I am not good at comforting an injured child, not good at all. The thud of the banged knee followed by over-long, exaggerated boo-hooing leaves me cold; I’ve done my time staring at little scratches (‘You brave brave girl!’), moaning in sympathy while snatching a look at my ‘to do’ list. It’s OK if there’s some actual blood so I can get a plaster, but otherwise nowadays it’s ‘oh dear’, and I’m changing the subject. The children complain bitterly of course: ‘Mummy comfort me! Don’t just say ‘oh’ and carry on with what you’re doing – don’t you care?’ So I make a joke of the performance expected of me (callously in their view) and thunder across the room, arms outstretched to cuddle and cosset, ‘What happened, darling?’ I groan, seeking out the invisible knock, to shower kisses upon it. Kills me!
Well, we had a real accident at the weekend; my fault, because leaving a thirteen year old and a ten year old home alone with a new Ipad for entertainment was clearly going to end up in Accident and Emergency...If I’d had half an ounce of common sense I would have foreseen that Maddy would promise Alfie a go on the Ipad, but then – haha! - close it down! (‘Daddy said I must’). And it was perfectly obvious that Alfie would wallop Maddy’s head with a pillow,into the edge of the Ipad. But there you are – I just didn’t think it through - too busy swanning around in Crouch End buying a new mop head to think of fitting the children with protective clothing before venturing out for such high jinks.
I also forgot my mobile phone as usual. And since Alan was speeding happily towards the golf course (‘I never get to play’) when the Ipad lid sliced Maddy’s head, it was neighbour Jess who had to deal with the screams, the buckets of blood, and all the panicky life threatening stuff; calling ambulances, doctors and all our friends and relatives (that’s two calls) trying to locate Alan and me, to please get the hell home and act like proper parents.
In the aftermath, my instinct was to be Ogre-Mum: ‘Rrrrrrrrrrr! THIS IS MONSTROUS. IT MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! GO TO YOUR ROOMS AND STAY THERE TILL NEXT YEAR!’ but Liberal-Mum had the right to be heard too, and she understood that it was natural for children to vent their anger, and be foul to each other, even if they ended up dead: ‘Hey guys, you and your arguments, you kill me - and you nearly killed each other! boom! boom! Next time sit down and talk it through, OK? Cool’.
‘We should learn from this’ I began ponderously. ‘What should we learn? That you are animals. That sixteen years of ‘Careful – that is dangerous/ Say sorry/ Be kind/ Think about other people’s feelings/ Use words not fists, has come to a great big NICHTS. I’m taking the dog for a walk’.