Friday, 1 June 2012

Four Hours

Have you ever tried ice-skating?  I wouldn't recommend it.  There's the moment, looking out over the unpolluted ice when the possibilities seem endless.  Your brain pictures you sailing unobstructed, with a grace normally reserved for soaring birds or swimming dolphins.  Then your legs take over, you step out onto the rink and all thoughts of birds in flight are swiftly dispelled by the fact that one of your feet has gone off in a direction which they haven't found a compass point for yet, somewhere between N and NNE whilst your other foot is doing some intricate dance step which falls loosely under the category of a rumba.  Swift, humiliating disaster ensues, closely followed by the desperation which comes from noticing that you have somehow ended up 25 yards away from the exit of the rink, facing the wrong way and a gossip of teenage girls is about to run you over. Now I’ve put that picture in your mind, perhaps my story of mine and my daughter’s first night together without mummy won’t seem so bad.

My wife was to be gone for the evening, four hours in fact.  I believe my reaction on discovering this length of time woke up next-door's dog.  Well, maybe not, but I know that it startled the child.  This was to be our first extended period of time together without the comfort of knowing that mummy would be there if either of us got into any trouble and a startled child was not the way to start.  The evening alone was due to start at 6, with my wife returning around 10ish.  This posed a number of problems, not least of which was the fact that our daughter's bedtime was at 7 and I was not equipped to put her to bed by myself, the routine would be ruined for a start.

Thus a plan was hatched, it didn't quite require a diagram etched into the sand with sticks, but close, I felt like Kevin Costner was going to come and tell me I had to catapult over the wall any minute now.  We were to have tea, which would be followed by a play with mummy, then mummy would leave and we would carry on the play until the time came to get ready for bed, this would be done and then we would go down stairs and snuggle whilst N slept until mummy got home.  What could go wrong?

Phases 1 and 2 were conducted without a hitch, tea was consumed, play was enjoyed, then it was time for mummy to prepare to leave, there were boxes, and cards, which were the reason for the absence, and a grandparent who had shown up to whisk mummy away.  The excitement was palpable, the mess doubly so, but eventually cars were packed and mummy was ready to go.  On such a monumental occasion one expects fanfares, and a procession, maybe flower petals falling from the sky and the booking voice of Alan Dedicoat telling you about all the parenting awards you are about to receive.1

Perhaps I’m overstating the case ever so slightly, but in my mind this was a big moment, I’ve never really considered myself a grown-up, and yet suddenly here I was in sole charge of a child; this seemed like a situation other people would get into.  I began to wish I was one of those other people, perhaps they had read the manual a bit more closely and would have some idea of how to manage.  Instead it was just me and the child and an ominous quiet which descended, as though she was sizing up the situation before deciding how to act, the calm before the storm.  I took advantage of the slight repose to get a drink and try to form a strategy, but it was obvious that this time I was hopelessly overmatched and reinforcements wouldn’t be back for another 3 hours 58 minutes and 12 seconds, at the very least.  At moments like this people who know tell you that you mustn’t show fear, that children can latch on to the slightest sniff of panic and exploit it, it was therefore important that I didn’t show any sign of nerves. At 3 hours 57 minutes and 53 seconds to go, calming thoughts were required; I went with the familiar and dragged out her favourite story telling myself that 3 hours 55 minutes and 17 seconds wasn’t that long and that we could get through this.

I’m not going to describe the next two hours; some things are better left to the imagination, but just suffice it to say that it became apparent very early on who was boss and how the evening was going to go.  After the first two hours though her stamina wore out and sleep overtook her, cuddled up on my legs and body she slept soundly for about an hour and a half the picture of innocence and contentment, happy in the knowledge that I was putty in her hands, to be used whenever she chose.
The most observant among you will have noticed that we still have around 20 minutes of the 4 hours left.  That was when my daughter decided to wake up and exercise her authority, this time by opening up her lungs and calling out for a responsible adult to come and rescue her from this imbecile who clearly had no idea what he was doing and wasn’t going to let her go to bed.  She managed to keep this wailing up until mummy arrived home.  At which point she turned herself down a few notches, happily welcomed mummy back and left me, nerves shattered, ears ringing, eyes wild and bloodshot, to crumple into a heap and wonder how I had been so comprehensively defeated in a single evening.  From mummy’s point of view the evening was deemed a great success and plans were put in place for a repeat performance.  Unfortunately by then I’d hired the rink for that night, ice-skating can’t be that bad can it?
1. I'm very disappointed to say tht none of these things actually materialised,


  1. Made me smile. I think my Husband would share your feelings!

  2. Very good! Well done for surviving!

    1. Thanks, it was touch and go for a while!

  3. Mister Mojo would understand this, my first outing was supposed to be 1 hour, ended up as roughly 4 too. I came back to him a wreck and Mojo smacking him in the head with a plastic block, surrounded by bottles, baby wipes and something that smelt like grown mans tears.

    I made him some dinner and sent him to bed early.

    1. An early bed would have been nce, but it was gone ten before my wife got back! I sympathise with him totally.