Elsa’s transition to sleeping dry through the night started off promisingly, a happy if unexpected result of my poor household planning. Several months ago, I discovered just before her bedtime that I had completely run out of nappies. Too embarrassed to cart a pajama-clad Elsa down to the store for yet another last minute purchase, I instructed my long-suffering child that she would have to manage without. To my amazement, this cold turkey approach actually worked. The bed was accident free the next morning, and – until recently – we never looked back.
Perhaps I displeased some higher power by boasting once too often of Elsa’s talents in the toilet department (“got the hang of it first go you know, and still only two”). Or perhaps Elsa herself decided this had been a premature move. But the events that shortly unfolded held true to the universally acknowledged child-rearing law: Just when you think you’ve got parenting sussed your child will delight in proving you wrong.
Elsa chose to signal the return of the Wet Season 30,000 feet in the air, half way across Siberia. “Mummy, WEE WEE “ she announced urgently. Standing up on her seat, I saw to my horror that she was in full flow. I grabbed her and rushed to the toilets, but by the time we got there, it was all over. All over the plane’s carpeted aisle in fact – a three-meter long rivulet, zigzagging as it marked our hasty path.
I was mortified, but the cabin crew couldn’t have been nicer. My fellow passengers were also surprisingly sanguine about the spraying I feared their exposed shoes had suffered, merely tucking their feet under the seat in front as we walked shamefully back past them. For the next two hours Elsa marched up and down the aisle, her bottom half naked save for a bright pink cardigan tied around her waist in a feeble attempt to preserve her modesty.
Her waters having broken, as it were, Elsa clearly decided there was no going back. She’s since christened her bed at my parent’s house, and destroyed the mattress on my friend’s spare bed (despite my best efforts with a wet cloth and a hairdryer). And the mattress in the French cottage where we are currently holidaying would have experienced a similar fate had my mother not sacrificed her favourite plastic tablecloth, which does a great job as makeshift waterproof sheeting.
Thankfully, the tide appears now to be turning. The last few nights have passed uneventfully, and with luck we could be dining off the aforementioned tablecloth by the end of the week. But all the fuss over bodily functions has left its mark. Anxious to demonstrate her new-found responsibility, Elsa now informs me at least 15 times a day that she needs to go. Eager to encourage this progress, there’s nothing for it but to accompany her patiently upstairs, where we wait long minutes for her to proudly produce the tiniest of dribbles.
This rigmarole continues at night too, with needing the toilet being Elsa’s favourite get-out-of-bed clause. I daren’t disbelieve her, particularly since after returning from our nocturnal ablutions, she ignores her accident-proofed bed and burrows into mine. Resigned, I accept this enforced bed swap and retire to the rejected bed. But squirming around awkwardly as cotton slides over plastic, I fail to get comfortable with my slippery new sleeping arrangement and concede that Elsa has a point.
If bringing up Elsa has taught me one thing, it’s that nothing stays the same. This little blip will pass, I reassure myself, as I drift eventually off to sleep, fingers and toes gripping the expanse of white bed sheet with the determination of a mountain climber securing his foothold.
Sarah Cooper started her own career and personal coaching business (www.cowsfrommywindow.com) after coming to Beijing with 3-month-old Elsa, who is now going on 3-years-old.