on Breakfast, Bathing and Pygmies
Time: too early.
Place: our home.
“Dad, wake up.”
Go away spawn of evil…
“Dad? I think it’s time to get up.”
Just a little longer. I was dreaming about..
“I haven’t studied, Ma.”
“What?” she asks.
Something’s beeping incessantly. I manage to peel a gunk-encrusted eyelid open. It’s almost painful. I can feel my pulse in my head, which is painful. Blocked nose, sore throat, the world is a cruel place and I hate being sick.
“You called me Ma.”
“No I didn’t.”
“Yes. You did.”
I stare at her. She stares back at me. “Good morning my love.” Hug.”Hun, please go downstairs and let the cats out. I’ll be down in a bit.”
Off she goes and I pick up my beeping cellphone. Surely there’s no more loathsome a sound than an alarm waking you up. Presently I might be more partial to the cackling of starved hyenas approaching me in darkness on the plains of the Serengeti. It’s six o’ clock. My alarm’s been sounding for fifteen minutes and I hadn’t so much as stirred. I turn to the Wife. She’s also sick. Bronchitis. Her chest is idling like a 50cc.
“Hun? You awake?”
Nothing. I try again but my efforts are met with a less-than-friendly zombie-groan. Right, let’s not poke a bear. It’s Solo Dad this morning. It’s been a while, but it’s just like riding a bike, right? Feeling as if a piece of my soul must die to do so, I swing my legs out of bed and vow to return to this warm sanctuary as soon as possible. I’ve started the morning fifteen minutes late and I’ve obviously had to breathe through my mouth during the night because my throat is dry, and that little thingy at the back of my palate feels swollen and raw. What’s that called? An uvula?
I can hear Eldest busying herself downstairs. Without fail she’s the life of the household in the morning, regardless of how little sleep she’s gotten. I remember one Christmas Eve she’d stayed awake until dawn because she was too excited to sleep, but I’m leaping off topic again.
Yes, Eldest (8) is a bullet from the barrel in the morning. Youngest (4) would sleep through a death metal concert if it happened to occur in her bedroom early morning. So I commence the prodding and the joking and the tickling and the hugging. Something I’ve learned from the Wife: always, ALWAYS, greet your child with a smile when they wake up. Finally she’s up and the somnambulistic little girl stumbles to the kitchen counter.
My mind’s a wee bit foggy. Okay. Food. They need food. They need to be clean. Animals. Those need food too. Clothes are good. What else? Lunch. Yes. What else? I don’t know. I’m not feeling too well. Time? Six eighteen. Deadline for school run: seven twenty-five.
I start the bath. The cats are twirling about my shins everywhere I walk. Izzy as sleek and graceful as, well, a cat. Kiki less a cat and more an animated potato. Or a potato-esque concertina. She’s the fat one; my grumpy ill-tempered shark with fur. The oats are put on the boil and I get Youngest’s clothes ready. All’s going well. Eldest is in and out of the bath, dressed and primly eating her honeyed oats in no-time. Youngest refuses to get into the bath. Then she refuses to get out of the bath. Then refuses to get dressed. A mannequin would have been more cooperative. Eventually I have the little bundle of delight eating breakfast. This whole time the cats are a tangle between my legs, because I obviously carry their food on my person at all times. Eldest engages me in a conversation about the working of the seasons and the planet’s movement around the Sun.
Despite my health, I’m feeling like a superhero right now. I have this morning pretty much in the bag. Lunches made. The animals are fed, and so are the cats. Seven-twenty. I chuckle under my breath thinking of the surprise on the Wife’s face when she realises that it all went off without a hitch this morning, without her help, and she gets to sleep in. One point for Team Dad, thank you very much. All ready and at the door. We’re outside and …
“Girls did you brush your teeth?”
… then we’re back inside. Teeth brushed. Seven twenty-four. Ready to leave. I look at Youngest and …
“Where are your shoes?”
… she shrugs nonchalantly, as if the thought of shoes was so foreign to her that she’d been raised a shoeless pygmy in deepest darkest Africa before the advent of colonisation five hundred years ago.
Back in her room. Seven twenty-seven. It seems she no longer owns a matching pair of shoes. All three of us are searching. I find a rogue shoe under my bed. What the hell? Nonetheless it’ll do. Laces done, seven thirty-three, and I realise that Youngest’s hair looks a bit wild. Eldest grabs some clips and a hair elastic and will tend to the unruly thicket in the car. This isn’t like me, frankly.
Seven thirty-six and the car is started. I pray for a break in traffic. We get it and are at the school at seven fifty-eight. Two minutes on the right side of the hour! Booyah!
I left their lunches on the kitchen counter.
That morning was such a fail.
PS: they did get their lunches later that day and yes the Wife had a good little gloat. The next morning I managed to pull it off on my own though.