We had a neighbourhood party at the playground in our street the other night. It's what we do in Tauranga.

Or at least what our little street does because someone is kind enough to organise it and the rest of us are up for meeting the neighbourhood.

Families walk up the street with their chilly bins, meat for the barbecue and salads to share and kids run around let (semi-) loose because it's that kind of thing.

I was a few wines deep, my husband was caught up in a conversation about cars, and a neighbour said she would watch my children while I shot to the portaloo.


A toddler went in just before me. He took forever.

While I grew anxious about what my neighbour was thinking of the time it was taking me to pee, a small voice called out: "I'm just wiping my bum."

"Ummm ... Okay ...?" There was a brief pause.

"Can you wipe it?"

I glanced around. No adults. No siblings.

The party area was 20 metres away and my own bladder was full of about 500ml of superb chardonnay, a fact I had been ignoring for some time.

"Okay," I said, stunned at the level of servitude I was prepared to stoop to for a child that was not my own.

I opened the door and discovered that the reason this resourceful boy could not wipe his own backside was because he was eating an ice cream. He told me he was 3.

I couldn't be sure he could wipe his bum even if he didn't have an ice cream that was more important. I envied him for being able to ask such a task of a stranger.

"Families walk up the street with their chilly bins, meat for the barbecue and salads to share and kids run around." Photo / Getty

I asked him to lean forward which left me witness to yet another sight parenting has thrust upon me which cannot be unseen.

In an effort deserving of some sort of bravery award, I assisted in his request, glad of the three wines numbing my horror.

I ensured he sanitised his hands and he went on his way.

I emerged from that small green cubicle a changed woman.

He was nowhere to be found as I searched so I could inform his mother, whoever she was, in case there was an awkward conversation later about the lady in the toilet, but when I finally found him, he was well down the road, holding hands with her. He was skipping and she was none the wiser.

It wasn't until a friend pointed it out that I am left with questions: should I have wiped his bum? Would a mum take exception to the fact that another mum helped like that? What would have happened if I was a man? If I hadn't had three wines and a full bladder?

Was I wrong to assume that a mum who is relaxed enough at a party to lose sight of her child for five minutes (as I am myself), would most likely just be grateful she didn't have to wipe that time?