Unpainted toe nails glow like pale shells against the lightly browned skin of my feet, and a very faint yet discernable tan line shows the ghost of flip flops. It is June 10th and it is finally summer, albeit a volatile summer peppered with abrupt drenching storms, rumbling claps of thunder and chilly days that call for coats and covered shoes. Solstice draws ever nearer, and on fine evenings an afterglow of day hovers in the sky till after ten. We have started taking breakfast in the garden whenever possible, and as I sit under the benevolent canopy of the ancient oak tree, watching as the sun rises over the roofs of the houses and pours honey-golden light into the garden, I can hardly believe a year has passed since we moved to Teddington. Robins and blue tits dart and chirrup and the movement of branches creates a kaleidoscope of greens, and I wonder how we survived so long without this blessed outdoor space. Not to mention a second bedroom.
Months have passed since I last composed an entry, and this self imposed silence has been a fertile time during which I have worked hard to reestablish my ailing career and allowed much needed time for reflection. And yet in recent weeks the urge to write has built steadily like a slowly worsening itch, and I have found myself scribbling thoughts on scraps of paper and in iphone notes. Rust never sleeps, and a writer can never really stop writing. Time then for another, belated entry, for I feel I have earned the right to bugle from the treetops. Felix is potty trained! The tyranny of nappies is over, naps and nighttimes aside for the time being, and I feel like a grave burden has been lifted. After months of procrastination and a failed attempt in the miserly dregs of winter – snowsuits and multiple layers proving an insurmountable barrier - suddenly 48 hours has changed everything. This only serves to mark how effortless teaching your child can be when they are naturally ready to receive the lesson, like a flower turned up to receive the morning dew. One evening a fortnight ago, Felix expressed clearly his wish to be rid of nappies, so the very next day out we stepped over the threshold, pants and jeans the only thing between his nethers and the outside world.
I’ve heard the rhetoric about keeping them in for a few days while you’retraining but that was never going to work for us. A wild horse cannot be stabled, so off we trotted to playgroup as usual, with firm entreaties not to wee in the bike seat and the potty lodged snugly in the bike basket. ‘Do you need to wee?’ I asked as we cycled off. ‘No’ he replied. Two hours and no wees later, I put him back in the bike seat. ‘Right, I have to go to the bank, tell me if you need to wee’. Queuing up to cash a cheque I noticed his face had assumed a charged expression, ‘Do you need to wee?’ I asked, ‘Yes mummy’ he replied, looking helpless. Quick as a flash I whisked him round the corner into the private banking section, thankfully empty, and whipped out the potty. At first he sat rigid and alert but then his body relaxed and an endless stream of wee poured forth. ‘I’ve weed mummy’ he cried in delight as I smuggled the slopping potty outside and slung its contents into the gutter. ‘Well done my boy!’ I felt as proud as a hen that has laid its first egg, and as we re-entered the bank I stifled a laugh. Lucky them, I thought to myself, that I didn’t sling the whole lot over them while screaming ‘This is what I think of your policies you bunch of scoundrels!’ The story has since done the rounds of friends and acquaintances, with some thinking me insane and others a hero.
I think a lack of shame and inhibition is just the ticket when you’re potty training; and I’m more than happy to pop him on his chamber pot on the train platform, high street or playground. As far as I’m concerned it’s a vital learning process that modern society has lost sight of in our obsession with cleanliness and the disguising of the natural functions of the body. How on earth are our children meant to learn when we spend all our time and energies shielding them from what is innate and essential? Maybe it is just that I’m not really British, at least not by blood, and therefore fundamentally uncultured and primitive, but my defiant Polish nature considers it an essential human right to piss when I need to. I must confess I am inordinately fond of weeing out of doors and sans toilet. Why waste water and paper when you can crouch and let nature take its course? Seen in this light, al fresco weeing is in fact the most environmentally friendly course of action, and one we should all adopt more of. I’m certain that having such an uncouth mother has done Felix the world of good, and allowed him to unleash his stream lot more easily than if I had been a buttoned up type who runs the tap when she’s whizzing just to disguise the shameful tinkling . He has now become so fond of his potty that he insists on carting it about in his plastic wheelbarrow wherever we go, eliciting fond smiles and occasional guffaws from those we pass. ‘Free The Wee’ I say, its time to piss and be proud.