Janet Christie's Mum's the Word

What do you think you're doing?'


Youngest Child is standing in the doorway, framed by the light.

I’m balanced on tiptoe on one of the foldable kitchen chairs, scrubbing the lightshades. One slip and I’ll wind up folded like an origami stork, but I was up here anyway switching a bulb and took the opportunity for a spot of kamikaze cleaning. I explain this to Youngest Child.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Not that,” she says. “Those jeans.”

Aw no. I forgot. I’d tried on her jeans for size while she was out so I could run into the shop and buy a pair, avoiding the changing room sweatfest. Then I got distracted by the bulb situation.

“Stop doing this.”

“What? Cleaning? OK…”

“Wearing my clothes.”

“I’m not. I don’t,” I stammer. “OK, I tried on your parka, to see if it was too young for me.”

“It was,” she says.

“And your jeans just for a size check. I wouldn’t get the same ones with all the rips, obviously,” I say. Then I make the mistake of attempting to lighten the mood with levity. “You should have seen me putting them on. My feet kept shooting through the knee holes rather than going down the legs. Hilarious…”

Apparently not.

“And you tried on my new cold shoulder top,” she says.

“Ah yes, that was to see if cold shoulders were me. They’re not. Too… shouldery… too… cold…”

My explanation freezes in the white heat of her glare.

“You are not to try on any more of my clothes. It’s weird.”

“You take my stuff,” I say.

She snorts. Come to think of it, it’s a while since she’s left a cardigan in the park or a scarf on the bus. The tables have turned, the roles have reversed, my closet is no longer coveted.

Until that evening when she’s rummaging in my “nightwear” drawer. From assorted leggings and old T-shirts she pulls my one pair of actual, bought-from-a-shop, dedicated-to-the-purpose pyjamas, a gift from Middle Child and his girlfriend last Christmas.

“Ha. I’ve still got it. Haven’t I?” I ask as the pink and turquoise checked bottoms disappear.

“No,” she calls back, heading for bed. “But it’s cold. And no-one will see.” n