Alain de Botton, you are a bad man. Coming in here with all your philosophy and wisdom, upsetting innocent people like myself who are just standing about with their fingers in their ears going “la-la-la” and pretending it’s not happening:
“To a parent of small children,” he tweets, “(it is) astonishing they might as adults move abroad so one would see them only once a year - and survive”.
Indeed, as a mother of a two-year-old and a three-year-old, it does astonish me. In fact, I will go so far as saying it is patently not true: they may well go abroad (after all, I did) but I will not survive. Not if today is anything to go by...
Walking out of the gym’s on-site creche, I turn around to berate the younger one for doing something infantile, and when I turn back Curly Girlie is gone. Vanished. Like she was never there.
Behind me, a long, empty corridor runs back to the gym. She’s been bugging me to see where I go to “do running” - has she snuck back there?
To the left, stairs descend to the toilets and other mysterious basement rooms. She needed a wee - has she come over all independent and trotted off down there?
Outside the glass sliding doors - which parent-hating numbskull designed the building with a set of sliding doors right next to the creche, I ask you? - lurks: (on one side) a swimming pool filled with green winter water, (on the other side) an industrial estate, (straight ahead and up a bit) a railway line, and (straight ahead and down a bit) a dingy underpass leading to the car park.
My heart rate hits a level I could only dream of on the cross-trainer: a railway line; an unattended swimming pool; and, my mind helpfully chips in, gangs of mad child thieves.
Has she gone back, down or out of the door? And most crucially, which of the six potential escape routes should I now be running in? And what should I do with the two-year-old while I hop from foot to foot wondering what I should do: what would Tommy Zoom do?; what would Alain de Botton do?
In the end, I do what every mammal on the planet does in distress - I run around a bit and then put back my head and bellow, “Cur-LAY!”. A flurry of Swiss-German verbal activity in the dingy underpass indicates that something is afoot down there, and seconds later Curly emerges gulping and weeping, and I do what every mother on the planet does in distress and shout at her and then hug her and then shout at her again and then hug-and-shout at the same time and then we both calm down and she runs off again, this time with my blessing, to the playground.
She’s four next week. I have twelve years to hone my survival skills.