“Daddy, where’s my heart?”
It’s Isaac, my four year-old. I can feel his breath on my face. I’m snoozing on the sofa, you see, after having been up with both children since half five. They’re not excited about the new year or anything; this is standard waking-up time for them. But that’s another story.
“Centre of your chest, a bit to the left.” I say, without opening my eyes but smirking a little on the realisation that my A-level in biology has finally paid off after ten years.
But then I hear the sound of felt-tip pen against skin. Believe me, it’s a sound you recognise easily; especially when you’re a parent. I open my eyes.
Isaac is drawing a heart on his chest in a green marker pen which he managed to pilfer from his pencil case without me realising. But that’s not all. His penned heart – which, annoyingly, he’s scrawled on the right side of his chest – is just the latest in a scribble of green tattoos which reaches across the upper half of his body, all the way down his arms, and all over his face. He’s even managed to draw on his own back. He looks like one of those ‘new-age’ artists, who think that covering yourself from head to toe in ink is a good idea.
I gape at him, unable to find any words, just opening and closing my mouth like the Shubunkins who roam the murky depths of the fishtank we keep in the kitchen. That’s when Noah pops up. He’s twenty months old. And he, too, has green felt-tip pen all over his face. Together, they look like a couple of miniature Incredible Hulks, just without the ripped clothing or gargantuan strength. (The temper, though, they both have to a tee.)
My first thought is that my wife, when she comes downstairs, will completely flip; although the fire that comes out of her mouth when she tells off the kids could quite possibly burn the ink off their bodies.
My second thought is that I’m partly to blame, by falling asleep when I should have been watching them. Fear grips me, tightening my chest and causing various extremities to retract. It’s time for all hands on deck.
I grab the nearest pack of Wet Wipes – there’s always one within arm’s reach when you’ve got kids – and frantically start pawing at Isaac’s face, then at his chest, then at Noah’s face, just swiping randomly in a blind panic. The pen doesn’t come off, and I can hear my wife coming downstairs. I wipe faster and more erratically, inadvertently stretching lips and eyelids as my hand becomes a blur over the face of my children. Still nothing.
The living room door opens, and in comes my wife. Fortunately, I don’t have my glasses on, so I can’t see her expression; but I can hear her anger, I can feel it on my face, and it’s like being slapped with sandpaper.
Twitter friends suggest a variety of solutions, including toothpaste, make-up remover and Swarfega (no, I didn’t know what it was, either). Thankfully, we didn’t have to turn to such drastic measures, and eventually, after a bath and plenty of elbow grease, the pen comes off. The pouty expressions exhibited during the telling off, however, remained.