March 2, 2014 by The Friday Facts
As I think I mentioned in my last post, Sonny’s mum decided to take a break this last week. She chuffed off to MONA, the modern art museum in the bustling capital of the Island State, with a bunch of her girl-mates. And in doing so, she left me alone with the thing that the tiny little sperm I once produced had somehow, impossibly, grown into.
I had no idea what they planned on getting up to, her and her girls, over there in the Apple Isle. Maybe they would be prancing naked around a bonfire on Seven Mile beach. Maybe they would hit Wrest Point Casino and wake up in the morning with a ravaged half-kilo of blow on the coffee table and a dead hooker sprawled on the floor. Maybe they just wanted to appreciate some good modern art. Who knows?
But my wife’s decision to abandon her family in favour of a Wolf-of-Wall-Street intake of designer drugs and Haight-Ashbury levels of freedom and liberation left me to tread a path that few men have trodden before me: I became the sole guardian of an infant-child-thing for more than a few hours. For more than a few hours.
Three days in fact!
It sounds fairly pathetic; being pleased with myself for looking after my own child for a few days. But in my defense I would say that a) almost every dad I’ve spoken to about this has never been left with their kids (under 2) for longer than 20 minutes and b) not only have I never spent three days alone with Hamburger Head , but neither has my wife! Sure there’ve been times when I’ve gone out on benders and she’s been pretty much the sole guardian for that length of time, but never the actual sole guardian. Check mate.
By the Hammer of Thor
Needless to say, the predictions were dire. It’s nice to know that every single person I know – from family members, to friends, to complete strangers, to me – all seemed to agree that me looking after Sonny would result in a visit to the emergency ward within 15 minutes. Yet in spite all of this nay-sayery and dad-shaming, I was quietly relishing the shit out of the idea of the two of us being set free from the shackles of the totalitarian, matriarchal dictatorship under which we’ve been enslaved for the past year and a half.
I imagined us, just me and the boy, shirtless, heading for the woods and hunting boar together. I imagined taking the mighty beasts down with our bare hands and slinging their bloodied corpses over our shoulders. I imagined the sumptuous banquets that would follow; we two laughing heartily and smashing our flagons of Meade together as a nervous bard played freshly penned odes to our bravery on his lute. Then I imagined beaming with pride as my son slammed his flagon down on the mahogany table and bellowed “Enough! This grows tiresome. Now bring us a pair of comely wenches with raven tresses and bursting bodices. Post haste!”
Or perhaps we would write the great Australian novel together. Taking country drives to inspire us, pulling all-night brain storming sessions as we work out how to flesh out our soon-to-be timeless characters. There we’d be; ordering pizzas at 3am, empty bottles of red strewn on the floor. Me, pacing up and down with a baseball in my hand, Sonny lying on the couch massaging his temples. Then he’d snap his fingers and say “Got it! The river she keeps dreaming about is the river she used to fish with her grandad when she was a kid. It becomes a metaphor for her lost childhood.”
Sadly, it didn’t quite work out that way. Not at the beginning, anyway.
Who Disturbs my Slumber?
My wife left early on a Sunday morning. 5.30am early. We were both keen to ensure that Sonny didn’t catch her leaving and freak out, so we concocted a brilliant, elaborate and curiously pornographic strategy for her leaving the house. Although she made it out ok, she must have kicked one of the lasers on exit because Sonny began to stir. I brought him into bed with me and placated him quickly enough. About 45 minutes later he woke me up by shoving his finger up my left nostril which, I have to admit, I kind of expected him to do.
After giving him his bottle and some breakfast, I delegated guardian responsibilities to Disney’s Aladdin while I went and had a shower. I am now in a position to report that the ‘Cave of Wonders’ in Aladdin is unspeakably terrifying when you’re a one year old. At least that’s how Sonny sees it. I could hear him shrieking from the shower so I yelled out for him to come into the bathroom (normally when I’m in the shower it’s impossible to get him out of the bathroom), but he ignored me and continued screaming. I got out, quickly dried myself and ran into the living room to find Sonny still screaming ….. AND STILL STARING AT THE GODDAM MOVIE!!!! Is he some kind of idiot? I worry about his survival instincts if, whenever he’s confronted with something threatening, his gut response is to dig his heels in and scream his ass off.
Lesson 1: Babies are scared of stuff
Behind you! Behind you!
Day one smoothed out after that. Sort of. I took Sonny to a local festival where we wandered around and came across dog shows, children’s performers, harbingers of overpriced, home made organic fig jams and hipster ‘tween bands playing Of Monsters and Men songs to their beaming parents.
The children’s performers – I think they were called the ‘Flying Bookworms’, but don’t quote me on that. They could have been called One Direction for all I know – held Sonny’s interest for a while. But I soon learned that the adorable front-row dance shimmy he put on was just a rouse. I turned away for what could only have been a second and he’d disappeared. I found him backstage, rifling through the performers’ shit while they were busy plying their trade. He nearly escaped with a fairy wand, someone’s wallet, and a spangly box with the word ‘Lady Macbeth’ written on it. They’re lucky I stopped him, but I await no accolades.
Moving on, we stumbled across one of those quaint little indie shops selling the kind of stuff that makes you go “What an awesome idea!” before realising, three seconds later, that it has no practical purpose whatsoever. One such product had Sonny captivated for ages and this video demonstrates not only the kind of cute little feats of hand-made, fair-trade engineering that can be found in shops like this, but also how close everybody’s “Sonny will be in the emergency ward in 15 minutes” prophesy came to being a reality:
Now, the more astute among you will have noticed that Sonny actually shoved a marble in his mouth right at the end there. You can even see it there in his mouth, if you look closely enough, like the scuba tank in Jaws’ mouth at the end of the movie. That’s how come the video goes black; that was me throwing my phone down and shoving my hand down his throat in a bid to retrieve it (PS. Mission accomplished – BAM!). And so it came to pass that this marble joined the increasingly UN-exclusive club entitled “Stuff I’ve had to fish out of Sonny’s mouth”. Indeed, the second that mucus covered marble was sent flying out of Sonny’s fat gob and onto the floor, it joined such illustrious company as leaves, Lego men, dirt, chunks of soap, gumnuts, more leaves, an undefinable object in the backyard of my parents’ beach house, leaves again, flower petals, Grandma’s goldfish No.5 and yet more leaves. In fact, I’ve yanked so many leaves out of his mouth in his short life that they’ve been given a life membership to the “Stuff I’ve had to fish out of Sonny’s mouth” club. This was what a friend at work described as a ‘parenting fail’.
Lesson 2: Just because babies don’t shove stuff in their mouth straight away doesn’t mean they won’t do it eventually
Once this drama had concluded, we started home. I ran into three people I knew on the 20 minute walk back to our house. And though my bones were weary and my spirit broken by this point, each of these people witnessed me desperately save Sonny from a new and increasingly imminent death. One saw me shoot wrestle him off a busy road, another saw me spear tackle him off Yarraville’s famously quaint railway tracks and a third saw me save him from being trampled by a marching band which, true to the hipster locality, was playing not Louis, Louis, but Hey Ya. None of these heroic acts would have been necessary were it not for Sonny’s relentless pursuit to get to somewhere other than where he’s at right now. In other words, he likes to run.
It would appear that boys – one and a half year old boys, anyway – run. For the love of god, they run. They run and they run and they run. And when you think they’re finished running…they run some more.
Lesson 3: If you’re a parent of a young child, and if that child happens to be a boy, then everything you need to know about your immediate future can be summed up by this simple video:
The Hobbit: There and Back Again
When we finally arrived back home, I did what any dad would do. I kicked my shoes off, flicked on the box, put my feet up and relaxed. Ever sympathetic, Sonny gave me my space, poured himself a bottle of milk, fetched me my pipe and slippers, and played quietly by himself before yawning, rubbing his eyes and announcing that it was time to turn in. It was a perfect end to a perfect day, save for a tiny little needling sensation that I felt in my temple.
Turns out that the needling sensation was an actual needle. None of those things I just mentioned had happened. Instead, I’d drifted off and Sonny had busted into his mum’s knitting kit and pulled out one of those massive plastic needles that I guess are used for knitting wool. They’re like the knitting version of those oversized novelty cheques they give to people who win triathlons and the like. They also really hurt when they’re being shoved in your eye by your one year old, which this one was at this particular point in time.
To make matters worse, it soon became apparent that he had neither fed himself or tidied up all his toys. He had shat himself though, so that was, you know, that was … good. He’d also pulled every book off the bottom two shelves, stolen the toilet brush and run it along the hallway, and finally realised his life-long ambition of breaking into the cupboard where his mum keeps the good china.
Lesson 3: It’s been a long day and you’re tired, right? Well buck up, camper, because babies don’t give 0.3 of a fuck how tired you are
Dreaming is Free
Once I’d got that first day out of the way, I started to hit a rhythm. I knew when to cook, when to eat, when to clean, when to organise and when to pour a glass of wine and when to put my feet up. The cleaning was a killer. Kids are disgusting. Were you aware of this?
But once I relaxed I did so to such an extent that there were times I forgot Sonny was actually in the house with me. Sitting on the couch on night #1 I started to drift. I found myself on a beach somewhere though I’m not sure where. It was sunset and I was drinking Tequila Sunrises at a resort bar on the water. My skin felt stretched and hot from the day’s sun, but I didn’t care because I was in a happy place. The resort was booked out because there was there was an all-female cheerleaders, volleyball and gymnasts convention going on at the time. All the girls were at the bar at this time and some of them were explaining the finer points of twerking to me when another one turned to me and, for reasons I couldn’t quite work out, screamed “Bwwwwaaaaaaahhhhhhrrrrrrr dubdubdubdubdub whaaaaahhhhhhhhh!”. This went on for quite some time before I opened my eyes to find that this annoying screeching sound was coming from someone who was less female, hot and a figment of my imagination and more male, a baby and very fucking real.
I pulled him into bed with me and it was there I came across the only moment that my wife’s absence ever really threatened to create an issue. Sonny lay down in bed with me and the crying stopped immediately. He then sat bolt upright and turned to the place where his mum would normally be sleeping. Seeing just an empty space, he just sat there for a while, contemplating, before slamming his head back down on the pillow and not emerging until morning.
The rest of the time kind of glided by (glid? glud?). I discovered that at 9 in the morning, shopping Malls are not the soul destroying dens of human misery that they are most of the time, but rather seas of tranquility. You get a rock star park, you get served straight away and you can move around without having to negotiate leagues of loud talking bogan dipshits. And the only other people there are lonely pensioners and mums with babies, most of whom looked at me as though I’d crashed some secret women’s club. I also discovered that Scienceworks is freakin’ awesome, even for a one-and-a-half year old who has no idea what any of the stuff is for.
But most of all I discovered what I already kind of knew – that I have a fucking awesome little housemate. Did he have his moments? Sure. But on the whole he was an absolute dream. We’ll never know whether or not Sonny truly understood that his best friend, partner in crime and person who housed him for the first nine months of his life had just upped and disappeared for three days. But if he did, he sure as shit wasn’t going to let it get him down. He just kept on keeping on, just like he always does. He had no idea where I was going to take him next, but he was more than happy to throw caution into the wind and simply roll with it.
And thank god for that, because I gotta admit, I had no plan B there. If he had have decided to freak out and cry his ass off for three days straight… well… it would have been a long three days.