Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Just another Christmas with a two-year-old

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is nothing more tedious than other people’s children – not even columnists recycling opening lines from Jane Austen.

If this is your view, I can only repeat what newscasters say when they turn to the football results shortly before Match of the Day: look away now.

Because Christmas is undoubtedly a time for children. (Yes, that is three major clichés already.) Even for those of us who would have done most of our festive spending in the off licence, if only it had not been closed down by supermarket competition. Ho, ho, ho. (Four.)

So the chances of a memorably happy Yuletide looked pretty slim around 7pm on Christmas Eve when the exhausted teenager in charge of A&E announced that our two-year-old son should be admitted to hospital for observation.

This had a cathartic effect on young Charlie, who immediately burst into floods of tears. I sternly explained that it was his own fault for taking one of Mummy’s pills, carefully hidden in an apparently inaccessible part of the kitchen.

“But I didn’t,” he sobbed. “I didn’t.”

Which was interesting, because he had spent the previous three hours insisting precisely the opposite, and it is another of those aforementioned universally acknowledged truths that very young children never lie. All investigations of child abuse rely on this premise.

In the car home Mrs Hann proudly recalled an article she had read somewhere which claimed that the sooner a child starts telling porkies, the more likely it is to become a senior executive. (That figures.) I hope there are some talent scouts from the FTSE-100 reading this.

Charlie did not comment, though he was with us in the car because the (very) young man at A&E had gone on to say “Of course if you want to act against medical advice and take him home, that is up to you.”

For which I heard “That’s us covered against a compensation claim if the brat dies. Next please!”

So we decided to take the risk. Because the pill Charlie claimed to have taken, designed to control his mother’s gestational diabetes, was rather too large for him to have swallowed. While his adamant refusal to eat a huge range of delicious things, other than sausages and fish fingers, made it improbable that he would have gone to the trouble of chewing it.

It was our second visit to A&E in less than a week. Prior to becoming a father I had only entered a hospital emergency department once in my life, after a hilarious mishap involving a trouser zip when I was still only an apprentice drunk. Actually, I did not find it at all amusing, but I defer to the universal opinion of the nurses at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, who fell about with mirth. I have been a staunch advocate of button flies ever since.

Our previous visit was occasioned by the boy developing a grotesquely swollen eye after bumping it on a shopping trolley in Tesco. Not their fault at all, of course, though that did not stop me drawing up plans to build a new conservatory with our compensation cheque. Until his eye got better.

So mum endured a sleepless night keeping him under observation of her own, then we enjoyed a delightful Christmas morning unwrapping presents and walking the dog. Charlie quite liked the pedal-powered tractor that I had spent hours assembling, though he was seriously disappointed that I would not allow him to use its front loader to dig up the lawn. But he declared that it was outshone among his gifts by the model Land Rover from the splendid toyshop in Rothbury.

After which I confiscated the matches yet again, dragged him away from the cooker for at least the tenth time, and came close to a seizure of my own in the face of a massive tantrum about the lack of gravy on his Christmas dinner, even though its solid content was barely visible above a Lake Superior of the stuff.

Kids, eh? Who would be without them? (Clichés? I’ve lost count.)

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne. A fuller account of Charlie Hann's Christmas may be found at http://www.blokeinthenorth.com/2011/12/and-so-this-is-christmas.html

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