Dining Out

Carry on up the KhyberSo, I intended my most recent post to be the last one about becoming a Dad. However it would appear my Son has other ideas, regularly providing me with unequal opportunity to show just how often he outsmarts me.

The good news is that Toby (my son; I haven’t taken to interjecting random peoples names into the blog just yet) has now developed a whole range of facial expressions with which to receive me. This is both heart warming and crushing at the same time: let me explain –

Such is the mechanics of newborn development, it’s thought that up to the age of eight weeks old I appear to Toby as little more than a blurry outline (who inexplicably wakes him in the middle of the night to jam a teat in his gob before wondering why he won’t go back to sleep immediately after.) Now, at twelve weeks old his recognition is improving. I am apparently now a fairly clear three dimensional being (who inexplicably wakes him in the middle of the night to jam a teat in his mouth, before wondering why he won’t go back to sleep immediately after.)

Unfortunately children – in particular babies – are not born with an innate understanding of tact. Their facial expression represents very clearly what they are thinking. When I enter the nursery, Toby’s reaction conveys a fairly narrow spectrum of apathy ranging from, ‘Oh brilliant, you’re the one with the itchy chin and halitosis, if you must pick me up don’t breath on me fat man.’ to ‘Where’s the one with the tits? Would you turn up at a friend’s house empty handed? No? Next time bring a bottle.’

Okay I don’t actually believe my Sons thought process is that of a socially aggressive host but like most parents I am forced to resort to some pretty humiliating acts to get that elusive smile. I once caught myself in the nursery mirror pulling a face at him that was as close to Disney’s Goofy as can be achieved without actually being a cartoon dog. In short I’m finding that in order to communicate with my son I have to unlock the inner child in me, which is difficult because my humour is so intrinsically wrapped in an adults body. For example, I have recently taken to reading my son bedtime stories. One of his favourite (possibly his favourite: it’s not like we’ve started discussing the merits of Tolstoy versus Tolkien) is a book called the Velveteen Rabbit. Approximately half way through the Rabbit asks, “What is real? Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick out handle?”

Yes I know I’m going to hell. I know I’m corrupting the child like innocence of a children’s story with adult smut. It’s gilding the lilly that the story also happens to be about a rabbit, but I haven’t managed to get past that line without giggling like an idiot. When I pointed this out to my wife, she glared at me with a look she reserves for people who take a microsecond longer than is necessary to pay for something at the till. It didn’t help that at the time she was preparing to breast feed Toby by putting on a nipple shield that makes her look not unlike a sado masochistic batman.

By contrast on other days I’m expected to think like an adult but from a child’s perspective. I find this hardest of all. Being half Australian, it’s likely Toby will soon be collecting air miles faster than Katie Price collects husbands and so it has been necessary to sort him out with a Passport pronto.

The problem is I was half entrusted to this task. I won’t tell you how far I got into town with Toby before realising that sitting him inside one of those photo booths might not be the best way of going about getting his passport photo. I suspect I would still be inside the booth twirling that stupid stool up to an appropriate height now had my wife not phoned to check on what I was doing. Personally I think the idea of a baby’s passport is ridiculous anyway. He’s gaining weight more rapidly than me at the moment (just) and am I really to believe that a keen eyed Australian immigration officer will be astute enough to stare at a photograph of him taken six months prior before declaring my son an imposter. I keep imagining Toby sat gamely one side of an interview table being expertly grilled during an episode of ‘Nothing to declare’. If he does, I guarantee his expression will give nothing away – other than to say ‘Where’s my milk?’

But it has to be said, my Wife and I have made progress and last week we decided to venture out alone with Toby to a restaurant for the first time. For those of you old enough to remember the movie ‘Carry on up the Khyber’ there’s a classic scene near the end where the British Officers of the Raj and their wives are forced to sit and enjoy a formal dining, apparently oblivious to the carnage going on around them during an attack by the local militia. I mention this now because it is that exact, terribly British forced indifference, to what is going on around you that is the only thing that gets you through a night out with a newborn. It started off so well. As is often the case Toby fell asleep in the car and I extracted him from the back with the same care bomb disposal units must do when removing a ticking fuse from its casing. Once successfully planted next to our table we had no sooner ordered starter and main than my son’s eyes flew open. I have now learnt that my Sons reaction to finding himself in a place he was not when unconsciousness took him is in four stages:

1. Mild surprise, conveyed by slow blinking. At this point his assessment of the situation ranges between where am I and where is my milk?

2. Mild suspicion conveyed by a flinty eyed look and slow scanning of the area. At this point his assessment of the situation ranges between who are we and where is my milk?

3. Mild irritation, conveyed by the realisation that his arms are pinned into the car seat because Mummy and Daddy couldn’t decide whether undoing his belt would risk waking him and neither was willing to take the can for it and after all we did that last time and he woke up and I told you not to; well you undo his bloody seat belt, see what happens, I’m not taking the blame: for gods sake woman can’t you just leave him alone and let him settle! So what if its not good for his back being in the car seat; going without sleep for five weeks isn’t good for us but I don’t see the little sod concerned about us.. Anyway at this point his assessment of the situation ranges between which of you is the one with tits? Where’s my milk?

4. Complete outrage, conveyed by screwed up eyes, screwed up hands, screwed up face and a massive intake of breath that, in the microsecond before he screams at a noise level similar to that of Concorde powering off the tarmac, appears to suck all the oxygen out of the room. At this point quite frankly he doesn’t give a shit. Mummy and Daddy are going to pay for not dealing with me sooner.

The time taken between stages two and three will dictate the speed at which food is consumed. This is the ‘Carry on up the Khyber’ moment, where Mummy and Daddy pretend that it’s perfectly normal to be eating food at roughly the same speed light travels and be out of the restaurant before stage 4. By the end we weren’t so much savouring our food as hurling it in the general direction of our mouths and shot -gunning our drinks like teenagers in Magaluf.
Unfortunately we failed anyway and spent the meal partaking in a little past time I call tag dining, where one of us sits inside enjoying the meal, watching the other pace up and down outside with a restless child until it’s time to come in and tag the other out.

Clearly we’re out of our depth, which leads me nicely into next week’s blog about swimming. (See what I did there? What a writer I am.) Until next time..

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