After swimming we managed a shower, all in one cubicle, with no shoving and pushing. We even managed to get dressed. It was quite a civilised affair and was going so well that I decided to dry my hair whilst the children munched on their Quavers.
It started like any other tantrum. He was sat next to his 4 year old sister chomping and comparing crisp sizes. I was drying my hair. The next time I turned to look he was lying on the floor screaming “BIG ONE, BIG ONE”. By the time I got over to him he was bright red and inconsolable. And so it went … I had half my hair dry – the other sopping wet. Abandoning any idea that I may look fairly normal I started to pack up the rest of our things. The other three women looked on in various states of undress offering their support of eyes rolling “poor love”, “he looks tired” and “I have one like that at home”. I wanted to reply “He is not a poor love, nor is he tired and I wish I had left him at home. Now stop standing there flashing your beaver at me and get dressed”.
I tried to speak to the 2 year old but he was not open for a mother to son tête-à-tête, instead he continued to scream in a pitch that reverberates through your head and makes your ears bleed.
To stop him from damaging his head on the floor whilst thrashing I placed him in the playpen which only enhanced his distress. Shoving wet things into our bags as quickly as possible I grabbed him and we exited the changing room at speed.
My thought was this … in the corridor outside the changing room alone I could calmly talk him down from his tantrum whilst putting his shoes on, we would then exit the country club smiling like the families you see on the covers of parenting magazines. It was not to be.
I felt like a member of MI5 in the programme Spooks. I mapped out all available exits in my head and chose my route. The 2 year old was missing his shoes but I didn’t care. The poor 4 year old desperately trying to tell me something was drowned out by his screeching and me shouting “I cannot hear you, your brother is screaming”, to which she would reply “Pardon?” and then she would try again.
The foyer of the club was my next obstacle. Usually empty it was full of silent people who all stared at me over the tops of their newspapers. I bundled my son under my arm who was flapping about like a epileptic octopus. I was also carrying two bags, two pairs of inflated armbands and dragging the 4 year old who was still, despite my shouts, trying to tell me something.
As we burst out of the doors into the car park which was also unusually busy all I could see was the car ahead. I had tunnel vision, I needed to get to that car and quick. Groups of golfers who had just finished their rounds stopped speaking and stared in horror as their quiet country retreat was filled with shrieks that you would normally associate with someone being stabbed through the heart with a fork.
I folded him into his car seat, child origami is an art, and shut the door. During the 5 minute journey home I turned the Disney CD right up trying to drown him out. The 4 year old was sniffling. I couldn’t work out whether it was her brother’s noise or having to listen to ‘The Bear Necessities’ at full blast which was distressing her more.
We reached home and I ran like an athlete approaching the finishing line through our front door, grasping the 2 year old who is normally a pale child. He was vine ripened tomato red and sweating.
I sank onto the sofa and released him. He chose that moment to decide that in the confines of our own home he could not embarrass me further and stopped. His cries were replaced by the slow sniffing of a child who has screamed constantly for over half an hour and needs to regulate his breathing. He cuddled up to me briefly and then went about his business as if nothing had happened. I on the other hand was sat there looking like one half of my head had just stepped out of a salon and the other still sopping wet. My ears were ringing and I felt like sticking my head in the oven and turning it on.
The 4 year old taking full advantage of the sudden silence said “Mummy, I was trying to tell you that he ate his big one, but you just wouldn’t listen”.
All I can now think is that the 2 year old who is currently obsessed with big Vs tiny found the biggest Quaver his eyes had ever seen and then felt bereaved upon eating it. Whatever it was it was sheer bloody hell on earth for exactly 35 minutes and I still don’t know where his shoes are.