There has been many a day when I have returned from work to find my mother slumped on the sofa, a look of exhaustion and despair etched on her face.
“It’s been a difficult day,” she would croak, as Piglet played with his cars around her, in front of Abney and Teal, making cute little noises of contentment as the Poc Pocs hopped across the screen.
“He really is naughty you know,” she would add, for effect, as I cheerfully headed for the kitchen and a cup of tea, before settling in front of the cooker and flinging pots about, cooking our dinner while my mother chased Piglet around and desperately tried to keep him from emptying the entire contents of the cupboards.
And how I would scoff. Piglet is not naughty, I would say. He’s a completely normal toddler. Completely normal. You have forgotten what small children are like, I’d say. You imagine that we were the most perfect children who ever lived. I would remind her about that time my brother, in his own wayward toddler years, put his head through the living room door, pointedly adding that I still remember him with his head stuck in that door. It’s never been the same since. We had to get rid of it and get that ridiculous bit of plastic sliding door that’s hanging off the hinges. There you have it, EVIDENCE. We were terrible kids.
Well that was different, would come the response. That was an accident. Piglet’s misdemeanors, by contrast, are deliberate and calculated, like he is actually sitting there plotting the downfall of his loving grandmother.
I would look upon Piglet’s angelic visage and know, I would just know, with the intuition that only a mother could, that Piglet was doing nothing of the sort. He was a wondrous child, the sort that would never, could never even contemplate such a thing. He was a paragon of virtue, a model child and, of course, nothing out of the ordinary. All his behaviour was perfectly normal and expected. Developmentally normal. There was no need for a visit to the psychiatrist. All would be well. This too shall pass.
Well reader, now that we live on our own and Granny sits in the restored peace of her own home and watches Great British Railway Journeys each evening in restful solitude, I sometimes wonder. It appears that I have now taken the role of tormented guardian, to be run ragged until I too am a shell of my former self. Today, for example, he deliberately poured milk all over one of my bar chairs from Dwell (RIP Dwell. How I miss your glossy red tables and your overpriced statuettes of diamante covered skulls), and then pushed its sister chair over, just for the hell of it. Those chairs were from Dwell. Like all the best shops, Dwell has now gone bust. There will be no replacing those chairs (even though I saw identical ones in B&Q, but DWELL).
My response to this, after keeping my cool throughout the previous onslaught of a) the throwing of dinner on the floor, b) the deliberate spillage of milk on the floor and up the walls and c) the near-destruction of a standing lamp underneath the television which Piglet has gleefully discovered can also be pushed over, was to be really annoyed. Annoyed enough to put him in his pushchair for a couple of minutes and leave him to cry, feeling like a monster, whilst I attempted to fix the damage and finished my already cold cup of tea.
I now know how my mother felt on those days when she lay, pale and exhausted, on the sofa, an empty husk of the woman she had been just that morning, before she had been pushed to her absolute physical and mental limit by a particularly exhausting toddler.
And I’m hoping it’s still normal, right?