Did you read the brilliant My Naughty Little Sister books when you were little, secretly worshipping the nameless anti-heroine and her accomplice Bad Harry? Here's my question. Do you remember 'The Naughtiest Story of All'? Worse than cutting up the party frock material? Worse than spilling dirt to try out the vacuum cleaner? Worse than using her stove as a train?
Yes, the story where she bit Father Christmas. Spider-boy has done something far, far worse. We went to a Birthday party on Sunday at a friend's house. Her son is a brilliant and wonderful friend of Spider-boy's who makes his face light up and his heart leap as the pair of them pal up and take on the entire world. These are the lads who fought over who owned the word 'No', and once had a row which disintegrated into a fist fight over whether the Gruffalo is a monster, a bear or a dinosaur. They did this in the spirited way only real allies can and remain big mates.
At the party they, along with a crew of other 3/4 year-olds went upstairs. I've noticed this stage seems to be upon us - the kids squireling away to giggle on the landing, usually planning to sneak extra biscuits or jump on the parental bed. And they did, causing havoc and playing pirates and space monsters. They were regularly checked, believe me. An endless stream of parents trudging to keep an eye on them. But these are smart if not wise tiddlers, and hugely competitive about making their mark on the grown up world. Somehow, between adult spy trips they managed to get hold of a bottle of Medised. And drink it.
The details are scanty and I'm philosophical about it. Clever, adventurous 3/4 year olds, high on fairy cake icing and pineapple juice, I think they could get hold of most things they set their mind to. I think my house is fairly safe, but reckon it would take minutes to find a hazard somewhere that has disappeared for me in the veneer of everyday living. They are opportunistic in their search for fun and danger, and I am under no illusion that the bottle was carelessly left out open - they worked for their prize. And they did say the next day that it was very, very hard to get the lid off and they had to work together to push it down and get it off. Instinctively they went for a cut-throat defence 'it wasn't me it was him' although Spider-boy was loathed to do down his bravado and soon claimed he took the most.
We estimated how much was left, weighed them, spoke for over half an hour to (GOD BLESS THEM) NHS Direct who were helpful and sensible and of the view that unless one of them had pretty much drunk all of it there was no danger. After much talk we thought we probably wouldn't take him to A&E, until he collapsed like a teenage drunk and became a foggy, sleeping, machine on the floor. You see my son, like me is greedy. In his stupor I saw every 'one more for the road', every greedy swig, every extra drink I've had or Quality Street I've sneaked from the tin. For shame my guzzleguts tendencies were alive and well, and meant he had had more than his share. Enough to knock him out.
Luckily (again, GOD BLESS THEM ALL) the A&E staff were reassuring and after a few tests felt he was just not used to antihistamines so was sedated. He slept through his entire time there, not stirring to be weighed, measured, poked. Like thatkid in the Student Union, asleep on the couch till 6AM. We were told to let him sleep it off, and that he might be hungover in the morning. And not to let him drink medicine again.
I spent the evening torn, between wanting to run across North London in my socks to smother him in kisses and wanting to throw a bucket of ice water over him and watch him puke it up as I bollocked him for all my worth. I spent the night checking him and again, had to resist greeting his barely hungover morning face with a cascade of criticism. I settled for a final stern conversation after breakfast and a day of chores with me and his brother.
What a nightmare though, and a free pass from someone somewhere looking out for me and mine. I feel totally humiliated that I was thatwoman, the one whose little boy took an overdose at a party, a feeling intensified the next day when he entertained an IKEA queue including, in a stunning coincidence, the dad who found them swigging syrup, with his antics. Questions included 'Why didn't I die?' but soon moved to the ultimate threenage sucker punches firstly of 'I already talked to Daddy. I don't want to talk about it ANY more' and then 'I didn't know, I didn't know you aren't allowed to drink the medicine'. It was so loud three different women expressed sympathy and offered similar horror stories to make me feel less like the worst most negligent person on Earth.
I am, of course, tearfully thankful I am only that humiliated woman and not one less lucky. Which I hope explains the daze of the title which is all mine, not theirs. I write a lot about wanting to watch Spider-boy fly, to see how he operates in the world. With Spider-boy and Newborn I am fascinated by their desire to be themselves (and, indeed, Newborn's fear of it). But good and true though these instincts, to withdraw and celebrate them finding their way, I realise my children carry with them some bad instincts too. Bad instincts of mine, to show off and push things, to entertain others, to get wasted in the afternoon. That? I don't know how to be philosophical about.