Raining cats and dogs - and elephants
It’s one of those Sundays, a rain-lockdown Sunday. It’s so heavy out there that we’re tempted to pull the curtains at midday, and we’re trying not to think about there being only a few hours before we go to bed and then it’s school or work again. The younger’s buddy slept over last night and her dad has dropped around to collect her. He’s sipping tea and looking morose at the thought of going home for a Sunday lockdown of his own.
There’s him, me, the missus and my mum. And the rain beating at the window. The kids have disappeared somewhere, leaving us to our melancholia.
“I went to one of those parenting things last week,” says the friend’s dad. “About 300 people packed in. Only 10 men, though.”
I give him a kick for going. We have to maintain an aura of all-knowing at all times. We cannot, ever, admit to needing guidance. But I wouldn’t mind a few free tips, seeing as he must be an expert now.
“What was he like, the parenting dude? Tell you anything you didn’t know?”
Friend’s dad has returned to his reverie of the weather. “What?” He looks startled. “Oh yeah, he was pretty good. Very engaging and entertaining.”
I don’t want to hear about entertaining. I want the meat. I want the secrets that will make my home life a transcendental state of bliss. I don’t want to pay 20 quid for something I reckon I already know. And, as I tell the kids regularly, I know pretty much everything.
Friend’s dad is still a little spaced. The rain isn’t that fascinating.
“Here, did he hypnotise you or what?” I probe gently, “You’re not gonna think you’re a chicken or something in a minute, are you?”
“Nah, he was good, seriously. Knew his stuff.”
We are interrupted by the elder child bursting in with a crucial story about what her friend said to her in the shop the other day. I tell her to hush up and wave the friend’s dad on. He looks bemused.
“Well, it’s kinda like, he just said you gotta, I dunno . . .”
Ah, get to the point, man. The elder is now playing her keyboard at top volume. I shout in to her to knock the sound down. She turns it up. She’s been learning one particular tune for a month; it’s called The Elephant March. Cute at first, but now I want to go big-game hunting. I open the hall door and growl. She growls back.
This time I hold up a hand to stall friend’s dad.
“Give me a minute. I better check what your and my daughters are at. It’s a bit too quiet for my liking.”
I stalk down to the bathroom and find them with both dogs in the sink. Three bath towels, clean that morning, sodden on the floor.
“Ah Jayz, your mother will lose the plot. Get those dogs dried off, clean up the mess and sneak the towels into the wash without her seeing them. I’m serious, get it sorted or there’ll be murder.”
“Get out, Dad, you’re annoying us.”
I hold up the big finger and give the look. You know the one. Don’t mess with me. The two of them advance and push me out the door.
Back in the rain-soaked, locked-down kitchen.Well, what’s the secret?
“Don’t lose it. Basically, boils down to not losing it. He wasn’t preachy or anything, says he loses it himself all the time with his own kids, but just hammered home the point that you have to stay calm or all is lost.”
The elephant is marching on my head. I open the hall door. “I swear I will bury that keyboard in the garden if you don’t turn it down.”
The elder rears up and, in a virtuoso display, sweeps through into the living room while announcing to all that I never listen to her and she is sick of me.
I don’t lose it.
“See,” I say to Friend’s dad, “I didn’t lose it. Should have just come over here – I would have given you that advice and only charged you a tenner.”
My mother interjects for the first time. “Did he tell you how not to lose it?”
Before Friend’s dad can answer, I point out that she never lost it when we were kids. “Yeah, but you and your sisters did anything you wanted.” She seems a bit upset.
“And look how well we turned out. Point proven.”
And I give her a little hug.