I wrote this piece for a writing competition a few months ago, and since I didn’t win I thought I’d share it here. I wrote it in a hurry (I missed the deadline) and the word count was very limiting, but I hope it makes you smile. This is based on a friend’s experience, but it could eeeeasily have been my own. I thank her for letting me share it.
Dear former self,
The next time you see a sight you disapprove of, for example a mother in an otherwise civilised coffee shop with two naked and screaming children, consider this:
This mother may have had a horrendous morning with her two-year-old. A tantrum at home, screaming in the buggy around the shops, rounded off with a tantrum in the aisle of a supermarket, for example. At this stage, the mother was feeling unusually exhausted (she hasn’t had a night of unbroken sleep in 6 months) and guilty – perhaps this is all her fault? (Don’t underestimate the irrational doubts of a sleep-deprived, hormonal mother.)
So, in one of her finer moments, this mother perhaps decided to take a deep breath and cheer the family up. She marched into a cafe and ordered her usual cappuccino (extra shot), and a gingerbread man for her daughter. Feeling much calmer – it’s a fresh start! – she reached down to pick up her baby, seeing something familiar but unexpected. Poo, it seems, was everywhere. Her heart dropped. But she’d been through this before; she could cope with this. Off she went to the baby changing room, hungry two-year-old in tow.
Upon her return, maybe (I’m just speculating), she was touched to find that the kind barista had made her a fresh cup of hot coffee. So she found a table, avoiding glances/glares from other diners who seemed concerned that their peace was about to be disturbed.
She was now holding her baby, but the toddler was struggling with her gingerbread man packet. In an attempt to stem any whining, the mother did something that she knows she shouldn’t do. She put the baby down on the table while she hurriedly opened the packet. It took her three seconds – just long enough for the baby to grab the freshly brewed, steaming hot cappuccino (extra shot). Cue a tidal wave of coffee, covering both toddler and baby in the blink of a bloodshot eye. Before the mother could know what had happened, both of her children were emitting an ear-splitting screech. The mother, in a panic, did the only sensible thing: she stripped both children naked.
It could be that this is what’s happened. So, past-naïve or future-forgetful self, please don’t stare judgmentally. Please do not offer suggestions as to why either child may be crying; do not explain why what the mother did was wrong. Just say these words, ‘How can I help?’ and do something helpful. It might be to go and get that mother a chocolate brownie and a fresh cappuccino – two extra shots please, to take away.