I’ve never been a fashionista, but, apart from when savagely hungover, I have always taken some degree of a pride in my appearance. If my shirt had a stain, it was returned to the laundry bin. If my jeans developed a hole, they were sent to my mother for sewing. If my shoes and jacket didn’t match, one of the items was removed and replaced. Then I became a dad and, due to a mixture of tiredness and my desire to get out of the house at some point before the end of the working day, these standards disappeared in my rear view mirror.
Forget belts, pocket squares and watches. My go-to accessories for spring, summer, autumn and winter are now vomit, regurgitated milk and snot. And do you know what? Despite walking around like a human tissue for the best part of a year, no-one really batted an eyelid. Then 27 November 2016 happened.
Aside from the fact we were staying in a swish hotel in Dubai, this particular Sunday began like most other days. The bubster woke up at 3am, 5am and, then finally, 9am. At this point we wrestled him into a new nappy, a t-shirt and some shorts, grabbed his baby porridge and headed for breakfast. Twenty minutes later he was half-a-bowl down and that’s when it happened. Bowel emptying time. You don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to work out when our kid is pooping. His face goes red, his brow furrows, his body tenses and he begins making a noise that like sounds a cross between an opera singer warming up for a concert and a man trying to open a tightly sealed jar. Usually these blasts take around 45-60 seconds and end with an audible exclamation that’s four-parts satisfaction and six-parts relief. This time, however, there were tears. And lots of them.
“It’s the high chair, he hates this high chair, I’ll walk him round the buffet and calm him down,” I proclaimed in the assertive manner parents use when they’re trying to convince themselves that they’re going to be able to achieve what they just claimed they could. For the first couple of minutes everything went swimmingly. By the time we reached the hot food counter, the tantrum had been downgraded from red to amber and when we got to the bread he was back to his old self – flirting with grandmas and trying to throw everything within reach on the floor. Then, somewhere near the cheese section and just before I entered full-on smug dad who has managed to calm his kid mode, I glanced down and discovered my previously white T-shirt had been redecorated with the sort of brown hue you don’t find in the Dulux colour chart. Worse still, my instinctive reaction was to push my kid away from my body, and this movement dislodged a piece of the escapee waste that had been wedged between my forearm and his thigh. It fell to the ground in the kind of slow motion that’s usually reserved for a doomed astronaut tumbling into deep space in a sci-fi movie. A lady turned away and a little girl screamed.
If you asked 100 of my friends to guess what I did next, between 75 and 99 would plump for ‘shriek and run’. But while this is a fair review of my ability to keep calm in times of medium to high embarrassment, it’s not actually what happened. Oh no. On this occasion I stood still, took a deep breath (given the stench, this was a bad idea) and assessed the scene. There was a napkin four feet to my right. If I could shuffle across, grab it, shuffle back, reach down and wipe up the poop it was possible this thing could still be contained. I took another deep breath (again, bad idea) and went for it, and do you know what? It worked.
Now all I needed to do was alert my wife and get the bubster back up to our room. I spotted her at the omelette counter and slowly made my way across. “There has been a situation, we need to leave now,” I stated, pointing at my t-shirt. “No onions,” she replied, which perplexed me until I realised she was talking to the omelette chef. “It’s poop,” I whispered, which got her attention. “Okay, you take the bubster outside, I’ll grab the bag from the table and meet you by the lifts,” she asserted.
The next few moments were exhilarating. Stuff Mummy and Daddy, we were now Team Hood – a crack military unit on a mission to get our asset to safety (read: the en suite bathroom) without drawing any attention to his plight or coming under any more fire. We made it into the lifts, traversed the corridor, bundled into the room, binned my T-shirt, disposed of his clothes and nappy, cleaned him up and celebrated. This was the greatest achievement of our parenting lives. We hugged, high-fived, kissed and then… baby broke out into a massive grin and peed all over us. Kids, eh?