In some respects, you don’t really notice changes for the first 18 months, instead you’re inclined to exist in the aftermath of progressive milestones: solid food, crawling, walking etc. But now the changes are rapid and, at times, startling. I mean he’s capable of rudimentary conversation, informing you of decisions and requirements, he actually tells you when he wants to go to bed. In two languages. I know it was inevitable he’d, like, grow, it’s just I didn’t anticipate this stage of it. It wasn’t on my mental deck, so now it’s like I’m back to the first few days of his birth, agog at everything, seeing the world differently again because he’s able to interact with it and the people around him outside of just crying or looking bemused.
This new-found confidence in communication isn’t always positive, mind you. Because he can tell you what he wants he also knows that you know what he wants too -the days of pointing at cupboard doors bleating helplessly are rapidly coming to an end. This means that if you deny him his heart’s desire he’ll plead until one of the affected party gives in. Most of the time this is biscuit-based trivia but every so often a whopper meltdown will completely bugger up your day.
A wave of obscenely cold weather has been hanging over London, so time spent in the park has been limited. This flat in which I write isn’t very big, the boy can run the length of the living room/kitchen in five seconds, which means the potential for steam-letting has been limited, so it was the perfect opportunity to take him to the cinema on Saturday morning for Toddler’s club, essentially, a bunch of under threes running amok under the cinematic glare of a kid’s movie. It starts at 11am and the cinema boasts a well-stocked bar. Isn’t 11am too early? Oh, come on, it’s the bloody weekend and no one needs know, it’s a cinema, like dark and… Oh, it’s sold out.
This was a blow, it was perishing outside, even the short walk there had rendered us blue. But we couldn’t go back home yet… Then one of us, I can’t remember who, remembered a conversation about a ‘soft play’ place about a 15-minute walk away.
This wasn’t ideal, I’d never visited a soft play space before but had already figured that hygiene may be an issue, all those kids, all that soft stuff? Then I concluded that I must be wrong, such a place would contravene basic health standards, it wouldn’t be allowed to operate and would‘ve already made the pages of The Guardian and/or The Daily Mail.
On entering I realised that I should always trust my instincts, but it was too late. The little boy had spied a toy car, big enough for him to physically climb in and was already determinedly making his way over, his eyes fixed on his prize. Around him all hell had broken loose, there were screaming kids everywhere, among them were adult people with t-shirts announcing that they were numerically ‘authentic’ or ‘original’, wading about in strategically torn jeans and shouting from mouths bracketed by rolled gold earrings. There was a fat bald man in the ball pool and an equally-proportion mother attempting to right herself on a tiny bouncy castle, everything was sullied by smeary little fingers and ground in dirt and in the midst of it was my beautiful little boy climbing into a toy car with an expression of rapturous glee.
Inevitably, of course, his presence attracted the attention of some little bugger who wanted to ride in his car, so I was forced to advise my little dude to ‘share’ when I really wanted to tell the snot-nosed little shit to fuck off… I actually came close but his handy ‘dad’ looked like he’d done time for aggravated sexual assault and was eying up my wife. Of course, my little boy let Snotto have a ride, but it was abundantly clear he wasn’t interested in the portion of the ball pool that wasn’t occupied by man-hippo or the floundering harridan on the bouncy castle, he just wanted the car so he waited patiently for the kid do one before climbing back in. Occasionally he’d let some of the other bastards have a turn but for the most part of an hour, he owned that vehicle.
Whilst its fairly obvious that I wasn’t having a killer day things were about to get a whole lot worse. I’d been quietly enjoying how clean and well behaved my little fella was, in contravention to the dirty chaos that surrounded me, until it was time to leave. I went to extract the boy from the car and he loudly informed me that he wasn’t going anywhere, when I insisted he went ape. What followed was an unprecedented meltdown, a full-on fit, which included kicking, punching, rolling on the floor and a piercing, shrieking scream that seemed like it couldn’t fit in his face. It took us almost five minutes of wrestling to get him out the door by which time we’d convinced all and sundry that long-haired men shouldn’t be allowed to breed.
The drama continued outside so bystanders could judge us too and a day later I had a stinking cold.