Friday, 26 October 2012

How you know they grow up

Acquired an extra child for our night's nesting.

This is the sleepover culture. At first, I was absolutely terrified by this swap-your-child madness. But now I am a big fan. You merely hand your child to other people, and you get to enjoy a quiet evening!

Of course there is the other side of the equation. They hand you theirs.

This used to be the moment when I froze in terror. What if I did something unforgivable by accident? Like feed the treasured offspring my poisoned dinner? Abandon them in a field because I only ever count to three?

Then I realised I was approaching this problem all wrong. On the arrival of the night-nesting child, I merely had to smell like a tramp, behave in an embarrassing manner, and look like I hadn't slept in a week. My own children, mortified by my hideous presence, would rush to protect their overnight friend, hurrying them far away from my endless capacity for embarrassment. Thus I recommend my tactic! On many a happy evening, my adopted overnight visitor has fled from my vicinity, spoken to me in hushed terrified tones and, in one case, made their own den where they became totally invisible to my fearful gaze. Success!

But times they are changing, and I know it on this night when I take the four bodies on our annual turn for the Hallowe'en ritual come early; when the Parks staff accompany a local theatre group to dress up as ghouls, witches and wolfmen on a guided story walk through the local wood.

Within seconds, I realise I need not have come. The bodies are becoming teenagers. Now I am not simply embarrassing, an object to be avoided at all cost, I am inconsequential. I am invisible. The nearly-teens want to giggle and shove each other around without any adult presence at all, not even a looming one in the corners. I could have dropped them at the start of the after-dark capers, then picked them up at the end.

So that is my lesson for today. Their independence is my independence. I shall leave the nearly-teens to do their own stuff. And on spooky story night, the corpses can do my job for me, while I push off to the pub.

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