A letter arrives, inviting E to her 6 monthly check up at the dentist. S took her last time, as he is a regular visitor to said dentist. I only go when I’m in so much pain I can’t function any more. (West Wing moment: CJ (clearly in some pain): It’s been like this for a week now. It’ll go away.” Sam: “When?” CJ: “When I die, Sam.” This is kind of my thinking.)
Anyway, as the dentist no longer opens on Saturdays (tsk) and S is at work it falls to me to deliver E to the sadistic teeth inspectors. We arrive far too early as I misjudge how long it takes to get there. I try to be helpful and fold up the pushchair to tuck it out of the way of the other patients – nevertheless someone dislodges a chair it was resting on, it falls over and I get glared at. E is happy walking round the waiting room and looking in the display cabinet (toothbrushes) but then I notice people are staring at her, in that British I’m-not-saying-anything-but-I-think your-child-is-misbehaving kind of way so to appease them I get some books out for her to read. I appease them only because she nearly walks under the postman, not because I crave their approval, you understand.
The upshot of this is that everyone gets to hear The Gruffalo’s Child read aloud.
We’re beckoned into the chamber. Dentists no longer have that faint minty smell of my youth, though the atmosphere of despair is still there. E is delighted to see the green chair – think if Ikea did dentists, it’s that kind of style – and walks towards it, placing her hands on the seat. I sit her in it and say hello to the dentist. The dentist says “Will she be alright in the chair? Was she last time?” I have no idea. As if on cue, E stretches her hands out to me so I have to sit with her on my lap and the dentist kneels beside us. “I’d like to look at your teeth,” she says to E who helpfully points at them, in case she wasn’t sure where they were.
One gloved finger is inserted in her mouth and she’s having none of it. (That’s my girl) In the end I have to turn her upside down so the dentist can see very quickly in and then she retreats to her notes. “All fine,” she says. I mention E’s gums have been bleeding. “They’re fine,” she replies. We’re done. E gets a sticker with Tweety Pie on it. What a fuss.
We walk back into the city where I feel the need for coffee. E sits on my lap and shares a pastry, ignoring the steamed milk with chocolate sprinkles the man has just made for her. She charms the old ladies by walking round and round the shop holding a teaspoon. She does look quite lovely and I am rather proud of her.
Later we go for lunch in another stronghold of old women, where we sit and eat sandwiches on a sofa. A couple are discussing her getting an ipad air. He looks them all up on the internet to find the cheapest. She is excited by the possibilities of what you can do with it – including taking pictures. Bless. Anyway, as she gets up to go to the toilet the man turns to me, indicates E and says “She’s very quiet. Is that normal?”
I’m sorry what? Oh I see. For a moment I was about to be offended but now I realise you have categorised all toddlers as screaming messes of unreasonable-ness.
He launches into something about taking his now 24-year old daughter to Skegness when she was the same age as E and how she kept walking away. “As long as they can see you it’s ok,” he keeps saying. I know what he’s talking about but am unclear why it’s relevant right now. (If asked what my superpower would be, I think an ability to make small talk is second on the list, only beaten by teleportation.) I feel smiling is my only option here before realising I can escape by going to change E’s nappy. When we return, they have gone. I sink onto the sofa in relief and read The Gruffalo’s Child for a second time, followed by Sweet Dreams Maisy.
At some point after E was born, I enjoyed the attention she got. Now I wait for every situation to turn into some kind of judging on my parenting. It wouldn’t be so bad if she ever misbehaved in public to justify this but she has so far been very good indeed. I read too many parenting columns in the newspaper. It’s turned me paranoid.
I am reading: (New idea – The Guardian used to do this after their columns.) Sleeping Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Someone recommended it to me because they know I like Richard Russo. It’s not like Russo. It’s nowhere near funny enough and the characters are whiny over-privileged types. It may be that it’s supposed to be satirical, but so far it’s just annoying.
E is reading: Dogger by Shirley Hughes. We found this down the back of the sofa the other day. She loves it. I think we’d hidden it because we’d read it so much. Actually I don’t mind re-reading this one several times a day which is just as well.