Sleep. It’s a mystery isn’t it. Science still has’t fully worked it out, but if we don’t get enough of it – we die. So ‘God,’ in its wisdom gave us children to ensure that we never sleep again.
I often wonder how our bed would look if viewed overnight from above on a time-lapse. I have an idea that it would feature something out of Paranormal Activity as a small blond demon skittered across the sleeping adults, waking them with a knee in the eyeball and a foot in the teeth. It would also answer for me the question of how the wife can end up in the cot and how I can wake up with the toddler’s lower half on my head or have to rescue it after its turned itself upside down and found itself right at the bottom of the bed by our feet. Speaking of waking up, I was dreaming I was looking at a wooden fence with a hole in it. I was staring at the hole intently. I could see something within the shadow of the hole, a slight movement then breathing – it was alive, the hole had a presence, a presence that was looking right at me. With a pounding heart and sucking air I woke to – the toddler standing by the bed staring at me in the dark.
I man-squealed as I felt its breath on my face and my initial terror gave way to the only thing I could grasp – a question. “What are you doing?” It stared at me a moment more.
I glance around the room. It’s dark. The wife is half in the cot. I’m naked, sans doona and a little shy.
“Why?” I stupidly ask.
Then it makes snoring noises at me, sucking air into its distorted throat to mock me before it clambers back on the bed, grabbing a wad of my chest hair for purchase to lever itself back onto the mattress. It clambers over me and kicks about for a bit before falling asleep. I close my eyes and force myself to stop thinking about the thousand stories I’m neglecting writing, then the hole in the fence is there again and the breathing thing is staring at me, always staring – only now there is a wisp of smoke trailing out of the hole. My eyes fly open and there is nothing there but the dark, the wife is now fully curled up in the cot and the toddler is controlling all the bedding while sleeping beneath none of it. I look at my phone and the horrible light reveals it is nearly 5 in the morning. I groan and get out of bed, flick on the kettle and ponder the day ahead.
“What happened to da?”
“ Yes sweetie.”
“Call me da or daddy.”
“Blueberries and strawberries for breakfast please.”
With its order placed and having had its fun messing with my name, it saunters off into the living room and switches on the telly – which it knows how to do now, and selects its show – which it also knows how to do now. The volume control and thankfully You Tube, remain a mystery to it. Anyone out there that has had to endure “Baby Shark” even once, will relate to how I wish keep You Tube a mystery.
This weekend the toddler and I had fun. We played in the park for hours, mainly with sand and water, then I bought the toddler a sushi roll from her favourite sushi shop and we sat in the gardens and watched the ducklings and the odd people that hang out in that park while she ate it. It was a morning of oddness when I think about it – avoiding eye-contact with the weirdo with the transistor radio and erection was one thing – but when leaving the ‘water park’ we came across a couple of scallywags scoping cars in the parking lot. They were quite intent on one BMW until they saw my rough head looking at them as myself and the toddler walked out of the child-safe gate. Something about me or the toddler changed their behaviour. There was a bit of nose scratching and pants adjusting before one nodded at me and asked me “how’s it going?” Now this stumped me as it’s a question I’ve never been able to answer due to its meaninglessness. The meaninglessness then leads to frustration and I stared at the guy as I thought of some kind of answer other than “how’s what going?” The frustration must have been there on my face and he read it as ‘I’m about to kill you’ as he hurried on his way. The toddler grabbed my fingers “will you hold my hand da?”
“Of course mate.”
Taking the toddler’s hand, we walk up the street as I ponder the encounter. Now, I have been told when people first meet me (then get comfortable enough with me to tell me) they think I don’t like them as I have a certain look that ranges between ‘you’re a tiny thing’ to ‘I’m going to tear your head off just cause I can.’ Of course I have no idea about any of this and always think I’m being friendly. Anyhoo – about a quarter of the way through the sushi roll, the toddler has decided it is much too lazy or far too important to be feeding itself and hands me the roll, “you feed me da.” So I did. Ya see here though, my thought process was on keeping the thing fed and watered as I was not only in charge of it during the park adventures, I was in charge of it until Sunday! That’s right – the toddler and I had our first night away from the wife. Well, the wife had her first night away from us. She got in the car, dropped the clutch and I’m certain I saw her smile growing in the mirror the further away the car roared. I had the toddler for a full 24 hours. I had to ensure I also got it through the night. So, there I am feeding the thing like some father bird would feed its baby bird, smiling at the ducklings and the mama duck eyeing us off suspiciously, the weirdo with the stiffy listening to his radio – when the toddler announces it’s time to go home. “What!” says I. “The day has only just begun. We could go to the museum.” “No. Home.” Off it marched and I had a moment of wondering who might actually be in charge. Once I got myself in order with the backpack I must carry around when hanging out with the toddler filled with toddler needs, supplies, toys and demands (mainly nappies), I caught up with it and told it we were going shopping first. It wasn’t happy and said no. It sat down on a rock and got the hump and I told it I’d collect it on my way back and bid it a good day. I walked on nearly 2 very slow steps when the little voice “I chum” rattled across the street. The toddler doesn’t understand the art of the bluff or calling a bluff just yet, so this tactic gets me some wins. I don’t know about long term psychological damage I might be doing to the toddler however, but I am sure such things can be dealt with in future fights “you’re not wearing that out!” “You don’t own me.” “I’m your dad.” “No you’re not, mama said so.” The art of the bluff I envision shall be instilled by the time this hypothetical fight happens. Anyway, da won the argument and we went to Toscano’s to shop for lunch. I was happy with my purchases as was the toddler who came out with a carrot we didn’t need and a passion-fruit I didn’t want – but had to buy anyway. Excited about what I was going to make for lunch, we walked passed Dawson’s and the toddler headed in through the automatic doors announcing it was time to have a baby-chino. Baby-chino, soy baby-chino. I won’t order them on principal because they’re a wank. But da’s reaction to baby-chinos doesn’t stop the toddler from getting its grubby paws on one. It has a friend on the inside, a friend who gave it a cuddle and said “soy baby-chino and a prosciutto pizza,” to which the toddler replied “yes, thank you.” My 2 year-old ordered our lunch. I placed my shopping on the seat beside me, now clearly the outsider in the toddler’s world. It had friends here. It was 11am and I thought oh bollocks to it, and I ordered a pint. Our drinks arrived at the same time and the toddler raised its soy baby-chino and I raised my pint and we said a collective ‘cheers.’ People judged me but I didn’t care, I was wet and somehow I had sand in my underpants. The rest of the day was doing things the toddler wanted to do. Playing with the Duplo, the running, the hiding in plain sight, the talking to the rawwwrs that only it can see, the making of various foods and the watching of rubbish on You Tube. But I put the kibosh on the rubbish as it was without creative merit and it was driving me mad which is now a rule. No creative merit, then it has no place in our lives. I convinced the toddler to watch “BRAVE” as I want it watching positive female characters and not princesses that need a prince to rescue them. A girl with a bow, an attitude and the empathy to see the whole picture is the kind of picture I want it to watch. The toddler loved it. Maybe now it will trust me when I try to show it something positive instead of screaming in my face so hard it shakes my fillings loose. The night went well. Apart from it wanting strawberries at 8 in the evening. So dutiful da bundles the toddler in the pram, consents to its wishes of going really fast ‘heart stay with me’ and shoot off to the shops to buy strawberries, blueberries and crackers for the feast we were to have on the couch. Da got in a fight with an idiot that went through a red light – but other than that minor fracas – the toddler and I made our purchases and rolled on home, the toddler falling asleep as we entered the street. I picked it up along with the shopping and carried it up the stairs and into bed. It woke as I placed it in bed: “I love you da.” “I love you too, cabbage head.”“And I love my mama and I love my cheeky bugger,” and with those words it was out like a light – only waking twice through the night to ask where mama was. The first time it was a little frantic but I managed to settle it and we cuddled through the night. It was then I realised the immense responsibility the wife has every minute of every day, especially at night looking out for this tiny human. But we got through and I’m a bit proud of the toddler and myself for being mature enough to be okay for a night without the glue that holds us together.
FUN FACT: Cheeky-bugger (Cheeks) is the nickname of the next installment in the Matier clan.