My cousin’s man is talking about my kids at our latest family reunion, and assorted relations, including Eldest, Middle and Youngest, are gathered chewing the fat in the sitting room. It’s been a few years since all three of mine have put in an appearance together, since trying to assemble them for a weekend visit is like herding cats.
“They’ve turned out all right, haven’t they?” he says. “Remember what they were like?”
“Yes, small and very wriggly and cute and maybe a bit mischievous and…” is what I was about to say but memory is subjective, especially mine, and to be honest the past two decades are a bit of a blur. I remember Princess Diana dying and having Youngest, and a lot of going to work, but the rest is a bit sketchy.
“Remember the time we stayed in that place in The Dales,” he says, “and they wrote in the visitors’ book, ‘We had a lovely time apart from the very noisy neighbours and the paedophiles staring in the window at night?’”
Over on the sofa the boys snigger.
“No, I DON’T remember that,” I say, gimlet eyeing them.
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” he says. “You’d all left when we found it, so we Tippexed over it. Ha, ha, ha. We were impressed at the spelling.”
(I explain Tippex to Youngest Child later. “Yes Mother, I know. We still have that at school for the OCD people.”)
“Right, which one of you wrote that in the visitors’ book?” I ask The Accused on the sofa, 15 years too late. “Him,” they both say. And snigger again.
Then Eldest says, “The thing is, it could have been anyone really. Cos, everyone can spell paedophile.”
“OK, spell it,” I say.
“P-A-E-D-O-P-H-I-L-E” says Middle and does his Cheshire Cat smile.
“P-E-D-O-P-H-I-L-E” says Eldest, fooling no-one.
“Ha! Nice try.” Or is it a double bluff?
Who knows, but this time I’ll be checking the visitors’ book BEFORE I leave. I’ll get this parenting thing right eventually. n