 

And so we’re about to become the kind of people to own Investment Property. And, to be honest, this is something that doesn’t match my loose and not-particularly-well-researched socialist views about how Land should be For the People and how there should only be Owner/Occupiers and Council Accommodation and Cool Student Houses Where Everyone’s Drunk (which, I believe, is where I picked up this socialist ethic in the first place).

“Now that we have a Real Estate portfolio,” I asked my husband. “Does that mean we have to buy one of these special books with plastic sleeves so we can show it everyone?”

“Sure,” he replied. “And we can pull it out at dinner parties and say stuff like ‘Ah, yes, and this one here is my collateralised debt obligation security…'”

Uh, okay. It frightens me sometimes that my husband even knows those kind of words. 

In a fit of insecurity, I wrote to MM asking him if he and his good lady wife KC still liked us now that we’d become Landed Gentry. And his reply? A telling silence. 

I think I understand how Rupert Murdoch must feel, purveying his empire all alone in his ivory tower. Still, even if nobody wants to be our friends any more now that we’ve officially Sold Out by Buying Up, we’ve got a new kitchen to go and sit (or stand around) in from time to time. Now if only we can manage to persuade my mum to buy a fridge with twist’n’serve….  kitchen

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Somehow I managed to fall in love with – and subsequently marry and have children with – a man who did not share my taste in books. Yes, my husband simply refuses to read any fiction published after a very specific date which I  believe to be somewhere around mid-July, 1959. He has, however, conceded that he has some interest in reading “Lucky Jim” by Kingsley Amis one of these days, claiming it was published in the early ’60s. However, when I wikipediaed it, I found out that it was first published in 1954, thus proving that his Cut-Off is iron-clad. 

Anyway, this was all an interesting lesson for me about how we can’t get everything out of the one relationship and why they invented Book Group (see “In The Good Books” for more on that merry band of women in my life). And in any case, I have been lucky enough to collect enough friends over the years to complement the many different facets of my personality. I have Sparkly friends and Sane friends. Silly friends and Soulful friends. Coffee-Scones-and-Double-Cream friends and Long-Afternoons-Drinking-Cheap-Fizz friends. And I love them all. 

And then I have “The Cousins”. On my dad’s side of the family, there are eight of us who have been putting on Cousin Christmas Spectaculars and sharing in-jokes since we were in nappies (some of us are still in nappies but I ain’t sayin’ who). Somehow, however, the Cousin Thing in my life has been kept largely separate from my Friends Thing. Perhaps it’s because, whenever the two worlds meet, all my male hetreosexual friends try to crack onto my cousins – both the boys and the girls. What can I say? We’re one hell of a good looking family. 

Recently we had a mini Cousin Get-Together because one of my cousins was in town with her brand spankin’ new fiance. Some last-minute scheduling problems meant that this get-together converged with a spontaneous BBQ we had put on for some other dear friends of ours. As I was introducing everyone, I realised that they already knew each other but just not in the flesh. Why, there I had three of my regular blog commenters all in the same room – “mystery v”, “MM” and “KC” (although, I should hasten to mention that MM and KC have been married for over a decade and have managed to have a relationship outside of my blog, their son being overwhelming proof of this). Luckily, mystery v’s new man “Imaginary D” had been exposed to enough of my blog to appreciate the exchanges of knowing “Aaahhhs!” and cries of “Boobalicious!!” that followed. 

And so we all sat around my kitchen table for some hastily-thrown together food, cheap fizz and lively conversation. I realised I was in safe hands when I was able to exclaim “Bloody Haemophiliacs!” without anyone judging me too harshly for such a random and tasteless joke. And certainly, once my “Rock Cousin” arrived, things shifted to a whole new level. At one point, there was muttering in one corner about “www.cousinswap.com”, which nobody involved in its conception seemed to be able to explain to me. And then later, there was even talk of “www.cousindump.com” which I think was a website that helps arrange certain scattalogical services to be performed by a distance blood relative but I can’t be sure. Best not dwell too long on such things, really. 

In any case, I was well pleased. Some of my worlds – virtual and real, family and friends – had successfully converged for a pleasant afternoon of spontaneous silliness. As you would certainly hope would happen when some of the family you love and some of the family you’ve chosen meet… Perhaps that’s what http://www.cousinswap.com was all about?

Whatever the hell it is, we here at NDM Central raise our glasses of cheap fizz to friendship! And to cousinship! And lazy Saturday afternoons! May the three often converge…

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Personally, I blame it all on having read Orwell’s “1984” at too young an age. To put it plainly: my fear of rats makes The Pixie’s brief bout of galeophobia look like shark-fancying (see “All At Sea“). My fear helpfully extends itself to mice, too –  if only because I have no way of distinguishing them from rats. Apparently you can tell by the width of their tails and the number of nipples they have, but since I’m really not planning on ever being that close to one to actually do any measuring or counting, the distinction is still completely lost on me. 

So when Genghis Cat casually sauntered in with a live mouse in his mouth early the other morning, my reaction was less than mature. If someone were to ask for the transcript of that moment it would read something like “Eeeeewwwwweeoooooooo aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Farrrrrrrrk!”. Which truly represented exemplary role-modeling in showing my children how to deal with their fears.

Upon hearing this profoundly pithy exclamation, ol’ Genghis dropped the mouse, which limped as quickly as it could under the fridge. Genghy then proceeded to sniff vaguely around the “Dust Baffle” area and, realising that there would be enough biscuit crumbs under the fridge for the mouse to live off for a year, he wandered off with the distinct air of someone whose work here was done. Panicked, I immediately rang my husband at work for advice – replacing more traditional telephone greetings with a strangled “Faarrrrrkkkkk!”. My husband calmly and quickly came up with a plan of action for me. 

“All you need to do,” he said. “Is move the fridge, grab the mouse, put it in a plastic bag and then take it outside and drop a brick on it.”

Now let’s just run through that action plan step by step:
1. Move fridge
2. Catch mouse
3. Put mouse in plastic bag
4. Drop a brick on it

Shuh! Like any of that was going to happen. Well, maybe I could have done Step 4 but without completing steps 1-3 it would have been as pointless as, well, dropping a brick on an empty plastic bag.

Luckily, my husband pretty much realised his plan wasn’t going to work the minute he’d presented it to me. My reaction no doubt had something to do with this realisation – again, that transcript would have read something like “Uh, guh, guh, guh, can’t, uh, do, uh, it, aaggghhhhhhhhh.” Under normal circumstances, he would have advised me to leave the house with the children for the day and then sorted it out himself after work. But the problem was that on this particular day, I was picking my husband up from the city and we were all driving straight off to a special holiday destination for a few days. And if the mouse stayed and died under the hot fridge in the hot weather, it would have effectively turned the house into one giant Dutch Oven. Clearly something had to be done and I wasn’t the person to be doing it, blubbing like a baby as I was.

In two words, the answer was Uncle B. 

Now, the definition of True Friendship is being able to call someone with a mouse-in-the-house problem before 7am. KT – wife of Uncle B – answered the phone in a cheerful manner – or as cheerful as someone whose children habitually wake before 5:30am can manage. But because Uncle B was still sleeping (having worked til midnight the night before) she immediately offered her mouse-removal services instead, fearless girl that she is, and was there on my doorstep with her children less than ten minutes later. 

Immediately, KT set to work. She bravely approached the fridge, while I rather less bravely put a closed glass door between me and any mouse action – although, in doing this, I cunningly claimed to be “nobly protecting” KT’s very curious daughter, Cyclone Bella. Since the fridge was too darn heavy for her to move it by herself, KT instead rocked it slightly, and then proceeded to poke the injured mouse with a long stick for ten long minutes. Which got me wondering about how when we say things like “more chocolate and champagne than you can poke a stick at”, it suggests a glorious abundance of something, whereas “more injured mice than you can a poke a stick at” doesn’t quite have the same happy overtones. Because if it was a matter of “want to” rather than “can” when it came to poking those injured mice, the desired number would definitely be NONE. Which is not the case with the champagne and chocolate. Although I would obviously prefer to consume them than poke them, stick or no. Which is all just a good example of the little mini-breaks of the mind I go on when facing my greatest fears. 

ANYWAY, after all that brave poking of the stick, KT had to admit defeat and went home to wake up her husband. Once she’d returned with Uncle B and he was on the job, KT and I were both free to go hide in the front bedroom with the children – and with that bedroom door firmly shut and a story tape on the stereo, we created ourselves a kind of Disney Bubble which could not be penetrated by the mouse’s (or Uncle B’s) screams back in the kitchen.

Less than five minutes later, the Dreadful Dead had been done, the corpse had been disposed of, and I was making suburban hero Uncle B a Very Strong Coffee Indeed. And because he’d had to get down the microwave from on top of the fridge in order to move it, I took the opportunity to give the microwave a good wipe inside and out, plus the top of the fridge, before he put everything back. Which just shows that the mouse didn’t die in vain and from such adversity came a nice clean microwave and fridge top and the reminder of how lucky I am to have such Great Friends.

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As much as I am loathe to bring up Disney in my blog (I get enough of it at home, thank you), I was musing the other day how “It’s a small world” is another of those songs that has taken on a new meaning since I became a full-time Stay At Home Mum. (For other shapeshifter songs, see “Music to a Mother’s Ears“).

You see, my head is filled with the small details of our lives – shopping lists, dates of birthdays and immunisations, shoe sizes, medical histories, culinary likes and dislikes, the whereabouts of toys and other beloved items (but not the shoes, never the shoes), milestones such as when each child got their first tooth or started to answer back… Of course I can’t always retrieve this information when I need it, but it’s there somewhere. With the shoes.

There are the little things that I get a kick out of: the kids and I got unreasonably excited when my husband parked the Love Bus the other way around in the driveway because it felt like we had a Brand New Car. I still get a little thrill whenever I’ve just freshly iced and decorated a platter of cupcakes. And then there was the time Mr Justice insisted on wearing a single black glove to school. And the time KC tried to encourage our collective children to get moving at the zoo by singing “I like to move it, move it” and we had to wait an extra five minutes while T. McGee danced and sang “Mood it! Mood it!”. Or whenever The Pixie climbs up onto my lap for a “huggle”. Or when someone walks into my severely organisationally-challenged house for the first time and exclaims “I love your home!”. And that hard-earned glass of wine heartily enjoyed when the kids are finally in bed at night. 

Then there are those things that I like to put a little positive spin on. Such as the time The Pixie went through the fruit bowl and took a single little Pixie-sized bite out of every single apple. Some might have said “What a waste!” but I preferred to say “My daughter ate some fruit!”. Or whenever the children empty the entire box of little lego all over the loungeroom floor and start merrily jamming it into every crack and cranny. Some people might say “What a mess!” or “I just tidied that room!”, but I choose to say “They’re having fun!” and “At least they’re not hassling me!” (although I do say those other things, too but probably with a few more exclamation marks or some expletives thrown in for good measure). 

Of course there’s also that expression “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. Fine for someone who’s world extends further than the four walls of a little suburban house. But for a stay-at-home mum like me? Not so easy. For example: I felt bad all morning the other day because a a cyclist passed me just as I threw something into someone else’s garden and his face said it all and had he been a Shakespearean actor of some repute (which he wasn’t), he might have exclaimed “Get thee behind me, ye slovenly ho!” . But before anyone else judges me, let me just tell you that it was a handful of partly-chewed banana which Tiddles had made a point of spitting onto my palm and I had Nowhere To Put It. And because the cyclist passed us so quickly, I didn’t get a chance to blurt out “It’s organic matter, already partially broken down by my son’s own teeth and saliva”. I then went on to spend the next hour alternating between being embarrassed that there was a member of our community who thought I wasn’t doing my Civic Duty and thinking how that cyclist wasn’t in any position to judge me because he wasn’t wearing a helmet, which is mandatory by law, thank you very much. Small stuff? Sweat-drenched, baby.

And then there are those small things that threaten to push me over the edge: sticky-rice feet, my husband eating crackers in my ear, scratched DVDs that skip or Just Won’t Load just when I really need the kids to spend some Quality Time with the TV, the fact that The Pixie never just comes when you call her but always does it in a way that suggests she isn’t coming because you’ve asked her to but because it was her idea to head that way anyway. And those Wiggles songs where they’ve sped up the voice track so it sounds like they’ve done a collaboration with Alvin and the Chipmunks. 

And then there are those toys with a million little separate pieces which come into our home and upon being opened for the first time, immediately explode so that every little piece is distributed widely throughout the house, never to be reunited with its brethren again. I have jars and boxes full of these small objects that I add to every time another piece is found, in the hope that one day we’ll ‘get the band back together’. It’s a small dream, but one that I can cling to for quite some time (before finally emptying those jars and boxes directly into the bin).

But of course the most important Little Things of All are the children themselves – who in turn, frustrate, amuse, thrill, confuse, infuriate and fill me with love, pride and wonder. They throw their little arms around my neck, press their small mouths to my ear and say things like “You’re the Bestest Mummy in the Whole World”, which I know is quite some way from the truth but am so willing to believe for the duration of that precious hug. Ah, whoever would have thought such wonderful things would come in such small packages.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
— Mother Teresa

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A person could drive themselves mad pondering the “What ifs…” and the “If only I hads…”. For example, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d left that open pack of cocktail franks at the back of the fridge for another six months. Or if only I’d stopped at just one piece of chocolate rather than the whole ruddy block last night, whether my “apron” would feel a little less inflated this morning. 

My husband no doubt has had some “What ifs” on his mind since we caught up with The King and his lovely wife (The Queen?). The King and my husband had worked together for a major British newspaper when we lived in London and The King had gone onto Great Things, whereas my husband had been dragged kicking and screaming back to the colonies by his wife, along with his four month old son, who also did a good line in screaming and kicking all that long long journey home. It all could have been so different, though. In our final months in the UK, my husband had gone for a promotion at work and we agreed that, if he got it, we’d stay in the UK and if he didn’t, we’d go to Australia where he could languish away in a dead-end academic job for five years before finally getting himself a “proper job” where he’d get to wear a fancy-man suit, start a campaign for “International Sean Connery Impressions Day” and end up running from his desk to throw up no less than six times the morning after a big work party. Well, we didn’t know that’s what Australia had in store for him at the time, but that’s what ended up happening. Fact. 

If you ask him what life might have been like for us had we stayed in London, he would no doubt paint you a picture of himself cycling about on his trusty bike through the beautiful green parks of that fair city, putting in a hard day’s graft on a world-class publication, slipping in a pint (or three) at the pub with the lads after work and eventually coming home after closing time via the kebab shop. Which is pretty much what he was still doing up until the time we left. Life for me, of course, had changed considerably with the arrival of Mister Justice and my days were largely spent waiting for my husband to cycle home with the smell of lager and garlic sauce on his breath. 

But enough about him – it is all about me, after all. What would have happened to me if we had stayed there (other than waiting around for my drunken husband to come home)? Would financial necessity have driven me back to the arms of a rubber chicken in my manager-minding job (see “Chicken of Persuasion“)? Would I have gone on to churn out two more children in the home counties or I still be passing myself off as part of a “hip’n’happening London couple with a child”? Or, if I had managed to swing a Stay-At-Home gig, would I have found myself a mothers’ group full of gloriously boozy women with which to while away those long long afternoons (see “The Hostest with the Mostest” as a stirling example of this worthy past-time)?

For the answer to that last question, I’ll quote my friend Fee S in the UK, who had the following to report:

My usually breezy and very funny friend B—- (four boys 2-7yrs years) had a face of lead when I told her about your mother’s group, which sounded all fab and modern. She practically screamed at me “Have you been to a mother’s group here? Have you? Have you? It’s shit! Shit!”

Fee then went on to regale me with some horror stories of cold cups of tea in dank church halls – with not a hint of cheap bubbly or a schmancy hors d’oevres to be found. In an instant, I realised exactly what my life would have become had we stayed in the UK:  I would have found myself on that Road Not Taken either drinking mournfully by myself of a Thursday afternoon or – worse yet – stone cold sober. Oh the humanity!

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Every now and then my husband has to impose a Total Cupcake Ban on our house. I innocently walk into the kitchen and he’s standing there, all authoritarian-like, saying “Strictly No Cupcaking Allowed” in the kind of voice that makes me wish he was wearing a police uniform and calling me “ma’am”.

Look I know i have a problem – and not just with my husband-in-uniform fantasies. There have been days I’ve gotten up, baked and iced a dozen cupcakes and thrust them into somebody’s hands before 9am. In some people’s minds (i.e. my husband’s), this is a much greater sin than having a drink before the sun is over the yardstick. Particularly if I’m flinging sugar, butter and flour about in the kitchen before any of the kids have had breakfast or – worse still – my husband has had his first coffee of the day. Which is tantamount to spousal-abuse, or so the letters I’ve received from my husband’s lawyers duly inform me. 

I have come late to the world of baking. Had you met me even five years ago and asked me to bake you something, I would have called upon my good friend Betty Crocker for assistance. And even then I would have stuffed it up. Then one glorious day, I inherited my grandmother’s copy of “The Joy of Cooking” – which is a little like “The Joy of Sex” except that A) any makin’ bacon it contains isn’t the kind that involves illustrated diagrams of a disconcertingly bearded man and his “lady friend”; and B) it shows you how to have a bun in the oven that’s not going to give you hemorrhoids, varicose veins or stress incontinence.

Anyway, “The Joy” was a treasure trove of all the little bits and pieces of information that was completely missing from my cooking knowledge base, such as the fact even a small amount of yolk in with separated egg whites will mean they won’t beat properly. Or, unless you really like your guests to walk around making that pha-pha-pha sound with their lips, it’s highly recommended that you take time to sift your dry ingredients properly when adding bicarbonate of soda. And that you need to soften butter before attempting to cream it (unless you really want your Kenwood Chef beater attachment to end up looking like it’s had the Dali clock treatment). 

Of course, for a long time my bake-from-scratch cakes were either like rocks or would suddenly collapse in on themselves if someone made a sudden movement.  But slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, things began to improve. And then quite rapidly get completely out of hand – sometimes literally, such as when I stuck my finger in the barmix in my pursuit of the perfect pat-in-the-pan crumb pastry (see “Up in Arms” for more details). And for the record, anyone who has heard that pitiful story in its entirety and seen the scars I bear will forever think twice before licking the whipped cream off one of those finger traps without a) unplugging it from the wall first and b) calling the electricity company to temporarily disconnect the house from the main grid all together. That’s my gift to the world. 

Fortunately, I didn’t let a little severed tendon dampen my enthusiasm for baking and I was soon back in the kitchen, churning out cupcakes faster than the kids can eat them and grind the crumbs into the carpet. And so we’re back to the Total Cupcake Ban my husband keeps imposing on the kitchen. Look, I know I’ve got a problem but there’s perfection to be found in those little balls of butter, flour and sugar, goddammit! And isn’t a Not Drowning Mother owed a little perfection in her life when all else around her invariably turns to shit (including those cupcakes, actually, if you think about it)? All hail the mighty cupcake!

Better Than Sex

Better Than Sex

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Having touched lightly on this delightful subject in a previous post (see “Poo-tential“), it struck me the other day while I was scrubbing skid marks off the children’s underpants how there was so much more to say about the art of Toilet Training. To help guide you through this veritable minefield, where at any moment a chocolate bomb might go off in your face, here are some random musings straight from the desk of the Not Drowning Mother. 

“Denial is a river of piss in your son’s pants”
Let’s be honest here: the male of the species is in deep denial when it comes to the fullness of their bladder. There is some fundamental break-down in communication between their brains and their nether-regions, which, early on in life, leads to what I affectionately refer to as “piss-pants” and, later in life, leads to embarrassing text-message scandals in the tabloid press. 

To this day, I’ll often find Mr Justice standing in the most awkward way, clutching his penis and sticking his bum right out like a baboon on heat. It always begs the question: “Do you need to go to the toilet?”

And yet the answer is always an emphatic “No”, shortly followed by the sudden – but not surprising – appearance of the Wet Patch of Shame (although, as a mother of two boys, I know there will one day be other kinds of wet patches for me to deal with, but thankfully I’m not there yet and I’m sure both my boys will be praying I’m not blogging anymore when I am). 

And then when he does make it to the toilet in time, the phrase “to paint the town yellow” springs to mind. As recently as yesterday, he said to me “I’m sorry but I did a wee in the bin by mistake.” The bin. Which is in the kitchen and nowhere near the toilet. And people wonder why I’ve aged so much these last six years. 

Beware the Camel
In stark contrast, The Pixie has superior bladder control which has earned her the nickname of “The Camel” in these parts. That girl can go from 5pm one night through to 10:30am the following morning without conceding a single drop of urine – and as someone on the other side of three pregnancies from my little girl, she completely blows me out of the water I’m invariably sitting in. However, just when you come to rely on the exceptional urine-retaining talents of The Camel, she’s still prone to play the “I’ve got to go to the toy-ah-lettttttt” card at the most inconvenient moments. And in her case, when she’s got to go, she’s really got to go, floodgates opening and all, so you’d better move damn fast. 

Night-time dilemmas
The overnight nappy presents a parent with a double-edged sword: on one side, the longer you use the night nappy on a child who emits a steady stream of piss throughout the night, the more sleep you will get; on the other side, you run the risk of one day still trying to shoehorn a 18 year old into a pull-up with Bambi on it. 

I’ve heard tell of little electric mats that you can buy or hire which, the minute a drop of urine hits it, sets off an alarm to wake the child and remind them to go to the toilet. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t sit well with me. Perhaps it’s the combination of liquid, electricity and my child’s bed and its strong overtones of electroconvulsive shock therapy that does it. There must be another way. But before you start offering me advice, read the next section. 

Be careful who you give toilet training advice to
Having had an easy-breezy time toilet training one of my children and an excruciating time with the other (Tiddles is only just starting to form a relationship with the potty, and so it’s too early to call), I can appreciate why some people might like to give “useful” advice like “Just put them in underpants, it will sort itself out”. These casual advice-givers obviously had the easy-breezy experience where the moment they chose to toilet-train was at precisely the moment the child was ready, the stars were all in alignment and someone was mooning Uranus (or some-such).  

In my checkered history as a toilet trainer of ill-repute, I’ve been driven to posting on online parenting forums where I’ve swapped horror stories with other mothers experiencing the Extreme Sports end of Toilet Training. 

One poster helpfully interrupted our merry banter with some unsolicited advice about “Early Elimination Control” – where you’re supposed to start waving your baby’s bum over a potty the moment they’re born and you never EVER let them sit in their own excrement for even a nano-second, even if it means pulling over by the side of the road and changing them IMMEDIATELY.

And how old was her little one and did she have any other children? one other poster asked sweetly, no doubt sharpening her claws in readiness to pounce. 

The answer? Eight months old. And yes, the baby was her first. 

What ensued can only be described as internet forum carnage. The lesson in all that: you just don’t mess with mothers at the Extreme Sports end of toilet-training. You’ll get the shit kicked out of you.

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