SO, there we all were, having a jolly old time of it over lunch on a Saturday afternoon. There was me, my teenage daughter, my older sister and two nieces.
There we were, nattering away and enjoying ourselves, when the atmosphere was cut by the sound of a shrieking child.
Now, I mean, this rug rat was turning purple with rage as he tried to writhe his way out of his mother’s arms. She wasn’t letting go and he wasn’t going to stop either. With great physical muster, she managed to get him to a chair, where she deposited him bluntly. The toddler was still screaming.
“Jesus, wouldn’t ya think that she’d get the child settled down a bit before bringing him in here?” I said to the company I was with.
Four blank faces looked back at me.
“I mean, there’s obviously a problem with the kid, so why didn’t she get it sorted before heaving him in here and ruining our lunch?” I continued, digging myself further into the hole.
Four blank faces continued to stare at me. Then my older sister, a modern day Mary Poppins, if you like, slowly opened her mouth and said: “Really? Are you really going to be that person? The person who bitches about a small child who’s upset? Who judges a mother who’s trying to cope with her kid’s tantrum? Are you really going to be that person?” my sister said, just barely – barely – keeping the contempt out of her own voice.
My daughter and nieces looked on in horror. But I wouldn’t back down.
“Ma, don’t you even like children?” my daughter asked in a small voice, quite unlike her own.
“It’s true. I don’t particularly like them. They’re an awful pain in the arse, especially strangers’ kids. They’re particularly bad,” I answered, haughtily. “I am, however, very fond of you. And you. And you,” I said, pointing in turn to my daughter and the other two.
“That’s true. She really does love you,” my sister said, rowing in, as if my own word wasn’t enough.
That got my back up. Now I was the one being judged. I was being undermined, so I had to retaliate.
“I remember the time when I terrified our oldest sister’s kids,” I said gleefully, as the three teenagers listened. “Because of my nose and my chin and my little roundy glasses that I used to wear as a teenager, I convinced them that I was a witch.”
“Jesus, did you really do that?” Mary Poppins beside me asked, appalled.
“I certainly did. The little buggers were really annoying me at the time, but that softened their cough. They didn’t come near me for years after that one!” I laughed in a shrill, manic way.
“Mother, are you for f***king real?” was the reaction from my daughter’s corner.
At this stage, the screaming tyke that had been hauled into the restaurant had quietened down and was now whimpering in his high chair.
I suddenly remembered the one and only time that my only child completely lost the plot. She was just over two years’ old and we were walking through a shopping centre – a tiny issue about something that magnified so hugely in her tiny mind that she threw a tantrum. A full-blown, lay down on the floor, kick-and-scream tantrum. In the middle of the shiny shopping centre, where other families were happily going about their business. Some gangly teenagers stopped to have a look at the tiny car crash that was screaming her little blonde head off on the floor. Others averted their gaze, but mostly mothers with their buggies slowed down to give me a sympathetic eye. They understood.
Back in the restaurant, I blushed, embarrassed by my own impatience at the little fella, who’d literally been dragged in kicking and screaming by his mother.
I looked at my daughter and answered her question.
“Ah no, hon. I’m only winding ye up. Sure, don’t you know I just adore kids?” I said, before shutting up, once and for all.