There was a time quite recently, while my wife was pregnant, when she became pretty ill with tonsillitis and was bed-ridden. This left me to look after our 3 year-old son, Isaac, for the day.
This is Isaac.
Apparently, just lounging around the living room was disallowed – and, even though I couldn’t hear my wife telling me to take him out (at one point I closed my eyes so I couldn’t see her mouthing at me) her glare alone was enough to make me wrap Isaac up in his coat and trudge off to a parents and toddlers’ playgroup in the town centre.
In hindsight, I should have wrapped Isaac up in a coat, and myself in full riot gear.
The noise alone is enough to leave me crouched in the corner of the echoey village hall, gibbering to myself whilst dribbling on the laminate floor. Kids just running around and shrieking for absolutely no fathomable reason; toddlers screaming on the floor, wailing into the air; mums trying to chatter over the noise but instead only adding to the chaos. Isaac goes running off, leaving me to identify the one vacant plastic chair and wade towards it through the knee-high sea of bobbing toddlers. How many I accidentally kneed in the jaw, I couldn’t possibly say. Two, maybe three. Could’ve been more.
I plonk myself down and awkwardly note that I am the only father in the room. I participate in a little small talk with some nearby mums, but as I don’t know any of the other mums to gossip about, the dialogue quickly dries up. Then, I catch the eye of a toddler.
The toddler starts to waddle towards me. His hands are sticky. His nose is snotty. It’s like the sound of talking in the room has faded out, and is replaced with the Jaws theme tune.
He’s getting closer. I fleetingly look around, gulping. Where the hell is the parent? Probably in the background, watching gleefully as the infant stumbles towards me, hands outstretched. I ain’t your daddy. Leave me alone. Seriously. I attempt to merge into the wall, chameleon-like. It doesn’t work. I hope something else catches his attention. It doesn’t.
Ugh. His hands are on my jeans. These are from Next, dammit, stop wiping snot and slobber on them, leaving snail-like trails on the denim. I can’t move; temporary paralysis has set in, but not the type where you flop onto the floor with limbs like jelly; it’s more akin to rigor mortis. What do I do?
I have three options.
- Let the child molest me, and hope that someone comes along and finally takes him away.
- Stand up and leave, and risk toppling the child over.
- Knee the kid in the face, and claim that he hit that reflex spot on my leg when his outraged parent confronts me.
I’d love to say I chose Option 3, but instead I went for Secret Option 4. I place my fingers and thumb around the top of his head, turning it until he faces in a different direction. I feel it was firm enough to make a statement, but gentle enough to avoid an angry mother seething in my face. Thankfully, the child waddles off, sagging nappy hanging between chubby thighs. I breathe a sigh of relief, help myself to a complementary biscuit, and wait for the playgroup to end.
Next, I take him to the park. But that’s another story, for another time.