And why I hope they stay in the cleaning cupboard
Just before lockdown, I left my home in Belgium and turned up at Kate and Anton’s house in the UK for some house-hunting.
For obvious reasons, property viewing was off the cards, and my two kids and I became their house guests for a couple of months.
We arrived with not much more than a suitcase full of clothes, three boxes of Lego…
…and a jumbo pack of loo roll.
Kate and Anton are a pretty neat team. Anton works long days at home and earns the moolah. Kate is the official home-keeper.
She’s super organised.
After we’d disinfected ourselves, and the door handles, we sat down for a cup of tea to discuss the new state of play and our plan of (in)action.
Although social distancing was just beginning to be enforced, we jointly opted to self-isolate. Not least because Kate has underlying health problems that mean she’s ‘high risk’.
We agreed I’d leave all our stuff in the car for three days, saving us the hassle of hot-washing or disinfecting it. In the meantime, I hung around in borrowed clothes while the kids played with their friends’ colourful cubes of knobbled (partially biodegradable) plastic.
As Kate dipped her rationed single biscuit into her tea, she explained how she’d just ordered a pile of towelling square cloths.
Just in case we run out of toilet paper.
Her back-up plan also included a small bottle of tea tree oil and a couple of buckets.
Kate and Anton have two children, one of whom is a 9-year-old we’ll call Alice. This wonderful, intelligent, funny, caring child has her struggles. Alice has a condition called ‘pathological demand avoidance’, a form of autism, and her behaviour can be challenging.
Her mum is full time!
The day after I arrived, Kate fell down the stairs and broke her arm.
We didn’t take her to hospital. She wouldn’t risk catching the virus. She point-blank refused to take a chance of dying and leaving her children with no mum.
That left me in charge of the four children. Including toilet duty!
Alice was toilet-trained at the same age as most children, and for a while, things in that department were ‘as normal’. However, after a traumatic experience at school, following an unfortunate little accident (I think it was only a smudge!) she’d been cruelly teased and publicly humiliated.
Since that day, Alice has point-blank refused to wipe her own bottom. She gets her mum to do it.
When they last came to stay with us, her mum asked Alice to take over the chore as a gift for her. Alice begged her not to make her but promised she’d try again for her Mum’s next Christmas present.
The evening following the arm break, Alice came into the kitchen and looked at me. There was badly hidden mischief in her eyes (you know, that, ‘I’m going to test you!’ look),
Eilidh, please can you wipe my bottom when I go to the toilet?
I looked back at her and opened my eyes wide.
Are you joking?
She laughed a little, almost sheepishly. She could read from my reaction a total faith that she could do it by herself.
I think that was the moment she knew too… she could do it!
I then told her with words, she could it all by herself, but if she needed me, just to call.
Off she went into the downstairs loo. After about 10 minutes I heard water flowing.
I knocked on the bathroom door.
Are you all right?
No. I need help.
I opened the door to find her sitting on the toilet with her hands in the sink (the room is small!), arms up to elbows with water.
What are you doing?
The nonchalant reply came,
I always wash my hands while I’m on the toilet.
Er, absolutely not true, little monkey!
OK. Well let’s get them dried again.
I then reminded her clearly and slowly of the order in which you go to the loo, wipe (with more specifics than we need here), flush, and then wash and dry your hands.
I left her to it again with a casual,
take your time
you know, thrown over my shoulder.
Meanwhile, her mother was quietly supressing sobs of laughter – trying not to wince in pain as her arm moved – while observing our shenanigans.
As I returned to the living room, she spluttered,
I can’t believe the measures she goes to to avoid wiping her own bottom!
Alice took a long time in the bathroom that day. But the noises coming from the closet became more reassuring. A flush, and finally, water splashing around the basin again.
She left the bathroom, and ran off to play, happily.
I took a cursory glance around the smallest room in the house and decided the ‘How to clean a toilet’ lesson would wait for another day.
But more disturbing: although I’d replaced the toilet roll just a couple of hours earlier (didn’t I?), now not a single sheet remained!
The next day, Alice went ‘all by herself’, no questions asked.
If I had any worries about us outstaying our welcome, this one certainly buys me a few brownie points (honestly, no pun intended). When Kate gets fed up with her house guests, I’ll just remind her,
She wipes her own bum and it’s not even Christmas yet!
Only thing is… she’s using an awful lot of that precious toilet paper.
We might have to resort to those towelling squares after all…
Have you had any bizarre challenges during lockdown? I’d love to hear in the comments.
If you’ve been feeling anxious lately (and who hasn’t?), my three easy mood boosters might help.
And in case you’ve missed them, here are some unexpected lessons I learned during lockdown.
This post is adapted from an article in Home Sweet Home on Medium.
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Stay safe and well. xxx