Daddy Day Care: ... And don't make me repeat myself
I DIDN'T sign up for this — spending half my days kneeling on the carpet, getting slammed in the face with the lid of a saucepan and hit overthe head with a bicycle pump.
“But you're the dragon,” says Mike, when I complain that he's being a little over enthusiastic with his bicycle-pump sword and saucepan-lid shield. He takes another swipe, the pump telescopes out and hits his sister in the face. The game ends in tears.
Here's the thing they don't tell you about minding children. It can be very, very boring. You have to interact with people who are way below your maturity level. Yes they say cute things and so on, but these are tiny little oases scattered through a desert of tedium.
Yesterday, Conor, who's coming up to his second birthday, found my shoes and insisted I change out of my runners into them.
Ha, ha, isn't that cute? Then he wanted me to change back into the runners, and once I'd done that, he wanted me to change back into the shoes again. If I tried to break the cycle and get him into something else, he'd howl. Repetition; children love it. They always want the same boring story or the same boring game.
With Mike, who's nearly five, all his games are the one game in different forms. I'm the dragon and he's the knight. I'm the zombie and he's the zombie hunter. I am the evil pharmaceutical multinational polluting the water and he's the campaigning lawyer hired by the small town to get the factory shut down. Ultimately, it's always about cracking me over the head with the bicycle pump.
He has no interest in ordinary boy games like football or rugby. If I introduce a ball to the game, it has to be some kind of exploding device or sacred object that must be rescued from the undersea kingdom. He had a little friend to play this week. The kid was into farming, so was delighted with Mike's collection of tractors and cows and the rest of it. So they got down to play and Mike picks up the combine harvester and says, “Right, this is a spaceship and the . . .” “No!” says his friend, grabbing it off him. “It's a combine!”
Sitting in a Spider-Man tent pretending it's a hot air balloon sounds like right craic, and it is. But after five minutes, the novelty starts to wear off, your back is starting to ache and it's three hours to go before tea. That's the other thing. If you're at home all the time, you start to get slightly institutionalised.
You start to fixate on mealtimes. Don't get me wrong, all this runaway imagination can be great fun. My sister was looking after him last weekend so he waived his usual game format and got her to play Princess and the Frog. He comes hopping into the room going ribbit ribbit. My sister, in full Shakespearian says, “Oh look, a lovely little froggy! I'll kiss him and see if he turns into a handsome prince!” She goes over gives Mike a big smackeroo. But Mike continues to hop around the floor, scowling and going ribbit. “Oh, what is wrong?” says his aunt.
“Why is the frog not turning into the handsome prince?” And Mike goes “I'm just an ordinary frog, I don't turn into princes.”
Deflated, my sister sat back on the bed and shook her head. “Story of my effin life,” she says.