Teatime at home was a disaster. Maddie burst into tears and refused to eat a morsel. Something to do with the layout of the food on the plate. Tom had been fine until he knocked his blackcurrant juice all over his plate and the rest of the table. I struggled hard to force food down into my stomach which was tense with irritation. Maddie continued to howl until I told her to go off and do it somewhere else. She stormed off. Ray cast me a questioning look.
‘I’m not in the mood,’ I said. ‘It drives me up the wall when she does this, when she won’t explain what’s wrong. God, if I knew she wanted the flipping peas in the middle I’d put them in the middle. I’m not telepathic.’
‘You should be,’ Ray said. ‘It’s a prerequisite of motherhood.’
The door flew open and Maddie flounced in. ‘Mummy.’ She’d stopped crying now and she was all outrage. ‘You didn’t give me any tea and I’ll starve and I’ll die and then you’ll be really sorry and I’ll be glad.’ She wheeled round and pulled the door to behind her hard. She was trying for a satisfying slam. Unfortunately a well-placed stuffed dinosaur was in the way and the door merely bounced back open again.
I covered my mouth to stifle the giggles. It wasn’t the first time she’d threatened me this way, but I reckoned her mouthing off her anger at me was probably healthier than swallowing it all and storing it up for adult life.
Of course by bedtime peace had been restored. We’d talked about my need to know about her constantly shifting requirements – not that I thought it would make one iota of difference. I hugged her, told her I loved her and read a long story. I even managed to bite my tongue when she complained of feeling hungry and brought her warm milk and an apple. Perfect mother or what?