My son has been ill this week. Nothing serious but his ailment ensured that he had to stay away from school and temporarily avoid contact with other children.
This meant several long days with the two of us cooped up in an enclosed space. Now, as I’ve often said, I consider spending time son the greatest privilege of my life, but hey, you can have too much of a good thing.
We’re both adept at finding novel ways to pass the time but this week has stretched our creativity to breaking point. And then a bit further.
Here’s a small selection of some of the activities we’ve taken part in together….
1 Dodge the Penguin
An extemporised time-killer which soon developed into a formal game with an established set of rules which my son insists on reading out in full every time just before we play. The gist is that we take it in turns to hurl an inflatable toy penguin called Pecky at each other. Points are awarded for evading the throw, with bonuses for particularly athletic dodges and spins.
My son has won every bout so far. My low point was reached when, in a frantic effort to elude Pecky, I ran headfirst into the patio doors and almost knocked myself unconscious. As I lay dazed on the floor my son danced around me, squealing with delight and yelling ‘Daddy! Do it again! Do it again!’
The Madagascar films have become the narrative and soundtrack of our week with my son watching them repeatedly and then peppering me with questions such as ‘How come there are Penguins in the jungle daddy?’ or ‘How can a giraffe be in love with a hippo daddy?’
A slight note of discord was reached in our ongoing disagreement over sequencing. My reasoning that Madagascar 1 should be viewed first followed by Madagascar 2 and then Madagascar 3 is in sharp contrast to my son who insists they should be watched in the reverse order. When I gently try to dissuade him that he’s got it the wrong way round he scornfully replies ‘Duh daddy!’
The legacy of Madagascar has been that my wee man has spent much of the week singing ‘I like to move it, move it!’ while insisting that I dance along.
3 The train set
A visit to the toy shop for some distraction ended with us coming home with a new toy train set.
My first realisation was that the track would not join together on the thick living room mat. So I moved it, which merely revealed how dirty the living room floor was.
Then I went to insert the batteries in the train. I removed the tiny screw from the battery compartment and promptly dropped it on the kitchen floor. As I was on my hands and knees vainly searching for it I realised how dirty the kitchen floor was.
After having to sellotape the lid back onto the battery compartment my son watched the little train go around the track once. Then he turned to me and said ‘What else does it do daddy?’
He spent the rest of the afternoon watching one of the Madagascar films again while I spent it in the company of the vacuum cleaner and the mop.
4 The medicine
It was all very civil and agreeable as the GP told my son that he would have to stay off school for a few days and would have to eat lollies and ice cream. So jolly was the occasion that we barely noticed her mentioning the medicine.
We were not even alarmed as we picked the bottle up at the chemist. After all, surely nothing evil could come in such a pretty shade of pink?
Then my son tasted it.
And everything changed.
His face twisted in horror and he proclaimed the medicine as the worst thing he had ever tasted. The instructions on the bottle said he has to get 5mls four times every day.
Thus began a seemingly unending procession of rows, threats, wrestling, clenched teeth, crying, sticky hands and changes of clothing.
Finally this afternoon, just at the point where I was about to give up hope I brought the medicine to him. This time my son didn’t argue but simply opened his mouth and allowed me to pour it in.
He closed his mouth and his eyes met mine.
I didn’t say anything but I just nodded so he would know just how proud his father is of him.
Then he spat the medicine into my lap.
5 Writing a rap
My son demanded a piece of paper this morning so he could write a song. He chewed the tip of a pencil for a moment before coming up with the title Kids’ Land.
Soon he had composed the lyric for a first stanza which went:
‘If you want to have fun, go to Kids’ Land
It’s the best place for kids to play.’
I then set about putting it to music and discovered that it seemed to work best with a rap beat. So we performed it as a rap duo in the living room. He rapped the lyrics while I made beatbox noises in the background. Dreams of stardom overcame us.
Unfortunately our fledging crew soon dissolved due to creative differences. My boy objected to me trying to tie a soiled handkerchief around his head as a bandana and I regretfully lost my cool and told him I would ‘pop a cap in his ass’.