Today I was told off, twice.
I have, I think, got much more relaxed about my children in public places. I still want them to be respectful, considerate and polite citizens, but I also want people to be mindful that they are children. They probably won’t be still for long, they will make more noise, they won’t act like mini grown ups, unless repressed into doing so. I feel I give them a long lead, and perhaps it’s too long, I don’t know. Indi, at 7, is confident and keen to be independent. He wants me to trust him. I play ball at places like the petrol station. In those rubbish non-pay-at-pump (I love pay-at-pump!) stations I frog march them all out of the car as it’s the law. The car could roll out of control or could be broken into. But in certain places they do go out of my sight. Sometimes it’s because they’re playing, sometimes it’s because a child is busting for a wee and the other one is involved in something. And it’s cool. We are often in ‘learning’ environments – museums, play parks, galleries, geared to families and children. You feel like you’re in safe company. Today, the moment we stepped into the first ‘big room’ in the Mary Rose exhibition, Eti proclaimed he was desperate for the loo. We had just arrived, so I asked Indi if he was ok to stay there while I nipped to the front to take Eti to the loo. We ran out with the buggy and were advised the toilets were ‘just outside’. I admit – not my wisest moment to carry on but the desperation in Eti’s face was clear. I was semi-shocked that there were no toilets in the museum itself, considering it was an educational establishment with at least two school groups I could see. We were gone two minutes, and on our return the reception lady ticked me off royally, as if I’d left a newborn baby on a blanket on the floor of the museum. She spoke to two members of staff via walkie talkie who accosted him in the museum, and he was flanked by them looking worried on my return. Poor kid. She said ‘no child should be left alone in here under the age of 16’. 16? What – in case he explodes? Runs around with a hammer? Yet one exhibit down the way, Action Stations, allowed my children to run up and down the stairs without parental supervision, across a much bigger floor space. I feel I left him in a safe space, surrounded by staff, but the guilt I experienced made me question the independence I had given him. It also made me mad that there were no toilets at all in the building. Why? If there’s a cafe there, surely there should be toilets? Anyway, Indi got over it much quicker than I did, and now we’ll all go to the toilet chained to one another next time we visit!