"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," according to John Lennon. I'm not familiar with the song it's from, but it came as no surprise to me to learn it was a song about fatherhood.
It hasn’t taken a pandemic to stop my plan-making in its tracks; the kids have been doing that for years. Mind you plans these pandemic days are a lot less adventurous, so it’s hard to unravel them to any great effect.
Going to the dentist counts as out out – jeans and a fancy top anyone? And that’s about as exciting as it’s been the last few months. Which is perhaps why “The Hulk”, or “Daniel-san” as he prefers to go by these days, decided we needed to shake things up a bit.
It all started on yet another day confined to our 5km. The sun was shining, there was a nip in the air, deadlines were looming and the kids were off school. I was typing away on my laptop to the sweet dulcet tones of kids killing each other in the next room – the soundtrack to the pandemic. Guilt was taking hold because I knew I should really do something with them, but I didn’t have the time or frankly the motivation to battle with them to put on their shoes and coats to go for yet another walk around suburbia.
Bribery was the best parenting tool available to me.
“Okay, let’s do home cinema,” I suggested chirpily, hoping the enthusiasm might rub off on them. “I’ll make some microwave popcorn and you can watch a film, and if you give me 20 minutes I’ll come in and watch with you,” I promised. Twenty minutes wasn’t going to be enough, but mentally I planned to get out for a stroll on the beach with the kids when their dad came home from work. It would ease the guilt of yet more screen time, and I could get more of my own work done when we got back. With an extra pair of hands it would be easier, I figured. And what the hell, I might even have time for a bath afterwards, I thought, completely losing the run of myself.
And that’s where it all went wrong. “Hold my beer,” fate laughed, unable to resist the temptation of best laid plans.
Two minutes of delicious silence had passed when “Daniel-san” came in to break the news. “There’s hard bits of popcorn touching my brain,’ he said shaking his head wildly. The curly haired dude was hot on his trail, his eyes wild with fear. “What?” I asked, confused. “You know those hard bits in the bowl” he replied referring to the kernels, “well they’re inside my head and I can feel them touching my brain”.
“How are there kernels in your head?” I asked, suspiciously. Popcorn kernels weren’t a potential hazard I’d previously earmarked. “Well,” he said frowning, “I threw one up in the air and I was going to catch it with my mouth but instead it went in my ear. And then one went in the other ear too”.
“They’re touching his brain!” the curly haired one repeated, a sense of urgency permeating every word.
A trip to the GP confirmed there were indeed two kernels in situ but they weren’t coming out easily. So Ireland’s next karate kid and I were off to emergency department.
“We would have been here sooner,” Daniel-san explained to the triage nurse “but dad had to go and put on the lotto first”, he explained, omitting to mention that his dad was actually getting change for the carpark. “It’s €10 million tonight,” he continued. “If we win I’m getting a new Sonic toy.”
I thought about my plans for work and the self-indulgent bath that wouldn’t now happen as my little boy surveyed the fish in the fish tank. Still, at least I’d got to talk to real people, I consoled myself, even if it was just about ear canals and potential allergies.
It turned out even superheroes and karate kids don’t much like having kernels removed from their ears, particularly those that are stubbornly wedged. Much upset later we left the hospital with the kernels still firmly in place, and ultimately a plan to have them removed under general anaesthetic. Neither mammy nor Daniel-san better for the experience. It didn’t feel like the right time to tell him we hadn’t won the lotto either.
Plans and parenting don’t mix, I’ve discovered over the course of the last near 20 years. Winging it and hoping for the best is the optimum modus operandi.
Well that, and changing to crisps for movie nights.