Every parent has a memory that makes their toes curl or makes them groan out loud at the horror.
I know that now because I recently lived through my Worst Parenting Experience of All Time, and friends have been sharing their stories with me in sympathy.
My horrendous experience was just last week, when I made a terrible mistake.
You see, my 22-month-old son Olly had been ill for a week with vomiting and diarrhoea. We had all been effectively housebound while I alternated between giving him drinks and washing everything he owned.
Meanwhile, my patient three-year-old son, Harry, had been getting a serious case of cabin fever as we barely left the house.
So on a day when Olly had finally gone the whole morning without throwing up or, erm, exploding (you know what I mean, don’t make me say it), I decided to give Harry a treat. I said we could go out for lunch.
A Terrible Mistake
“Brilliant, let’s go to MacDonalds!” enthused my tiny junk food addict. Now, I have nothing against fast food as an occasional treat but I do try to avoid taking the boys there myself. I see it as a grandparent treat.
But Harry had been uncomplainingly housebound for a good six days and I decided that he should be able to pick where we went, so we drove off to the Golden Arches.
At first, all was well. Olly perked up at being out of the house and sat chatting on my knee, and Harry enthusiastically ate his cheeseburger gherkin first. The sun shone in through the window and I began to wonder if we could go to the park afterwards.
Then I felt it. A slow, spreading warmth across my lap. And I realised I had made a terrible mistake.
Sitting on my knee, Olly suddenly gave me a panicked look and muttered: “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.” I realised that the worst thing had happened; his diarrhoea was back and his nappy had lost containment. It was all over both of us.
There was only one thing for it – I had to get us home. This couldn’t be fixed with a baby wipe and a quick change, we both needed to get into a bath. I formed a hurried plan – I would throw my coat around both of us and bolt for the car. No one needed to know.
Sadly for my hopes of being discreet, Olly finally realised exactly what had happened.
“Oh no, poo poo! Oh dear, poo poo!” he yelled over and over, causing everyone to look round. Harry started laughing hysterically until milkshake began to come out of his nose, adding to the horror and disgust that our surrounding diners must have felt.
We did the walk of shame out of the restaurant, as silent horrified customers stared at us and at the coat I had carefully wrapped around Olly’s bottom and my trousers.
Olly continued to wail about the “poo poo!” and I grabbed a passing member of staff and quietly explained that my child had had an accident, that there was nothing on the table or chairs but that it might be a good idea to give them a clean.
“There is something on the table, Mummy,” came Harry’s loud and insistent voice. “I sneezed milkshake!”
He doubled up in laughter again as I dragged my two beautiful but undeniably disgusting children out of the restaurant before we could ruin anyone else’s day.
Don’t tell me that it was all my fault for taking a sick child to MacDonalds. Believe me, I know. And I have suffered for my error.
I Am Not Alone
Although I can’t remember that day without wanting to weep with shame, I quickly discovered that I wasn’t alone. My parent friends and the Twittersphere all had their own hideous stories, most of which involved poo.
One friend had taken her six-week-old baby to a small, intimate wedding of just 20 people. At the wedding breakfast, the baby experienced what we refer to as a ‘poonami’; a tidal wave of newborn poo that escaped the nappy and covered her pram, clothes, herself, her mother and a fair bit of the floor.
“It took me 20 minutes to clean it all up,” she tells me through gritted teeth. “And all the while the waiters were standing around horrified and waiting to bring out the dessert.”
Another friend’s baby managed to projectile vomit across all six plates as she tried to serve Easter Sunday lunch to her family.
Of course, while bodily fluids were a common theme they weren’t responsible for all the embarrassment. One friend had to tell her three year old off in a shopping centre, only for the child to start screaming: “This lady is HURTING ME!”
Cue concerned adults stopping to check that the little girl was okay. Cringe.
Before I gave birth to Harry, I remember my mother cheerfully telling me that labouring mothers have to “leave their dignity at the hospital door and pick it up on the way out”. But actually, I am starting to think that you don’t get your dignity back for a good few years at least.
Come on, I shared mine – now I want to hear your worst parenting stories. Let us know your worst day as a parent in the comments below.