As every mother knows there’s only one way to tell if a pair of pants left lying on the floor is clean or not. If you’re lucky it’s simply a discarded fresh pair and your deep inhalation will be met by nothing more innocuous than the pleasant odour of washing powder. But if you’re not, your speedy and involuntary recoil will soon tell you because there’s nothing quite so nasty as the sharp whiff of stale urine on cloth.
What else? Wiping thick snot from a toddler’s nose when you haven’t got a tissue. I used to recoil in horror when husband did this with deft use of thumb and forefinger - quite what happened to the ‘issue’ after that I wouldn’t like to say. By comparison, washing a child’s grubby face in the school line-up with only hands and warm spit, which I do, often, seems decorous. And then there’s poo.
Mothers become very familiar with poo. Nappy poo, fresh poo, old poo, runny poo, hard poo, stuck poo, other children’s poo, poo in pants, on floors, up walls and in beds. I’ve dealt with poo of every conceivable type and hue and here is what I’ve learnt: wooden floorboards with gaps in between and potty-shy toddlers doesn’t mix, ditto carpets and toddlers, ditto diarrhoea and carpets and sheets and toddlers.
I once left Eldest crawling on the floor without a nappy because I thought the fresh air on his little baby backside would do him good. Unfortunately Top of The Pops was on the telly (obviously this is going back a few years, because a) the programme was still broadcast and b) I was interested), and I momentarily took my eye off the ball to watch it, so to speak. When I looked back my baby was swimming in a sea of his own effluence.
I scooped him up, holding him as far from my body as possible and ran to the bathroom but didn’t manage to get there before he tightly grabbed my shoulder length hair with both his tiny poo-encrusted hands - and laughed in my face.
And Middle One once stood up on his chair and peed onto his dinner. This was in a restaurant in Portugal and he was about two. The strange thing was that at exactly the same time a wasp stung husband on his finger and I tipped over a glass of coke: a disaster triple whammy. This was on the same holiday that I had decided to try and talk husband into having a third child…as I recall he actually withheld his services for a few days after that.
But the piece de resistance, number two-wise, is something that recently happened to my dear friend and neighbour. Her toddler went through that charming ‘I’ll just leave her a little present somewhere in the house’ phase, like a cat with a dead offering. Her nose led her to it, of course, and as she opened the bedroom door he had left ‘it’ behind she inadvertently made a spectacular curve of excrement across the carpet, like the wing of a snow angel only made of poo. By comparison sniffing the odd pair of pants really doesn't seem so bad…