Beered

The little fellow’s nursery has a simple policy when it comes to sick children: if they’re unwell, don’t bring them in. I suspect that many parents don’t adhere to the guidelines because, lately, we’ve found ourselves on the wrong side of the bog on numerous occasions after contracting some plague or other from the boy.

Obviously when a child is seriously ill you’d never dream of palming them off to a bunch of relative strangers (unless you’re a shitty parent, of course) but when they have a cough/cold/splats and you figure you can slip them in, you’re going to try. The reason for this is twofold, the kid is in the nursery because the parents have to work but if the kid isn’t in said nursery the parent, whilst still having to pay for the nursery, may also be losing additional money by having to take a day out to look after some sick kid. It’s also worth noting that most nurseries charge for bank holiday’s when they’re shut which is bullshit.

To say the system is unfair on parents with full times jobs is tantamount to asking if a fart smells and if I wasn’t working on a freelance basis, and my parents weren’t driving across London twice a week to help out, one of us would be forced to quit work and take care of the little fellow full time.

The reason that this has been on my mind of late is because the better half in now in the office five days a week meaning that I have to juggle my work on the two days he’s in the nursery (for all intents and purposes that’s 10am to 5pm of actual free time) plus the one free morning and spare afternoon courtesy of my parents. Obviously the nature of my work means that weekends and evenings are all fair game for graft so it’s not an issue that on Monday’s I’m 100% off work, looking after my son, with or without my beard.

It was to be my debut, the first whole day I’d spend with my little boy, just he and I, maybe his uncle for a swift half late in the afternoon. The weekend that proceeded it had been heavy, said uncle and I had attended an all-day punk festival in North London which had ended in the small hours following heroic quantities of liver-crippling booze. The following afternoon the hair of the dog that bit me was administered with a little too much zeal so the decision to trim my beard by my bon-viveur-self later that evening was very badly judged, especially as I know only too well to never ever interfere with facial hair after a few pints.

I was doomed from the off, the clippers were on the ‘close’ settling and I went in at the wrong angle. Attempts to rectify this by going for different diminishing styles, Grohl, Edmonds, Fawkes, Hitler, was a loss leader. In ten minutes I went from hairy biker to bald potato. I was devastated, though the missus found the whole thing hilarious which didn’t help.

The following morning, I woke to find the little bloke was already in our bed, asleep. The missus was getting ready for work so I lay there for a while listening to Today and, as usual, getting infuriated. My son woke with a whine, he looked over at me and froze. For a good twenty seconds he stared at me, wondering who the hell this person was in mummy’s bed before completely breaking down. It took ten minutes of ‘it’s daddy!’ pitched in a variety of cadences and a single rendition of ‘I was born under a wondering’ star’ that contained a completely made up verse about testicles to put me back in the game.

Looking after a small child is a war of attrition. You have a few weapons at your disposal, each designed to bring on the onslaught of sleep. They are, in order for ease of reference, feeding, changing and playing. These three key munitions are used to direct the child calmly into the pram offering the parent some sort of physical freedom whilst simultaneously soothing the little one off to sleep for an hour of peace and quiet, or as it’s known, cleaning-up. If you get it right you can have up to two hours of cleaning-up a day.

Timing the pram and sleep aspect is an act of art, the fulcrum on which rests failure and success. I’m very proud of my little bloke so I want him to be awake in the pram so that all may gaze upon his beauty as I perambulate the streets of Hackney in order to purchase more wine boxes. However, if he falls asleep too soon, I’m losing out on cleaning-up time at home and that’s unacceptable.

As soon as he awakes the cycle can begin again, though this time one might like to start seriously thinking about visiting a pub. Ideally you want them to be fed, changed, entertained and in the pram by 4pm. By the time you meet his uncle at the boozer at 5pm he’ll be sound asleep. The missus will pass by said establishment at 6-ish, which is about the time he wakes up, and she’ll be only too happy to take over -but only after you’ve allowed her to get a round in for self-esteem purposes.

Once home the better half will feel obliged to take over the complicated evening ritual of baby bed-prep leaving dad plenty of time to drink in front of Police Interceptors on Dave. The adverts allow a window of loud self-congratulation as dad extrapolates on how massively well the day went with overplayed highlights. In the meantime, ones’ knackered wife will have fed, bathed and soothed the little fella to sleep only to return to find dad crashed out in front of Shed and Buried in his pants.

Well done, dad.

Snaggletooth

Because the little fellow has two parents that speak two languages, it was decided way before he was born that his mother spoke to him in her native Italian and I hold the fort with English, mostly as swearing. Apparently this will be a shot in the arm in terms of his cognitive development and, in the future, increase his chances of pulling quality crumpet at parties/galleries et al. Phwoar, etc.

The downside is in the short, immediate term. In many respects it’d be easier just to go with the one language in the here and now, I mean it’s not as if the better half can’t speak proper English like what I does. On the contrary, her English (both spoken and written) would shame most English folk, partially because she’s lived and worked her for almost two decades and partially because she studied it academically.

He really should have grasped ‘mUma’ by now but because he gets ‘mAma’ and ‘mummy’ (and, indeed, ‘PApa’ and ‘Daddy’) the poor little bugger doesn’t know his phonetic arse from his phonological elbow. Instead we’re treated to ‘Ba, ba, ba, ba’ in varying degrees of intensity which maybe an excellent source of amusement, especially when he combines the ‘Ba’ with a slap to his mother’s face, it’s not giving us much clue as to where he’s at with the whole speaking thing.

This aspect of being a parent is, once again, something I’d not have anticipated. Not that I’d given it much thought, I just assumed there would be a gradual curve in development until his balls dropped and he left home. What actually happens are sudden spurts of development that always seem to result in open-mouthed pointing. For example, we were convinced he’d miss out the crawling stage and go from rolling to standing, then suddenly -in the space of five minutes- something ‘clicked’ and he was off the rug and shooting towards a precariously placed bag of his own soiled nappies and a pile of shiny screws I’d left on the kitchen floor after having fitted yet another bolt to a cupboard door in case he could work out how to open the other two I’d fitted last week.

And suddenly he’s got a tooth, I didn’t think it was much of a tooth until he almost bit my bloody finger off during a double bill of Shed and Buried last night. It was a suitably painful introduction to toothing, something I thought we’d already been privy too, as I tried to explain when he was four months old. I was such an idiot, back then.

“We’d just got to a point of semi-ish peaceful sleep, a time when the mornings were a delightful explosion of smiles, practice chuckles and the days sleepy and calm, even the dreaded evenings were getting progressively quieter; of course there was the odd moan, bleat, sure, but everything was just getting, well, better. This aligned with our having an improved understanding of what was upsetting him, we knew he was pissed ‘cos he hadn’t pooed, we knew what is was, and that was okay. Hungry? We got the hungry cry and acted on it. Yep, look, he’s tired, we know. We know everything…

Having said that, you know why they may be crying most of the time, you can’t be sure all the time, babies get annoyed for other reasons, you may be holding them in a way they don’t approve of, perhaps they’re a little hot/cold or maybe they’re just uncomfortable. Our kid has doubled in weight in four months, the very physicality of rapidly expanding flesh and bones has got to hurt, but these are resolvable things that occur in relatively short phases, and anyway, we’re on top of all this shit, well, we were.

A few days ago something else started, this sort-of elongated warble that would regularly rise in pitch and volume until, as of yore, this huge mouth would bust out of his dear little face and eat all that was tranquil and subtle. This time, though, the sound couldn’t be quelled so last week after almost a day of this we came to the awful conclusion that it may be premature but, yes, he was teething

The timing couldn’t have been more desperate as we were about to undertake a five hour-round-trip to see the fam for my niece’s birthday, most of it on a bus. I used to love travelling by bus, especially if I won top-nearside-seat at the front… But now I was confined to that little space by the doors where all the wheelchairs and old-people seats are, the outskirts of the downstairs backspace where the infirm and feeble gather to mutter and wheeze on their miserable little journeys to the post office or hospital. Did I mention it smells? If I didn’t I did just then.

I don’t want to harp on about this but why would anyone elect to sit in this part of the bus if they didn’t have to? You can’t see anything save lots of traffic and queues of pissed-off looking people. Go upstairs and it’s all bright and lovely, you can see for ages too, and you get a unique perspective on the city -plus you can see all the weird crap people chuck onto the tops of bus shelters. It’s a win, win up there.

Having suffered the bus in that awful little space for well over an hour we arrived at Waterloo. Getting to the platform required us to walk in the opposite direction of the designated platform in order to get a medieval lift down to ground level before walking back through a sea of pushy, shovey arseholes. We scrambled on board the train and located facing double-seats and a clean table within, NetworkSouthEast Nirvana. But of course, the little fellow’s pram doesn’t fit in the fucking aisle does it, so we spend 30 mins stood outside the bog instead watching a succession of rugby men entering to park their Egg McMuffins’ before repairing to their seats post-flush sans the hygienic-defining whoosh of the hand-dryer.

Once we’d arrived at our destination we were met by the folks who didn’t notice me having a paddy as I attempted to collapse the pushchair as they were too busy loading the kid into the baby seat amid a sea of grandparental coo’s as I turned the air blue outside. The missus wasn’t impressed; she was even less impressed five hours later (now full of vino collapso following a jolly afternoon with the family) when I attempted to re-construct the pushchair in order to make the miserable journey back to the smoke; I just couldn’t make it lock despite violently struggling with the infernal thing, indeed, it took me so long to get it secured and the boy back in his buggy we missed the train, though this later aspect was aided and abetted by a ludicrous, convoluted journey just to get the correct platform.

It’s not until you’re in charge of a buggy (or a wheelchair for that matter -god help them) that you realise how unfriendly the world is to anything other than spritely, fully functioning humanoids. Having spent time in the past plodding about London with a walking stick due to my spine I always knew this to be the case, but that was small beer in comparison to being fully responsible for an egg-fragile baby mercifully sleeping in his pram. Take the journey to the platform, it took no less than three different lifts and half a dozen piss stinking adjoining walkways -each juncture without instruction regarding the appropriate floor/direction- just to get us to the place of departure. It took a lifetime of swearing just to stop me from having a massive heart attack.

Fortunately, the kid slept all the way back home, an identikit version of the one we’d undertaken a few hours earlier but in reverse. Of course, when we got home we were rewarded by hours of screaming, this aspect was made all the more painful on account of some recently administered news from mum. That afternoon, in between drinks and barbequed sausages she informed us in no uncertain terms that the boy wasn’t teething, he was just a bit tired; we’d know all about teething when it happened, she said, believe you me.

Bollocks.”