One of my biggest fears as a dad is that my sons are going to turn out like me. I was a shit kid: sickly, lazy, introverted and frankly a little bit boring. I’m a slightly less shit adult. One of the legacies I fret about the most is that somehow they are going to inherit the bed-wetting habits of my childhood.
So far the Major has made the transition from nappy to potty to pant with only the vaguest drip. He has adapted magnificently. By contrast I spent most of the 1980s waging a war of piss-soaked terror against my own bed linen, at least in keeping with that era of excess.
My companions throughout this sodden period were five soft toys known collectively as ‘the Chaps’. In retrospect that fact that I chose to take to my bed with the Chaps seems more like a public school romp but of course it was very innocent. We were a squad, a bit like a boy band. Albeit a boy band in which one member habitually urinated over the other five.
My bed-wetting became so serious that my mum took me to the doctor’s surgery to find a suitable cure or at least tie a knot in it. The doctor provided us with a contraption that consisted of an electronic mat wired up to an alarm which sounded when the mat got wet.
For some reason my primary concern on being presented with this machine was who it actually belonged to. My mum tried to explain the basic philosophy of the NHS but as I was unable to grasp this she ended up simply saying that we borrowed it off Margaret Thatcher. I can’t recall the dark places that my tiny mind visited at this point, speculating as to why Margaret Thatcher owned such a device. After all she had had two children and was probably quite stressed with the miner’s strike.
At first I regarded the machine more like a toy. While my contemporaries were playing with Transformers, I busied myself with a piss-alarm. The first night we installed the sheet in place but I was so excited I couldn’t get to sleep. Which would have immediately solved the problem except that eventually curiosity overwhelmed me out of bed to wee on it in the traditional awake and standing-up position.
At this point my mum decided to introduce an incentive scheme: every dry week was rewarded with a Toblerone, every month with a trip to the local toy shop. And in this way eventually my rebellious bladder was brought to heel like an unruly Labrador. As a side-effect I also developed a lifelong love for Swiss confectionery.
I look back and feel strangely nostalgic about it now, but I also remember the sopping shame that came with it all and don’t wish that on my boys. Perhaps I should focus on actual problems instead of hypothetical ones. Parenting is difficult enough. Just think about Margaret Thatcher. She needed a machine.