We are in the car, heading north. We have no sooner turned out of our road when the child starts demanding snacks. It is 8 o' clock in the morning. There are still 200 miles to go and I have already sat on the one box of bread sticks I have packed and I can't for the life of me find the raisins.
I am wrestling with my conscience - give up all the principles I have held dear for the last two years, or stop at the nearest garage to buy a large bag of sweets to keep her quiet?
The scruples win. Although my nerves soon come to regret the blanket ban on junk food.
The situation is not helped by the fact that the child appears to have decided to cram the terrible twos into one three-hour journey. Before we have even hit the motorway she is crying because (in no particular order):
● she needs a big girl bed;
● she has dropped her water;
● she doesn't like witches or wasps;
● she needs a sandwich;
● she has spilled her water.
I address each crisis as best I can, namely by:
● informing her that there is, alas, a dearth of drive-through furniture stores on the carriageways of the M1 and the M6 but I will do my best at some unspecified point in the future;
● wrecking my back and my shoulder in an effort to pick up the beaker (rest assured that I am not the one who is driving);
● insisting that I have checked the car for witches and wasps and the coast is clear;
● pointing out (more than once) that we have just had breakfast;
● snapping that: "It is only water and it will dry."
It is unfortunate that a disturbed night (mine) thanks to a bad dream about an octopus (hers) has not left me in the best of humours to begin with. I want peace. I want quiet. I want a snooze. The need for sleep is so great that I start to hallucinate, floating off blissfully towards a mirage of fluffy pillows and feathery duvets until I am brought back down to earth by a toddler screaming "STOP THE CAR" somewhere south of Daventry.
"I want to drive," she sobs. "It's my turn. It's nice to share."
A crumbled breadstick doesn't offer much in the way of consolation so we go for distraction techniques and a nice game of "spot the yellow digger" which works beautifully until she gets upset that she can't see any pink buses instead. And then, she announces, all the craning has made her feel sick so we go through the drink water, drop water, spill water scenario all over again.
Small wonder that by the time we arrive I feel as though I have aged a decade. Slightly larger wonder that, come the homeward trek, the child has regained her joie de vivre and is angelic throughout. But I think we'll be staying put for a while, just in case…