I've just come back from a weekend away. The night before I left, the friend who invited me on this indulgently idle trip, free from the responsibilities of motherhood, called me to make arrangements. Upstairs, Max and Oli were meant to be asleep. So, she'd be at my house in the city by four, to hand her kids over to her husband, Dom would be home to take charge of ours and we'd take her husband's car down south. It was all arranged. I don't remember exactly what I said, but no doubt I was enthusiastic. The last time I had a day without washing up or wiping bottoms was when I was in labour.
I put the phone down, and a minute later I heard sobbing from the stairs. Someone small, eves dropping.
'What's the matter?' I ask gently. I can only see orange tractor pajamas and some arms hugging a pair of knees. I walk over to the bottom of the stairs and see Max, his head leaning on the railings.
'Why do you want to leave us?' he sobs. Well how's that for guilt?
'Here, let me give you a hug' I said, 'so that if you miss me while I'm away you can think of it and I'll be right here.' 'But why are you going?' I navigated delicately through the reason. My friend was due to have her third child and she was going to have some rest at her parents house before the baby arrived. I was going along for the rest too. It wasn't that I desperately wanted to go, but that she'd asked me and I thought she'd appreciate it. The last bit wasn't entirely true. She'd have had to scrape me off the bonnet if she decided to go without me.
'I'm only going for a night.' I said. 'Well, two.' I added.
At this point, Oli - who had been pacing around on the landing - suddenly said he needed to 'Pee In Loo...Pee In Loo.' The urgency of it put an end to Max's line of questioning, and I was back to wiping bottoms, not a pee after all.
Saturday morning. I wake at 6.45am even though there's no-one small trying to get into my bed. And it turns out that although it is not very easy to lie in when you are in the absence of your children, it is very easy to idle away a morning. Soon after 8am I picked up a message from home. Dom's voice first, telling Max, 'You can leave a message. The answer machine's on' then a muffled exchange of the phone followed by a voice saying, 'Hello. This is Max. Why...why, won't you speak? I mean it's infuriating. I don't know what you are doing. Are you having a lie-in or something?'
Mid morning we decided to have lunch and a manicure at the local spa. It will probably be the only time I ever get into a white robe to have my nails polished. But when in California... And of course, we had to seek out the oxygen room but with disappointing results, and my mum has since told me there's an oxygen room just off the A30 in Sticker so, not-so-Californ-I-A after all.
I accepted the offer of a warm neck pillow for the duration of the manicure. I don't think that offer will come round again in the next few years...and I had a nice chat to Nicole, the beautician. I was telling her that my pregnant friend and I were here to get some relaxation in before mayhem arrived. I was speaking from experience.
'Mayhem - that's a pretty name.' she said. I have to admit, it has a ring to it.