She stops, in the middle of the room. Her eyes stare blankly into thin air.
‘Linde,’ I call.
‘Linde,’ I try again. She keeps staring and bends her knees, a little.
Only when I flutter my hands in front of her nose she looks up. She walks away,
legs astride, avoiding my looks. I breathe in the smell and sigh. ‘Linde, no!’
‘Come on kids, tea’s ready. Do you need a wee first Linde?’
She shakes her head, wriggles out of my grip and runs for it. At the table she wobbles, smears food everywhere and drops peas in her cup. Water splashes on the floor. Only when I return, dishcloth in hand, I notice her cup. It is full of water.
‘Not again,’ I groan.
She wasn’t yet two when she decided, just like that; no more nappies. It went well, reasonably, and we were proud of our little girl, majestically on her potty. Accidents happened, more or less, but with age it would improve, surely? It didn’t. Now, at two and a half it’s worse than ever. Accidents happen, not once or twice a week, but a day. The childminder sends her home in a nappy, pants all run out. At home the washing machine tosses and turns continuously.
We keep smiling. We get angry. Nothing helps. We promise stickers, and for a while it works, for Hello Kitty she’ll mount the potty and the fridge door fills with smiling kittens. Then, it goes wrong, again, and in fresh trousers she stamps her feet by it’s door, screaming for her sticker. We promise gifts, as yet unopened, for one whole clean day. We force her on the potty, every half hour, we urge, persist, and threaten, if you don’t do it you can’t come, watch tv, eat. We punish, put her in her room, where she screams with big wide eyes until I fetch her from her growing puddle. We ignore, let her be, with dirty bum, until I find her in the toilet, pants around her ankles and poop on the walls.
I play my last card. ‘Are you a baby?’ I ask. ‘Do you want to wear a nappy?’
‘No,’ she cries, ‘I am a big girl. I don’t want a nappy. I want pants.’
Reluctantly I put her in clean pants. ‘And where will you pooh?’ I ask sternly.
‘In my pants,’ she grins and runs away.
One night we stand by the fire place. In front of us three shoes, in them a carrot, an apple and a pear. It’s Sinterklaas time, when Dutch children set their shoes out, singing, leaving snacks for the bishop’s white horse. So did we, hoping Sinterklaas will cross the channel, and his helper Zwarte Piet will climb down our chimney to leave gifts in our shoes. He will, but Sinterklaas is cheeky. He does not like naughty children. Sweet kids get sweets but naughty ones find a rod in their shoe. We have filled the big blue shoe, the tiny pink slipper. Then we hesitate, at the turquoise one. We look at each other and grin. We grab some pants from the washing line and stuff them in the shoe. I turn away, ready to turn off the lights but hesitate, again. We look at each other and shrug. She is only two. We add a large, chocolate Sinterklaas figure. She will get there eventually. The question is when. And how.