Sometimes you have to ask yourself questions. Like, “does this count as a calorie? How’d this prick get my number? Do I really want more wine? Why do they want to pay me fuck all for this job? Why do my balls and back always hurt at the same time? Why am I always so exhausted? Am I getting old?” or maybe, just maybe, it’s children that have done this to me. They changed me into that guy that goes directly home, locks the door and falls asleep in front of the television. There was a time I would never fall asleep if the telly was on, especially if a movie was playing. Now it’s a guarantee, put a movie on and I’ll be asleep within minutes. The little humans I helped spawn into this dimension have sucked the energy from my bones.
“Da, Paw Patrol.”
“What’s happened to you?”
“I want to watch Paw Patrol.” I stare at the creature blankly waiting for the magic word. “Please.”
“There we go! Did you forget your manners or were you just being rude?”
“It’s faster being rude?”
“But being rude isn’t nice is it? You wouldn’t like it if I was rude to you.”
“I wouldn’t care.”
“I think you would.”
Free range kids. Great idea when they’re young and cute and can’t do anything except lie on their backs like a potato. Bad idea when they get to an age and develop the IQ of the average LNP politician and will scream a house down when things don’t go their way.
This past weekend was great fun. The toddler and I got up early Saturday morning for our tradition of going to Leo’s to buy croissants for breakfast and to catch up on things on our walk. Only this morning we added a new member to our gang. The baby came with us and quite happily, grinning at the toddler as the toddler waxes lyrical about everything under the sun. The toddler is quite fascinated by nature and we have talked about how nighttime happens, the formation of the Universe, where rain comes from, how planets are made – among a plethora of other subjects. I cherish this time with the toddler, and until very recently, it was just da and the toddler, walking on walls, jumping off walls, racing around the supermarket in a trolley and generally being scallywags. I have figured I’ll need to wear the baby now so the trolley races can still be a thing, and once the baby gets strong enough to sit beside the toddler, I’ll have a crew of two in my race machine.
After our breakfast we all went to Aldi to do the weekly shop. With the new fridge that actually works and doesn’t freeze the food and create its own water – we can plan meals and the wife doesn’t have to send me off to the shops on a nightly basis for an avocado and potato and I come back with bags of stuff she didn’t ask for and a bunch of nice cheeses. I like Aldi, but there is some kind of leyline cutting through the one we go to that turns the toddler naughty and totally nuts. It becomes unreasonable right around the aisle where the soy milk gives way to the canned food. I’ve tried to figure it out as human behaviour does fascinate me and the behaviour of the toddler really changes in that one place. Leylines aside, it could be a ghost. Someone may have been murdered in that spot that uttered a curse to make children naughty when walking through that spot. it could be the energy of the planet, or that the toddler got pissed-off before in that spot and that memory sparks in its scruffy head and it goes rabid. Or, it could be the soy milk. The sight of the soy milk drops a gear in its head. Ya see – the toddler hates soy milk (technically it’s juice, not milk). The toddler once liked soy milk before it knew there was anything else on earth, but then someone gave it cow milk and changed its world. I detest cow milk but the toddler’s mind was made up that the milk da gave it was rubbish and cow milk was the way to go. I still resist the cow milk thing as I despise it on many levels. Anyhoo – the toddler turned into a demon child that would give Damon from The Omen a run for his money. It was so naughty I had to become discipline da – a role I hate. I told it, “that’s it, we’re not going to the park.”
It kicked and bucked and screamed as it inverted every cross in the place and…. Okay. It wasn’t quite that bad, but it was close. The hissing and projectile vomiting of bugs was enough.
“I’m happy you don’t care, I’ll get to some writing done and you can sit in the naughty corner.”
We drove in silence for fifteen feet.
“We’re still going to the park though aren’t we da?” It knows I’m a soft touch and we had been wanting to take it to this new park which also has a farm where it could pat animals. Hell, I wanted to go to the farm and have a break.
“No. You have been so naughty. You have treated me horribly. So no park.” Stern, that’s how ya does it.
We rode in silence for thirty feet. “Mama, we’re going to the park aren’t we?”
“You’ll have to ask your father.”
“Da. We’re going to the park.”
“What I just say? No park. I told it no park.”
“Mama. We’re going to the park.”
“No. You’re not going to the park. You were very naughty.” I says, putting my foot down.
“Was talking to mama.”
“Mama? We’re going to the park aren’t we?”
“You’ll need to ask da.”
“Ask me what? I’ve said no a bunch of times. Why are you doing this to me?” Then I see the wife’s eyes. “Oh fuck no. You want to go.”
It was the longest twelve minutes of my life driving home. But I held firm.
Then I broke. I relented and said we could go to the park/farm if the toddler promised to behave. See – soft touch – but you all knew that.
But the toddler was playing with its train set and time being the traitor that it is – robbed the toddler of park time and boy was it pissed off when it realised it had done itself out of fun.
The weekend faded to memory and the work week began anew, interrupted by a horse race on the Tuesday.
However, we got the toddler to the farm park this Sunday. We pocked a lunch, bundled the kids in the car (despite the toddler going loco in the same spot at Aldi the day before), and headed to Eltham. On the way, we passed a festival that was setting up and like anyone not knowing what they were in for said, “the kids might like that.”
The farm park was okay. There were some cute animals, but it was the park side of things the toddler loved. I hadn’t seen it do half the daring things it was doing – like sliding down the fire-poles and swinging across things and climbing ropes. The balancing, the jumping, the joy of being young.
Then the fuckening happened. It saw a kid with a balloon and then needed one. I told it the kid had a balloon because of a party we weren’t invited to and would get it one at the festival. It then asked for a drink. I reach into the bottom of the pram, scratched about for five seconds for its water bottle and looked up. IT WAS GONE. Vanished. I search the kids before me that were part of the party. Not there. I looked down the path a couple of joggers were on. Not there. I spin around searching the bush, looking for the toddler, a clown, Christ I don’t know. I’ve failed. I lost it within five seconds. The wife now knows something is amiss and I tell her I can’t see the toddler. The toddler is nowhere to be seen. I’m trying to remain calm but my heart is pounding so hard my breathing is rattling. No sight of the toddler on the path and it couldn’t have jumped the fence. Years in the security trade sent me to head-off a scenario of a car leaving the car park. I’m calling its name, people are looking at me now and looking around. They now know something is amiss and begin to gather. A woman has seen the wife in frantic tears and offered to join the search. She’s asking for a description as I’m tearing down on a ute leaving the car park like King Kong, prepared to tear the panels off to find the toddler. Then I spot it. On the other side of the bloody park, in the other section. It’s scruffy head pops up as it bounces across my field my view. I signal to the wife I’ve found the beast as the horrible sickness ebbs away to be replaced by relief. I approach it and it runs off on me again. I catch up to it and talk to it. A talk we’ve had before about running away. Turns out, because I couldn’t magic a balloon, it bailed on me. It sees its mother, tears streaming down her face and its da worried so sick, and it clicks that it has seriously messed up. It has a dawning and it says sorry to its mother. Da gets to suffer because he couldn’t magic a balloon.
We finally trick the toddler to leave the park and head to the festival. It appears the Gods are smiling upon us as no sooner do we end the conversation of the difficulty of parking – THAT, someone indicates they’re leaving, right in front of us. I park and we all head to the festival, the toddler swinging its hair and imaginary tail as it gets to have fun again.
Balls to places with lots of people crowded around me. Balls to it. It’s hell. The crushing, the trying to get a pram through a crowd where assholes are standing on the walking track eating their fancy spiraled potato on a stick whilst talking to other assholes about asshole things in their asshole world while making my world harder. No. No to that.
We escape the hell of other people and find a new park with play equipment. The toddler and I have a frozen yogurt that is AMAZING, we pop some bubbles blown by a guy on stilts. The toddler gets to meet a flamingo played by a beautiful girl on stilts and proceeds to put its fingerprints on every single piece of equipment and play with the bigger kids. It always plays with the bigger kids. So much so, it scared the balls off me again by climbing all the way to the top of a climbing structure. This thing was over two and a half meters tall and I couldn’t reach the toddler as it perched on top with other kids. The thing was covered in children. I imagine if you put a dog ball under a microscope to look at the bacteria on it – that would be close to resembling what was crawling over this structure. Kids were sliding off it, jumping off it into the arms of any adult knowing we would catch them. I saved two of them! It was chaos and my poor heart couldn’t take much more. I was jealous though. I miss those days of feeling immortal and being able climb things with gusto and not run out of breath.
The toddler can write its own name now – the letters may not be in a straight line, but it knows what they are and how to create them. It’s been toilet trained for over a year and on the rare occasion it needs a leak in the middle of the night, it wakes me up and makes me carry it to the loo so it can stay somewhat asleep. It’s smart. It has its own butler. It likes photography, acting, singing, drawing, painting, blocks, creating anything. It also loves animals, knows to respect plants and will go up to any kid it finds in any situation, introduce itself and then recruit said kid for fun times. It’s an awesome little unit.
We have managed to knock-out what was its very public habit of inserting a finger into a nostril as it searches for something eluding it within its head. I just need a priest to fix whatever is happening at the spot in the Aldi store.
As for the baby, (the other child within our care). It still occasionally explodes. It’s into proper food now. It smiles a lot and it has this little grin like Elvis, that is uncanny and adorable. It’s figuring out how to crawl now. It flips itself over a lot and it’s working out how to get its knees under itself to crawl. It also has its first tooth coming through. Also, like its older sibling, it has me figured and wrapped around its finger.
The weekends go too fast and come Monday morning, as I pull my exhausted hide from bed at five in the morning, I’ll look at the three of them blissfully asleep and ask myself a questions, “how did I get so damn lucky?”