Tales from the Crib

As Sam starts to talk, using public ladies’ rooms is totally out of the question for Emma Milner

It could have been the start of a wonderful friendship. A stranger approached me in the mall the other day and started talking about the boys. She congratulated me on my courage at being out alone and skill at managing two children and she told me about her little girl, who turned out to be the same age as Sam. She seemed really nice, and just as we were really hitting it off, Sam turned around in his buggy and said, very clearly and urgently, ‘Mummy Poo’, and pointed in the direction of the toilet.

The lady, smiled, said, ‘So cute!’, then did a double take when she realised what he had said. Her face dropped, she gave an embarrassed smile, said her goodbyes and made a hasty getaway in the opposite direction.

The next day was worse. Walking away from the feeding room in yet another mall after a tearful shopping venture (Joe, this time, not me) Sam, who was sitting in the shopping trolley, moved me to one side and started waving at the toilet shouting ‘Bye bye Mummy Poo!’ The sniggers and looks were mortifying.

The trouble is, he isn’t being cheeky, he says it with a deadly serious look on his face. He thinks we have left someone behind.

Yes, Sam has started to speak. It’s great, but it’s having a crippling effect on relationship building, visitors’ length of stay and my private life in general.

‘Poo!’ has, unfortunately, become Sam’s word of choice, covering a multitude of events. Nappy changes? That’s ‘JoeJoe poo’ or ‘Mine Poo’. Guest in the bathroom? ‘Poo! Poo!’, while he rattles furiously at the door or, even worse, ‘Poo poo smey-eeee!’ as he pinches his nose and scrunches up his face in mock disgust. It doesn’t matter what I do, every activity comes with some form of ‘poo!’ cry, often with a chorus of ‘Mummy’s ooees’ thrown in for good measure. I’ll let you work out what that means.

I am not sure what the solution is. Maybe I could start talking loudly when Sam speaks to cover up the most embarrassing situations. I could pretend that I have selective hearing, (which seems to work rather well on other family members), and should anyone ask, ‘What did he say?’, I could just say I didn’t hear him.

Honestly, I thought kids saying embarrassing stuff was just a cliché. I was sure it wouldn’t happen until both boys were at least six and then would be repeating private stuff that Will and I had discussed when we thought the boys were out of earshot, like ‘Granddad, what’s an old codger?’

But it’s reassuring to know that this happens to everyone. I was on an escalator the other day, when a little girl turned round and said to her mum, ‘Mummy, that man just did a pump!’ I giggled, and the mum looked highly embarrassed, although not as embarrassed as the trumpeting fella. Another friend’s five-year-old is currently going through a weight obsession, and she frequently has to shush him as he points and cries, ‘Why is that lady a fatty-bum-bum?’ And my mum told me that she once took her boyfriend (later to become my dad) home to her parents’ house and her then seven-year-old brother said ‘I didn’t think we liked him anymore.’ So, apparently, it’s only going to get worse.

I remember when Sam first started making ‘word’ noises – it seems such a long time ago now. Alarmed at the funny ‘aaaauuurrrr’ noise in the back of his throat, I thought something was stuck and, until a friend reassured me he was just ‘talking’, I was considering taking him to the doctors. Now, that would have been embarrassing.

Joe is now at the guurrrr/aaaauurrrr stage and, while cute, means that everywhere I go I’m accompanied by a constant cacophony of ‘guuurrrr/mummy poo!’ But their ever-developing speech has so many good sides and I wouldn’t change a thing. It is clear that I will never be able to discretely use a public ladies room for at least another four years, but I’ll have lots of laughs as Sam – and eventually Joe – let me, and everyone else, see the world as they do.

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