Posts Tagged ‘museums and children’

You’d think preschool children who hung out with each other a lot would synchronise their toilet-trips in much the same manner women synchronise menstral cycles. But, no.

Just the other day, I ventured to the science museum with five children, all under the age of six. And look, before you say anything, I thought it was a good idea. I truly did. And really, it mostly did turn out to be a good idea except, well…

It’s just that when you’re on your own with that many children under six for over two hours, you pretty much can count on doing at least one toilet trip per child. And because you have to take everyone with you each time, you spend another big chunk of time persuading the non-toilet-needing children why it’s a good thing to leave the fun museum stuff and do yet another tour of the toilet facilities. 

It’s therefore fair to say you’re going to spend at least half of your allotted time either in – or traveling to or from – the toilet. 

Luckily for me, this particular museum had “family facilities” which are multi-gendered places with plenty of wide spaces for prams, water-play and tantrums.

Would that it were so in all public venues. Now that Mr Justice is seven and more prone to catching “girls’ germs”, he refuses point blank to go into the women’s toilets. And legally, I’m not sure of his status in there anyway. So I often find myself wedging the female toilet door open so that I may observe the toileting activities of The Pixie and still keep an eye on Mr Justice outside, while Tiddles McGee merrily runs back and forth between the two.

Happier still are those times I’ve had to lurk right outside the men’s toilets shouting out “Are you okay?” every five seconds, whilst explaining to other toilet patrons and passersby that “My son’s in there!” and “I don’t normally make a habit of this. No, really.” 

Is it little wonder I prefer to use the disabled toilets when out and about on my own with the kids? Of course, I do it with a heavy conscience and only after scouting out for people who look like they might need it more than us first. I remember someone once said to me “Why shouldn’t disabled people have to wait for the toilet like the rest of us?” causing me to mutter something along the lines of “Um, because the rest of us are having a much easier time of things, really” and terminate my friendship with said person on the spot.  

Anyway, back at the museum, we’d just done toilet trip #4 and were back looking at actual exhibits (as opposed to tap fittings), when Master J made a surprise announcement.

“Uh, [NDM]?” he said, oh-so-casually. “I’ve just done poo in my pants.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised – after all, this is the child from past posts such as “Poo-tential” and “All The World’s A Toilet” – but I was surprised. Mostly because toilet stop #4 had actually been for Master J. 

“How did this happen???” I asked Master J, as I rounded up everyone for the fifth time.

“My bottom opened up and I pushed the poo through,” was his measured response – which admittedly answered my question, albeit in a way that made me want to plunge my mind in bleach. 

As we trekked back to the toilet (some of us more comfortably than others), I felt a wave of despair wash over me. Not only did I have to deal with the Unknown Horror in Master J’s pants, but the fact I had no spare clothes meant I’d have to bring the museum trip to an untimely end and find some way of getting the disappointed five-under-six safely out to the car against their will. 

Luckily for us all, it ended up being the smallest amount. I quickly scrubbed the undies and hung them on the pram handle to dry (I’m both resourceful and classy) and Master J happily went commando for the rest of what turned out to be a pleasant afternoon. Disaster averted. 

That night, when I recounted my toilet adventures to my husband over a glass (or three) of Recovery Wine, he said “I know you’re like some kind of Super Mum, but next time you find yourself in charge of five-under-six, maybe it’d be best to stay at home”. 

Shee-itt, I ain’t no Super Mum, I thought to myself. Not even close.

But let me tell you all now: if I were, I’d definitely be one of those really smart superheroes that has a sidekick to delegate all those toilet trips to. That’s. For. Sure.

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A mother’s bag is a wondrous thing. It harbours a whole host of essential items – some of which might not seem that essential to the untrained eye, but can be pulled out to save the day at a minute’s notice. For example: a mini-Easter egg found at the bottom of my bag in mid-September placated a small child about to have a godzilla-sized tantrum in a public place; a wad of used tissues was used to transport a fragile bird’s egg found by my big boy at the park; and a champagne cork stopped a reservoir water tank from leaking on The Love Bus. When all is said and done, the motherbag is the McGyver of the Bag World. 

So you can imagine that a mother, say, on a visit to a special exhibit at the state museum with four children, for example, might feel a little cranky when asked to check in her tote bag at the cloakroom because it was deemed to be a “large, bulky item”. In fact, you could say such a mother would be distinctly prickly with the museum attendant. 

“You’ll thank us when you get in there and see how crowded it is,” the museum attendant told such a mother (which was of course me). 

“So crowded that my unconcealed wallet will be wrenched from my hand?” I asked, pointedly.

You see, the denial of the motherbag and a distinct lack of pockets on my attire meant I had to become a Type A “Holder” – you know, one of those people who walk around doing everything holding their wallet, keys and mobile phone in their hands. Shit, they probably even got married, fell pregnant and gave birth holding all that crap. But listen, I have nothing against Holders per se. It’s just that when I’m personally holding stuff in my hand, I grow all uneasy that I might be faced with one of those “catch my child falling or keep hold of my purse” scenarios and some days it’s hard to say which way I’d roll, depending on how much juice was left on my credit card.

Of course, because I was so busy being cranky when I checked in my bag at the cloakroom, I didn’t properly assess what the kids were carrying or make any projections about what I might end up carrying in their place. And so I found myself shepherding four children under eight around a crowded exhibition space, carrying a total of two jumpers, a hard-covered book, a light saber, a stuffed pink poodle, a wad of tickets and programmes handed to me on entry and – of course – my purse, mobile and carkeys. All of which would have easily stored away in my tardis-like motherbag, leaving my hands and arms free to, you know, prevent the young children in my care from tearing the exhibition to shit. For example. 

As I struggled my way around the exhibit, I found myself bitterly keeping count of people bearing leather handbags the same size or bigger than my humble canvas tote. The difference? The bearers appeared to be either without children or with one or two of a more civilised age, able perhaps to blow their own noses and/or manage their own toilet breaks from start to finish.

So what exactly did the museum have against mothers of small children and their motherbags? Were they worried that I’d unleash a torrent of sultanas and diluted juice over their preciousssss exhibitions? If so, damn right they should have been worried. They should have been very worried indeed. But not because I’d be brazenly flouting the NO FOOD OR DRINK rule in the gallery, but because my famous vomiting children might just spontaneously download their breakfast onto all the equipment at the audio tour booth at any given moment. Fact.

I mean, why let children in at all if you won’t let the motherbags of the world in?

For the record: a mother without her motherbag is like a soldier without a gun. Or a skydiver without a parachute. Or a father without whatever thing fathers can’t do without, which is probably their trousers if you think about it as it might get them arrested. Again.


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