“Mummy, I think there’s a Mr Caterpillar coming!!” Or: Boy, do they keep you grounded.

We’re going out tonight! This is happening! We’re meeting our friends for a couple of pints and some punch, it’s Bonfire Night, the fire is on, the moon’s up, fireworks in the distance… We’re fun, and cool, and young and wild… Oh, wait.

“Mummy, I think there’s a Mr Caterpillar coming!!” My 4-year-old’s statement brings me back to reality and stops my lipstick mid-flow. Oh, this is just awesome, I think to myself. The girls next to me don’t know yet what they’re about to witness. They have no idea what Mr Caterpillar is code for. They’re caught in their own little world, giddishly slapping on bronzer and readjusting their hair. One receives a text. Click, click, click, click – the answer is hammered into her phone. Swoosh. More mascara. I am counting in my head. Plop.

“Mummy, fiiiiiiniiiiished.” Oh Lord. Enter: The smell. The girls interrupt their little make-up session and throw me a quick look. We’re the same age. Only difference: I’m a mum. And I have a girl who has just decided to turn a quick wee in the loo of a busy pub into a very private moment. I finish applying my lipstick and try and keep radiating awesomeness and Friday-night-glam, but I know the moment’s gone. The girls know. It’s smellable.

I squeeze myself into the tiny stall where my girl is awaiting me eagerly. “It was very big and smooth,” she announces proudly. She loves keeping me informed about consistency and nuances. A little part inside of me dies. It might me my rediscovered sensation of “This is happening, we’re fun, and cool, and young and wild…”.

While I’m trying to fulfill my duty as number one bottom-wiper and the toilet paper is runing alarmingly low, I can hear “Clunk, clunk” as the made-up girls with their perfect eyeliner and lips and hair chuck their lotions and potions back in their handbags rather unceremoniously. Nobody has to say anything. We’re sharing a room that’s probably 12 feet wide and 8 feet long. There is no way of breathing around the smell of the Mr Caterpillar now.

Quick flush. I pull up her knickers and tights. “Thanks, that’s much better,” she’s beaming. And so unaware. I giggle. I love her to bits. To hell with dignity.


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