Charlie is having a near death experience, so bad is the bug that has befallen him. He thinks he has Foot and Mouth (it’s a cold; he’s already practising the art of man flu) so I’m now sharing my bed with a “sick” child as well as the farting circus.
Charlie sleeps the wrong way round in the crucifixion position leaving Stig and I a narrow strip each down either side of the bed. At regular intervals throughout the night I’m jolted into consciousness by a tiny hand slapping me in the face or by one of my limbs sliding off my side of the bed and threatening to take the rest of me with it. Each time this happens I circle my wrists and ankles to check for pins and needles and try to readjust my position in the within the ten inches of space I have been allocated by our son. Stig, who could sleep on a washing line in a hurricane, is snoring soundly through all of this.
After three days of coughing fits I decide that Charlie should probably see a doctor. I may even actually have a modicum of genuine concern. I prise him away from the TV and head out to the doctors. As I watch him jumping the cracks in the pavement I begin to suspect it's all a big conspiracy. My theory carries further weight when I observe the same child (who was on the verge of collapse an hour earlier) make a miraculous recovery in the doctors’ surgery waiting room. He’s now a picture of health and energy; knocking magazines off tables and spreading the contents of the toy box all over the floor. I endure disapproving looks from elderly ladies followed by a polite doctor who secretly thinks I'm one of those overprotective, paranoid mothers or worse; that I have Munchhausen’s by proxy.
Once home again, Charlie’s recovery is complete. He is incessantly pestering to be allowed to play outside. This, of course, is out of the question. All mothers instinctively know it is punishable by death to let your child play out when they are "sick".
I put cbeebies on and ignore Charlie for the next two hours while I attempt to restore some order to the house and prepare the dinner, by which time the rest of my dysfunctional family have arrived home.
I threaten Stig with starvation if he touches the vegetables again, swot him with my spatula, and begin telling him what the doctor has said about Charlie; namely that there’s nothing wrong with him. At which point my Stig disappears into thin air (or the garage), and I lose the will to live. Men complain about women’s verbal diarrhoea because they fail to understand that if we pause for breath, for so much as a millisecond, they assume we’ve finished speaking and they leave the bloody room.
I then realise that Charlie has been very quiet for some time. I look for him whilst trying to rationalise with myself that the odds of him having choked on his own vomit in the last ten minutes are slim. I locate him in our bedroom, where I had left him to watch TV and "recover" in peace.
The scene before me does not quite register at first. Sam is in there with him. They have found my ink stamp. My bedroom is randomly covered in little black rectangles with my name, address, and phone number in them. My shelves, our bedside cabinets, the walls (a new kind of trendy retro wallpaper?). I look down at two mischievous smiling faces, with a hint of uncertainty as they wait for my reaction, hoping that I'll see the funny side of this. Their faces, arms and clothes are covered in the same little black rectangles, slightly reminiscent of prison tattoos.
So this is what a fight in a stamp factory would look like, not a vision I'd ever contemplated before.
There often comes that moment when I can no longer hold my fixed smile through gritted teeth, but just when I’m about to go off like Sputnik, one of the kids gives me a look that melts my heart in an instant, or worse still; they make me laugh.
"Mummy, can you post us?" Asks Sam.
There are certain questions in life that are just too difficult to answer. Realising I can no longer be mad at the kids; I normally follow their father to the garage and give him some verbal abuse. He might as well prove useful, one way or another!