‘I’m hungry daddy!’ he declares. ‘I want Honey Monsters and a smoothie’.
I dutifully comply.
Then we’re into the usual ritual.
‘Will you take your breakfast at the kitchen table with mummy and daddy?’
‘No, I want to watch TV?’
‘Don’t you want to sit beside mummy and daddy?’
He breakfasts on the sofa.
Just like every other morning.
It’s an L-shaped leather sofa. Extremely comfortable.
I’ve just finished paying it off after four years.
I bring his breakfast.
‘Sit beside me daddy!’
I could, I suppose, point out the inconsistency. The fact that just moments ago he eschewed the chance to sit beside me in the kitchen.
But there doesn’t seem to be much point.
I sit beside him.
He can eat very well by himself. If he chooses to.
It’s just that he seems to lack any sense of occasion or urgency around his meals.
Preferring to view meals as an ongoing relaxed process which you can dip in or out of at any point of the day.
He knows this drives me crazy.
To me mealtime is a sacred ritual. You do it now.
And thus I’m sitting there dopily with a spoonful of sticky sugared cereal while he happily keeps his mouth unambiguously closed.
Instead of eating it’s more fun to wrestle.
He climbs onto my back, locking me in a chokehold which he seems to have perfected.
I move to re-establish my dominance.
‘Let go son….I can’t breathe….I’m not joking son….I really can’t breathe!’
He decides to try to balance on top of my head. Instead he topples sideways back onto the leather sofa.
Right on top of the bowl of Honey Monsters.
The bowl is sent spiralling violently, Honey Monsters careering wildly like the remnants of a once great planet which has just exploded.
‘Aw son!’ I moan despairingly. ‘Look what you’ve done!’
‘It wasn’t me!’ he protests. Implausibly.
‘Of course it was you! Sure you’ve got Honey Monsters all over your arse!’ I retort. Plausibly.
I’m moving urgently but with stealth. Keen to keep it a secret from mummy upstairs.
I blindly pull out a range of bottles and cloths from under the sink and start to spray them on the sofa.
Once I calm a little I realise I’m trying to clean the sofa with a can of radiator paint.
I start scrubbing. Nothing stinks out a room like spilt milk (apart from perhaps radiator paint).
It’s everywhere. The milk has found every crack of the sofa like a determined grout.
I’m pulling out cushions and stuffing in kitchen roll. Wiping, scrubbing, drying.
And then I look at my son.
He’s sitting on the floor in his pyjamas.
His little legs crossed. He looks a little miserable, perhaps a little afraid.
He’s watching me. His eyes never wavering away from mine. Seeing if I’m still angry with him.
And then I think.
Feck the sofa.
I give him a huge cuddle and then I begin the tickles.
I tickle him until he’s helpless with giggles and pleading for mercy.
I know I’m too soft. And I know I had every right to be annoyed.
And I know the importance of boundaries. And appropriate behaviour. And doing what you’re told.
But the exuberance of youth is more important to me at this moment. I don’t want to be responsible for curbing that inherent joy.
I think as a parent it’s as important to learn from your child as it is to teach him/her.
We roll about on the floor laughing together.
‘Tomorrow son, you’re eating your breakfast at the table.’
We both laugh again, as if at the absurdity of the suggestion.
I get up. I begin to pick Honey Monsters out of my hair.