I am squatting in the garage trying to dislodge cobwebs and mouse droppings from my cycle helmet with a leaf. The 9-year-old is watching me. 'You,' he says as I cram it onto my head, 'are the most undignified person on this earth!'
I am consoling an ailing check-out assistant with a jelly bean from the pot I carry in my handbag for emergencies. 'Mum!' hisses the 12-year-old, 'don't you realise how embarrassing that looks?'
I am watching Downton Abbey with an all-day breakfast on my knee when a poached egg drops into my slipper. The Vicar glances up. He is too kindly to pronounce judgment, but his eyebrows say it all. I am undignified.
Middle-age and motherhood rob you of many assets - your rainy-day savings account, for instance, and reliable bladder control on the trampoline. But there is one loss that I do not mourn and that is dignity. Dignity, and the exhausting maintenance of it, dogged daily life in my younger days. When a stranger handed me the squished egg sandwich that had slithered from my handbag onto the pavement, I avoided that route to work for weeks in case I should meet him again. I'd grin clamp-lipped at parties for fear that spinach was dangling from my incisors and I'd lurk in the Ladies rather than compromise my decorum on the dance floor.
My 12-year-old suffers similar agonies. Mufti days torment her at school in case she wears the wrong kind of denim and, after vainly trying to ban me from her class Meet and Greet, she issues me with a list of proscribed topics of conversation lest I impair her image.
I, however, have shed such shackles. The company of small children erodes ones dignity so completely that I have long since ceased to take myself seriously and nor do I expect others to. It's a wondrous liberation. I'm comfortable carrying a bumper pack of loo roll up the street from Co-op. I readily agree to jive at the school gate so someone's mother can experiment with a new phone app and I'm unperturbed when, strolling genteely through a shopping mall, I'm grabbed by a saleswoman and told I need bottled sludge from Japanese swamplands to cure my blackhead problem.
Sundays are different, though. On Sundays I defer trampolining until I've washed up the lunch-time roast. On Sundays I wear my most inspirational wool garments and keep my jelly bean pot at the bottom of my handbag. Despite the toddler brawls as I instruct my Sunday school, despite my son testing paper aeroplanes during the sermon and despite an unintentional conversation with a new worshipper about haemorrhoids, I maintain an implacable decorum on this one day a week.
Or I thought that I did. I'm dressing myself for the church service in celebratory hues and telling myself that I wear middle-age with aplomb when the 9-year-old walks in. He surveys me for a moment, then beams. 'You look,' he concludes mirthfully, 'like Father Christmas's helper!'
Do you still have shreds of dignity? If so, get rid of them fast!