After just four hours with chidren I love, I’m exhausted. The thought of a lifetime is, well, unthinkable.
A friend who has three girls (aged 7, 5 and 2) came to Edinburgh this weekend. We met up in Princes Street gardens this afternoon. After a lot of hide-and-seek/chasing around, the 7-year-old announced that she needed the toilet, so I was left with the other two, various handbags and jackets while their mum took the 7-year-old across Waverley Bridge to the toilets in Waverley shopping centre.
After about three minutes, the 5-year-old announced that she needed to go to the toilet too. So I gathered her sister and our belongings and shepherded them out out of the gardens towards the shopping centre. I’d been told that this was an urgent visit so I didn’t dare wait to call the girls’ mother to tell her what was happening before setting off. Ever tried to hold two hands, a few coats and make a call on a cellphone while waiting to cross a busy road? (No matter how desperate the calls of nature were, crossing Waverley Bridge before the pedestrian crossing let us was clearly out of the question.) If you have, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, don’t.
In shopping centre’s food court, a mac-food-bot told us the toilets were on the level we’d just descended from and not at the food court. I was stupid enough to believe him. At the top of the escalator to the upper level, a security guard told me that we’d been misinformed and that we should return to the food court, where the staff would open the disabled toilet for us. (Presumably I couldn’t accompany the girls into the female toilet and even I would have qualms about taking a girl into a male toilet.)
Fortunately we met the girls’ mum on our way to the toilets. She took us all towards the regular toilets and then took the 5-year-old to the female toilet. After some cajoling, we thought she had done her business and all was well once more, so we returned to the gardens to enoy the sunshine.
Not long after the 5-year-old announced she’d had an accident because she couldn’t go earlier. So we needed to find somewhere to clean her up and some fresh undies – all the clean clothes were in the family’s car over a mile away. So we gathered up our kit once more and headed across Princes Street to H&M while trying to withstand the 7-year-old’s incessant demands to know exactly what had happened and get not to announce to everyone in earshot that her sister had done something rather embarrassing.
At H&Ms checkout, I asked the assistant if she’d let the 5-year-old and her mum use the staff toilets because this was ‘an emergency purchase’. Customer-service gold star of the day goes to the assistant for giving a wry, understanding smile and leading mum and afflicted daughter away.
I was left with the 2-year-old and the 7-year-old. The younger one was easier to entertain – plonk her on train-shaped display which was obviously designed to entice and yet withstand children sitting on it. Not so the 7-year-old, who threatened to climb displays that obviously weren’t designed for this purpose.
We waited, me getting symapathetic looks from a dad whose daughter had joined us while he looked for clothes for her*, for what seemed an inordinate time. It turned out that 5-year-old, rather than wetting herself, had done ‘the other’ – necessitating a lengthy clean-up, which eventually caused the mother to vomit.
*she wanted a dress but refused to help choose it.
Like I say, I love these children and would stop bullets for them. They can get me to do anything short of theft or lies for them but 4 hours is enough! Why would anyone vounteer for a lifetime of this sort of stress?