I suspect most family homes have certain obsessions in common. Parenthood seems to trigger the eco-warrior within for lots of people - my husband's cardboard recycling pile is nearing its terminal height, at which point it will collapse, burying a small child or two. Some parents become fixated on their child's educational success, and spend all their time berating schools and teachers for trying to give their child a rounded education in all sorts, when little Oliver can't yet spell 'independent'.
The weirdest thing, though, is how obsessed parents become with all things toilet related. (Actually, judging by the shared giggles between my four-year old, and my thirty-three year old other half, perhaps this is something that the males of the species always enjoy obsessing over..?) I've just hung up from a lovely phone conversation with my sister-in-law, filling me on how her gorgeous little three-month old is growing, and there was a part of the conversation relating to nappies that made the tears roll down my cheeks. Ten years ago, she and I would have been revolted, and now it's a story for sharing. How times change.
We've been trying to (unsuccessfully) potty train our youngest for a while now. He often wears training pants, which he wets, then I change them, and he wets them again. It's an enjoyable game for all. Occasionally I have a fit of enthusiasm, and dig out the washable nappies, outraged by how many pull-ups he is still going through, and hoping that the sensation of wet cloth will upset him so much that he turns to me and says, Mummy, I'm really too grown up for these things now. How about a quick go on the toilet?
But none of this is working...yet.
Yesterday, my husband was trying to clean his boots, and pulled out of the cupboard something that looked like that plastic bag in which he keeps his brushes and tins. (He was in the army. He has a real shoe-cleaning kit. I use one of those cheat's sponges. If I can be bothered). Judging by the shout of horror when he opened it, he was none too pleased to find inside a pair of wet trousers, pants and socks. I don't think it helped matters that I couldn't even estimate how long they'd been in there, nor how they had got there. Having sympathised with him about his terrible ordeal, I suggested he sling them straight into the washing machine, and get them clean.
"Nah," he said, "I'm doing my boots. I've tied them up again and put them in the utility sink for you."
Oh, joy. Pleasing me is always top of his agenda.
I put them in the wash today, with the morning's collection of urine soaked pants and trousers, and found they weren't as bad as he had made out. In fact, I vaguely remember the last time I put the socks on the little one, and it was only a few days ago. As I hummed and pulled out wash powder, my gaze fell on the nappy bucket, and with a jolt of unease, I wondered if there were a wet or - worse - soiled pair of pants in there, too. It seemed to me, through the fog of my memory, that I had once put something in there to await a suitable load, and that I didn't remember ever dealing with it. I approached the bucket with caution, and lifted the lid. Inside was one lonely cloth nappy, harbouring all sorts of unmentionables. It was hard to tell what colour it was meant to be, even. (The answer is usually, unbleached white). I didn't want to be in the same room as it. By my best guess, it's been there more than three weeks. It was the sort of situation no-one should have to deal with on her own. So I phoned my Mum, veteran of washable nappies on three children.
"Don't be so squeamish. Put some boiling water and powder on it now and let it soak a while, then put it on your hottest wash."
"I don't want to get that close!"
"For goodness' sake. It'll be fine. You've got gloves, haven't you?"
So that was that. But I have a plan. The evil nappy has now been marinading in washing powder and water for most of the day, and I'm thinking what a lovely treat it will be if I leave it for my husband to deal with.