The Way We Were...

I shudder to think what it must sound like to the casual passer-by in the street outside. No less than murder most foul, I imagine.


It is my son - just listen to him: "Don't, Mummy! Please, Mummy, I don't like it. No! No! NO!" - a riding crescendo. They must be able to hear him bellow at the other end of town.


I haven't - I swear - lifted a finger to him. That is no cat of nine tails I hold in my hand but a family-sized bottle of medicated shampoo. Today is hair wash night. My son and I face each other across the bath mat and prepare to do battle...


It is the same scene every Sunday. As always, it starts on a deceptively friendly note. "It's not hair wash tonight, is it?" my son enquires, clambering into the bath. It is what Latin scholars would recognise as a question expecting the answer "no". 


So much for expectations. He knows jolly well, I tell him good-humouredly, that he must have his hair washed. It is Sunday, I inform him. Tomorrow will be Monday and the next day, Tuesday. Monday means play-group, Tuesday means lunch with Nanna, but Sunday means Sunday School, jelly for tea - and hair wash night. 


"I don't want my hair washed! My hair is as clean as anything. When I'm OLDER (wheedling) then I'll have my hair washed!" You would think he would know by now that such tactics won't work. I mean, how much older would he like to be? I unscrew the bottle top. That's when he switches gear: "DON'T, Mummy! Please, Mummy, I don't like it! No, no, NO!"


I've tried everything. I've washed his hair over the sink, in the bath, under the shower. I've told him to pretend he's a deep sea diver, working for the nation's prosperity on some Scottish oil rig. I've tried baby shampoo - No More Tears, it says on the label. Who are they kidding? But then three year olds can't read labels.


I've tried the cheerful, reasonable approach. "Now, you want to look smart for play group tomorrow?" He doesn't. "You wouldn't want to look a dirty, scruffy, untidy boy, would you?" He would. "You don't want people to think I don't look after you properly?" I despair. He glares at me - if this is a mother's tender, loving care, his expression indicates, then he will settle for a little wholesome neglect any day.


I have tried diverting his attention with all manner of bath toys. We've got the Queen Elizabeth, a speed boat which keeps coming to pieces, a RNLI lifeboat, two dopey-looking ducks and a gormless goldfish, shooting the rapids caused by Steven's flailing fists. "Man the lifeboat!" I shriek, gaily, trying to get him into the spirit of the game. He thumps the lifeboat with a fierce fist, sending it straight down into the deep. We gave to send the gormless goldfish to the rescue.


I've used one of those face shields which some mothers swear by. It makes him look like everybody's picture of a newspaper editor - if you can imagine the aforesaid editor stark naked, red in the face, screaming blue murder, surrounded by a flotilla of boats. "I don't want to be an Odditor!" Steven complains, bitterly. My mistake - his ambition at the moment is to be a dustman. Top of his Christmas present list was a road sweeper, one with the long pipe at the top for clearing out drains. I went round every local shop, trying to find one. "Funny woman!" I could hear the shop assistants thinking. They should meet my son, I felt like retorting.


But I digress - which is just what young Steven was hoping for. He has grabbed a towel and is making a quick exit. But he's not quick enough for me. It's no good, once again it's going to be a case of getting the Evil Deed over with as quickly as possible.


"I'm sorry," I console him afterwards, "But it has to be done." He sniffs, pathetically. I offer him the hand of truce. "I love you," I tell him, gathering him up, all damp and dripping distress. He is not exactly gracious in defeat.


"I love you too," he says, grudgingly, "But not as much as Sooty..."


(Slough Evening Mail - 1976)




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Latest comments

23.04 | 19:15

lovely and heartwarming - an inspiration to us all x

09.03 | 12:07

Love this story told as ever beautifully.x

10.11 | 21:31

What a super account of a special event. I loved meeting you last night and seeing your creation come together. I’m so pleased you got so much from the activity

07.09 | 12:17

I have broad shoulders x