Andrea Mara

Official website

The Rites of Passage – 6 Things I Might Have Done Too

Tonight I fished a pair of socks out of the toilet. Little red and navy striped small-boy-sized socks. I could make three guesses as to which child put them in there, but I’d be right on the first one. As I tried to use a wire hanger to drag the socks out, by holdig them aginst the side of the bowl then sliding them up (this doesn’t work – the rim is a problem), I was annoyed for a moment. Why would he throw a pair of socks into the toilet? But then I thought, he’s three – why wouldn’t he throw a pair of socks into the toilet?

It must be irrestistible. Standing there, toilet seat open, a rolled up pair of socks in hand. What happens if you throw them in? Impossible to hold back now. In they go. Then head over the side, peering in to see how it all turned out. Then walk away, happy with a job well done. No need to mention it to anyone. Just everyday life as a three-year-old.

And actually, as a kid, I’ve probably done most of the things that my own children do now. Perhaps they’re rites of passage that all kids go through?

Impromptu haircuts

Last week, my six-year-old started screaming, “Mum, mum, quick, he’s cutting his hair!” I ran in to find the smallest on a chair, scissors in hand, like a deer caught in the headlights. There were little blond curls on the floor. Then I noticed little red curls too.

“How did your hair get on the floor?” I asked my six-year-old. Deer number two, caught in same headlights.

“Um, well, I think his hand slipped when he was cutting his own hair?”

Office Mum - Emmie
Who me? Cutting hair?

Indeed. But I get it. The temptation to snip. I did it too – I cut my baby sister’s hair when I was three. “But I was just cutting off the corners!” I apparently said. See, all makes sense.

Stealing sweets from the high press

A couple of months back, my six-year-old came home with a sweet wrapper in her lunchbox. “Where did you get the sweet?” I asked.

“From the teacher, because we were so good,” she said.

The following day, her big sister came out of school with jellies, and the six-year-old got upset – feeling left out.

“But you got a sweet from your teacher yesterday,” I said. “It’s the same thing – just a different day.”

“No mum,” she wailed, “I didn’t get it from the teacher – I made that up. I really took it from the press at home myself and put it in my lunchbox. So it’s not fair that she got sweets from her teacher and I didn’t!”

Em, yes. That makes so much sense. But again, I’ve been there. And when there weren’t any sweets in the house, I used to climb up and take out the tin of hot chocolate, and eat it dry, by the spoonful. Icing sugar was another favourite. So on balance, the odd stolen sweet here and there probably isn’t such a serious crime.

Gluing everything to everything

Glue is fun, and slightly mysterious. Will it work on everything? Can you glue your finger to your knee? Can you glue a Barbie’s leg to the table? Can you glue a banana skin to a picture, and call it a bridge? Of course you can.

As a kid, my favourite thing was to superglue my thumb and index finger together, then pull them apart just before they might need surgical intervention. Living the dream. That’s what happens when you have only two TV channels.

Office Mum - toddler art
The banana skin is a bridge apparently

Reading under a blanket

My seven-year-old was delighted recently when we let her read in our bedroom, so that her little sister could get to sleep. She was even more delighted when we forgot all about her, and she read till midnight. It was much easier than her usual trick of hiding her book under the duvet, then reading in the dark when we go back downstairs. But I did it too – Famous Five and Mallory Towers and Nancy Drew, all under the blankets, though with the benefit of a torch. And then just like I was, she’s cross and tired the next morning, but can’t see the logical link, and does exactly the same thing the next night. Actually, I know some grown-ups who still haven’t learned that lesson.

The top of the slide is as good a place as any to read I guess
The top of the slide is as good a place as any to read I guess

Disposing of random things

Sometimes my three-year-old zips past me, yanks open the bin, throws something in, then runs away again, as if I’m not going to be remotely interested or concerned.

“What did you put in the bin?” I always ask.

“Nothing,” he always says.

When I check, I variously find a doll, a doll’s hair, an apple with one bite taken, an entire bowl of cereal – bowl as well, or inexplicably, his sister’s shoe. I don’t remember throwing things away when I was a child, but my husband says he once threw a wallet in the fire. Maybe the bowl of cereal isn’t so bad after all.

Putting things in the toilet

Whatever about a pair of socks – last year, when I asked my then two-year-old to “Put Fireman Sam in your room,” he seems to have heard it as “Put Fireman Sam in the toilet,” and indeed he did just that.

Fireman Sam in the toilet - Office Mum
Poor Sammy


When I was a kid, I … actually, no, I never put anything in the toilet. There are limits to what I’m prepared to admit on the internet.

I have a theory that when my kids do something that I used to do as a child, I’m less shocked and more forgiving – doing that cross-face-while-trying-not-to-laugh thing. However I suspect that theory won’t hold true when they start sneaking out at night and hiding naggins of vodka under the bed. Like their dad did I mean. Obviously.

(In case mine is reading)





Click the button below to sign up to my Penguin newsletter.