Alain de Botton, you are a bad man. Coming in here with all your philosophy and wisdom, upsetting innocent people like myself who are just standing about with their fingers in their ears going “la-la-la” and pretending it’s not happening:
“To a parent of small children,” he tweets, “(it is) astonishing they might as adults move abroad so one would see them only once a year – and survive”.
Indeed, as a mother of a two-year-old and a three-year-old, it does astonish me. In fact, I will go so far as saying it is patently not true: they may well go abroad (after all, I did) but I will not survive. Not if today is anything to go by…
Walking out of the gym’s on-site creche, I turn around to berate the younger one for doing something infantile, and when I turn back Curly Girlie is gone. Vanished. Like she was never there.
Behind me, a long, empty corridor runs back to the gym. She’s been bugging me to see where I go to “do running” – has she snuck back there?
To the left, stairs descend to the toilets and other mysterious basement rooms. She needed a wee – has she come over all independent and trotted off down there?
Outside the glass sliding doors – which parent-hating numbskull designed the building with a set of sliding doors right next to the creche, I ask you? – lurks: (on one side) a swimming pool filled with green winter water, (on the other side) an industrial estate, (straight ahead and up a bit) a railway line, and (straight ahead and down a bit) a dingy underpass leading to the car park.
My heart rate hits a level I could only dream of on the cross-trainer: a railway line; an unattended swimming pool; and, my mind helpfully chips in, gangs of mad child thieves.
Has she gone back, down or out of the door? And most crucially, which of the six potential escape routes should I now be running in? And what should I do with the two-year-old while I hop from foot to foot wondering what I should do, what would Tommy Zoom do, what would Alain de Botton do?
In the end, I do what every mammal on the planet does in distress – I run around a bit and then put back my head and bellow, “Cur-LAY!”. A flurry of Swiss-German verbal activity in the dingy underpass indicates that something is afoot down there, and seconds later Curly emerges gulping and weeping, and I do what every mother on the planet does in distress and shout at her and then hug her and then shout at her again and then hug and shout at the same time and then we both calm down and she runs off again, this time with my blessing to the playground.
She’s four next week. I have twelve years to hone my survival skills.