The nursery assessment arrives with an alarming observation: ‘is helpful at nappy changes, lifts legs to aid in cleaning.’ Puzzled, I side-eye my child. My handsome, feisty boy, who loves nothing more than a cuddle and a snack, and hates nothing more than the confines that toddlerhood bring. Independent, some say. Stubborn, say others. A lover of his mother and a fighter of cleanliness, this is not a boy that, typically, is ‘helpful at nappy changes.’ But I am hesitantly hopeful, and the opportunity to observe such growth is upon me.
On cue, he approaches – a rancid smell emanating from his nether regions. Smiling, I cautiously tell him what it is time for. He seems intrigued, almost willing, as I pull out a fresh size 5 and a packet of wipes. Curious, nearly, as I reach my arms out toward him. Blisteringly furious as I lay him on his back and attempt to get down to business.
In an instant, he’s writhing. He’s shouting. He’s looking at me as though I am the devil and he, the devil’s child. My attempts to lighten the mood come to nought, and suddenly I am struck by visions of him at 15 years old, returning home having run away with the circus 9 months earlier, a wife and triplets in tow, all because I lost my power in this most primary of our power struggles. The despair seeps in, I start to question my entire parenting philosophy and then, as if by magic, he resigns the fight, lies quietly glaring at me as I complete the work, and balance is restored.
Soothed, I tell him it’s over, and he scampers off with one white eyebrow raised and a laugh thrown over his shoulder, as I stay behind to clean the mess he has made. That laugh says ‘who really won this round?’ and as I look down at the task at hand I have to admit, I don’t think it was me.
In the hours that follow, we are simply mother and son. The creeping doubt accompanying that observation do not plague me. We love one another, we enjoy the games we play, the company we keep is one we would choose for ourselves. And then? Then he stops in his tracks. He turns to face me, puts a hand on my shoulder, reddens. He pulls that same telltale face he’s used since infancy.
And the battle begins again.
Note: I recently read that children that save their worst selves for their parents have the best parents, because they feel comfortable enough to let out their frustration on mum and dad, but know well enough to be polite to others. This would conclude that the daily struggle that accompanies the nappy change is a credit to me. I’m going to choose to believe it 😂