Love actually is

Our newest episode of Parenting Pobal is live. Back in the swing of things after the Christmas break we are chatting about some misplaced advice we didn’t ask for from strangers. Thanks for listening and if you enjoy the podcast please share with friends and leave a comment, review or rating. Cheers

Derek and Karen

Love actually is

Dust is magic

Part of the paradox of being a parent is that you have to near triple job in your off time. We spend so much time in the evenings making sure the kids have a proper, home-cooked, meal for ninety percent of the year that it takes up a lot of our time in the evenings. Of course I say ‘our’, I mainly mean ‘herself’, but let’s not split hairs. I do all the washing afterwards.

Between these two slices of time we attempt to sandwich in time with the nippers themselves. Building something with their lego or joining in as they play with super hero figures or teddy bears. Attempts to make memories with them before they inevitably have to go to bed.

Most houses will then attempt to do some chores so that the house doesn’t end up featuring on one of those reality shows were the garden is so overgrown there are Wombles living in it and the various smells of unclean are merely cancelling each other out to create a neutral, almost fresh, scent to the air. The problem is we both have hobbies that require time. The ladyfriend with the theater group, me with the writing. These things take time away from chores because we have so little time in the evenings.

Add to that that both of us also have a nasty habit of doing a bit ‘extra’ in terms of work-work during our evenings, we’re talking a very small amount of time to juggle everything with before we head to bed to start the whole cycle over again in the morning.

I remember the old joke about ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ when I was growing up. But Dagda damned what I wouldn’t give for a bush that grew little berries of time so you could extend your day a bit.

So, what typically ends up happening is that the weekends become more jammed packed than the working day. I swear we have less time to unwind at the weekend because we’re trying to play catch up on all the stuff that needs to be done around the house. Stuff that our past-selves really should have done.

Selfish assholes.

Like sweeping the kitchen floor. Man alive with kids that eat as well as our pair do it is a wonder how so many crumbs and bits of pasta end up on the tiles, but end up they do. Along with dirt and dust, the floor gets dirty.

Making the Saturday ‘Big Sweep’ a shameful requirement.

This morning, however, it was made a bit more magical. As I began tackling the task, Nugget sat on the little two-seater sofa we have in the kitchen and just watched me. Her little eyes darted back and forth for a bit as she sat there in silence, an event as rare as a double rainbow at night. I kept glancing at her, then eventually tracked my own vision along to what she was staring at.

A shaft of light was coming through the kitchen window, illuminating a spot just beside the counter like floating golden syrup. In the air were dust motes, disturbed no doubt from my attempts at cleaning the floor. As they passed through sunlight they were clearly visible, before drifting out of sight again.

All fairly normal stuff, stuff that most adults wouldn’t even pay attention to if I’m being honest.

But this small aerial display had Nugget transfixed. Then she looked up at me briefly and said.

“Daddy, look at all the fairies.”

I smiled to myself as she hopped down off the sofa and carefully, so as to not startle the fairies, walked over to the little pool of light. As she said that line I could see exactly how she had gotten to that conclusion. With all the innocence of a child-like imagination and no real understanding of what was being seen, she had logically come up with an answer that made perfect sense. It was not just dust swirling in the air, there were hundreds of little fairies dancing around the place. Magically appearing and disappearing as they played with each other.

Nugget reached out carefully and tried to catch one, but they all swirled away much to her delight. As the boring adult I know that her hand had disturbed the air, just a fraction, and caused the dust to move about. As the dad watching his little girl enjoy a magical party I could see that the fairies were playing a game with her, one she kept laughing at as the little dance continued.

There is a line from ‘Sherlock’ about dust that always sticks in my mind: Dust is elegant! The room is covered in it, and it tells me a story.

It’s a great line, that feeds into the plot nicely. As I swept some more of the floor to stir up a bit more dust, creating some new fairies for Nugget to watch and play with, I thought that dust isn’t only elegant.

If you look at it through your children’s eyes dust can be magic as well.

Kitchen Kick-about

The first rule about kitchen kick-about is: you don’t tell mummy about kitchen kick-about.

Most folk that no me longer than five minutes are aware of my dislike for all things related to football. I can’t stand watching it on telly,  so much falling over blades of grass with more drama than you’d see in a Shakespearean play. Not to mention the total lack of respect for the ref, I mean what is that all about?

Then there is my utter inability to play the game. My hand-eye-foot co-ordination is utterly atrocious, I wasn’t built for that sort of sport. I can run pretty well, but that’s not much use when you need to kick a ball.  This all means that I never enjoy playing the ‘sport of kings’, because I completely suck at it.

Along comes Jellybean, the little ray of chaos in the sunshine of my day. He, for some reason, absolutely loves all things football related. One time when we were out for a family meal he spotted a match on the overhead screen and was glued to it. The lad isn’t even two and he would not take his eyes off the match. I’m not sure he even knew what the rules were, but it got us thirty minutes of silence to eat our food so that’s a win. But when we’re at home he is constantly asking me to play football with him.

Now, Jellybean isn’t so great with the words just yet but he does know how to get his request across to the adults. He walks up to them with the football and then puts it down on the ground, doing a little run up to the ball before kicking it. You get the message pretty quickly.

Being a modern dad I know that you need to overlook somethings when it comes to parenting; so if the little lad wants a kick-about with his old dad then a kick-about with his old dad is what he will get. After dinner we put the ball down between us and kick it back and forth for nearly twenty minutes. He loves it. There are screams of pure joy as it sails past him and he has to chase it. When he lines up his next shot there is the low battle cry of a child in his element.

We’re not playing out in a field. It is indoor football. There are walls, tables and counters to factor into all your kicks. This let’s me get a little creative with how I try and send my shot past the youngster. I don’t have to worry about a straight line, I can bounce it off the back of a chair then into a wall.

Basically we play pinball football in an unspoken attempt to mask just how poor my kicking skills really are.

To be honest I secretly love these little sessions, because I never thought I’d have them with anyone in my life. But what they do, sometimes, is make me forget how shit I am at football. In particular kick-abouts. It isn’t everyday that I get the phrase ‘No ball in the house!’ shouted at me, let alone from my wife.

The hilarious bit of that is when Jellybean stops dead in his tracks and puts his hand up to his mouth, looking at me in faux shock.

Of course that doesn’t stop us having our nightly little kick-about sessions. Only the other night we had one, but the dinner dishes hadn’t been cleaned away when we started it. Forgetting for a second that I was not, nor ever had been, a good footballer, I put a bit more mustard on my kick than I should have. It bounced off a wall, crashed into a chair, then flipped up onto the table and sent a glass of water flying through the air. Luckily the glass didn’t break, but water did spray the wall nicely like some sort of sucky modern art installation.

I stopped in my tracks and looked down at Jellybean. He was staring at the wall, hand to his face in the faux shock position.

When he clearly remembered the modified first rule of kitchen kick-about: you don’t tell mummy about kitchen kick-about, unless it was daddy who caused the carnage to take place.

Without a second thought the little Judas was running past me out into the hallway, declaring at the top of his little lungs “Mummy! Daddy spilled water!”.

I guess there is a lesson in all this, even for me. The first rule of kitchen kick-about is important, but there is a rule before it that nobody speaks of. That maybe, just maybe, these little sessions are something which the kids will carry with them fondly for the rest of their lives.

If that isn’t worth a few glasses of spilled milk, nothing is.

Snot Son Salute

I wake up later than usual. It is a weekend, my work alarm hasn’t gone off. I am in that blissful limbo of not knowing what is going on. I know it is later than normal because I check my watch and see it is reading past eight.

Past eight, at the weekend! Something has gone horrible awry.

We have kids, this can’t be a thing. We can’t ‘sleep in’… can we? It doesn’t make sense.

I slowly roll to the side, being sure not to wake the ladyfriend, and listen.

Something woke me, of that I am sure. A noise, some sound. I did not just wake naturally, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it was that woke me. A normal person would roll back over, try and get more sleep before the kids wake up. But I’m not a normal person, I’m paranoid as hell and now my ears are straining to listen for anything that could have woken me.

The dog isn’t barking, that’s good. People trust alarm systems in their home, I trust Frodo. He sounds like Cerebus when he starts barking and barks at the slightest thing that is out of the norm. How we still have a postman using the letter slot is a mystery. But if the dog isn’t barking, then it isn’t something outside the house. No car door being opened or house alarm going.

“Heh…”

I hear it then, but it happen so quickly I’m not sure if I actually heard anything.

The kids are definitely not up. There is no movement from their room at all. No sound of teddies being force fed imaginary tea or a book being bashed against crib bars like a tin cup in a jailhouse cell.

Maybe I’ve finally gone crazy. Crazier? More crazy? The lack of sanity in my skull is a near documented thing at this stage, but still anything is possible.

“Heeh…”

I definitely hear it this time. There is no mistaking it. This is what woke me. I’m a paradoxical sleeper. I am fairly heavy when I need to sleep and yet after a night of sleeping I’m so light I can hear a pin drop three streets over.

“Heeh…”

It’s louder this time, but just barely. I get out of bed and tread across the floor quietly. Stepping out onto the landing I wait for a few seconds.

“Heeh….”

The kids’ room. Whatever it is is coming from in there. I think maybe the smoke alarm battery is going and wonder how we got lucky that the battery is going during the morning time. How often do those things go at 2 a.m.? It’s like a design feature of the bloody things, I’m sure of it.

Stepping into the room I first look at Nugget and find her sitting up, pressed into the corner of her bed, head tilted back. Her beautiful brown eyes lock onto me with a mixture of happiness and pleading.

“Heeh!” she says, barely moving her head.

The reason why she is barely moving her head becomes obvious as my eyes adjust to the gloom of the room. Spreading out from her nostrils, extending just past her top lip, dangling precariously over her open mouth, are two snot-cicles.

What is it with kids? They sneeze and somehow produce these two strings of snot like walrus tusks of slime.

Nugget has a book open on her lap. She obviously has been awake for a while and then the sneeze happened. Like all children she lacks the ability to wipe her own nose and as the snot-cicles formed she just tilted her head back. It’s all like a very strange Bond-esque style death trap. I’ve no idea how long she has been like this, but she has been too afraid to call out for help for fear of dislodging the snot-spikes into her mouth.

“Oh honey,” I say, taking off my night t-shirt and using it to mop up the snot.

I’m a dad…clean sleeping attire is not required in emergencies like this one.

“Phew,” Nugget says, moving her head. “Thank you daddy. I sneezed and then I had snots.”

“I can see that,” I say, kissing her on the cheek. “All clean now.”

“DADDY!”

The cry is from the youngest. He is standing up in his crib, looking over the rail at me. When did he get so tall, I’ve no idea.

“Morning, buddy,” I say to him, smiling.

Before anything else happens he puts his hand up to his mouth, then sneezes. Not once, not twice…but thrice. Three full on sneezes, with his hand under his nostrils the entire time. As he stops he looks up and smiles at me, then pulls back his hand.

He has given birth to Slimer from Ghostbusters. The hand is covered in green gunk and there are strings of it stretching from face to hand.

“Daddy!” Jellybean says again.

“Oh dear Dagda,” I say, cleaning his hand and face with my snot-shirt.

The glamorous wake up call of the parent, a snot gun salute.