Sunday 3 May 2009


If you consider yourself to be of a delicate disposition you may not wish to read on. However, if you have now or ever have had intimate dealings with any kind of mammal you will understand the rationale for this post. (I'm sure rationale is far too grand a word for this but I like it . . . )

Through the years of bearing babies and rearing toddlers, followed by the decades of teaching young children while at the same time breeding cats and keeping company with a variety of dogs, I have come to realise that ordure has played a significant role in my life. It was not something I had ever considered when I was growing up. My sister's babies were neat and clean and cuddly. I realise now that she was very careful to spare me the truth and only encouraged me to change wet nappies. Fifteen years older than me she was always protective.

The first days of a baby's life open a new mother's eyes – and nose – to a different way of life. Controlling the urge to throw up over her first-born (second and subsequent babies don't provoke the same reactions) and overcoming the desire to turn away and plead for someone else to take over, she learns the delicate art of cleaning and making comfortable the small helpless being she so rapturously conceived nine months earlier. The rosy glow of imagining a sweet-smelling baby dressed in adorable clothes gurgling happily into the beatifically smiling face of a relaxed and beautiful mother disappears like a hapless, misplaced snowflake in August. The mirage is replaced by the reality of a baby that excretes at least twice what he ingests and 'possets' (that's the polite term for 'sicks up') several times a day and night over his hands, his several daily changes of attire, his bed, the furry toy bought on the day of his birth and any unfortunate adult in the vicinity, usually his exhausted, sleep-deprived, tearful mother.

Matters improve of course as the baby grows into toddlerhood. It's always a good idea to greet your child soon after she wakes and not agree with your spouse that it's lovely when she amuses herself while you enjoy a lie-in and consider the possibility of a sibling or two for her. Undoubtedly she is entertaining herself, undressing herself, removing her nappy, spreading the contents over herself, the bedding and every other thing within reach (no point in hoping the nappy will be just wet). Having finished that task she has set about deconstructing the cot and it is a little disconcerting when you enter your precious offspring's room to wonder where she can possibly have got to until movement under the mattress beneath the base gives you a clue. When the little tot plays in the garden it's quite useful to have a dog about the place which can be blamed for influencing the child to defaecate on the grass. More experienced matrons snort derisively as they explain that all infants do this and follow that information with a knowing and slightly malicious, 'Just you wait . . . ' Sure enough, worse will follow. At least when nappies are still being worn everything that leaves the tiny body is more or less contained. Training pants are the next important stage but it seems that all your infant is trained to do is to treat them as a portable potty. Potties are wonderful toys, headwear being a favourite deployment – not so good after having been used for their original purpose, though.

Having finally learnt what to do and where there is a tiresome period when your little person must visit every convenience in every building you pass. Possibly he is searching for the gold standard in lavatories/loos/toilets. I'm told that the way to teach a boy to aim straight is to put a ping pong ball in the lavatory pan and encourage him to hit it with his golden shower. I have not been told what should happen thereafter. Are parents expected to carry a supply of these white spheres? Apparently not; I've no knowledge of any male who manages consistently to place bladder contents completely in the correct receptacle – there aren't enough ping pong balls in the world.

Cats and dogs present different challenges to humans. House cats that use litter trays are relatively easy. A scoop removes the soiled litter. Fastidious creatures that they are they help their humans to maintain high sanitary standards for, if dissatisfied they will make their own arrangements and you may be sure it will be somewhere you would not choose. Dogs can be trained to use a particular patch of the garden but the excrement remains where deposited until removed by someone. In our family this job is known as 'de-lumping the garden' and when we had children living at home they could be persuaded occasionally to undertake this task. At other times I did it. Now they are grown and flown but we still have dogs and their leavings must be cleared away. It has fallen to me to take on this duty full-time because as Barry says, 'You're so good at it.' Flatterer!

Thus, after so many years of shovelling s*it I know that, if I were to be reincarnated I would return as a Chinese Night Soil Collector. It is said that every third person in the world is Chinese – and I was my parents' third child. Can't wait!!

1 comment:

  1. Oh thankyou so much! This really made me laugh and I did need to laugh right now. I could relate to your experiences, but the shovelling now falls to John!


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