I understand why the old lady concluded that swallowing the spider was the logical answer to the unforeseen consequences of the fly solution. I have my own spider, it has a jaunty tune and opens with these words, “How do you do, it’s so good to meet you, what do you do, when you meet somebody new smile and wave and then say how do you do.” I’ll explain.
I turn off my computer and look forlornly out the window at the clogged up arteries that are Oxford’s exit roads. I sigh. Pre-precious one I worked around rush hour so I could drive in experiencing all the A road ecstasy that those fellahs in posh car adverts get. Now there is no way out of it. I’ll have to take my place in the queue and slowly make my way back to Cameronshire. The precious one runs to the other side of the room when he sees me bound in to nursery with a smile on my face. He wedges himself in between a cupboard and the wall. The nursery staff have sympathetic smiles. “He’s had a great day. Been happily playing.” “Come on. Let’s go and see mummy.” It’s an attempt at a quick short term fix. He’s not buying it. “So he hasn’t arched his back and cried, like he is now?” I try and get his coat on, he doesn’t want to come and sit in the car, in the dark, as we crawl along behind the endless line of brake lights.
The first time, as all first times should, it seemed like a great idea. It was after a few nights were the minutes ticked by and more cars flooded the road. He screams as I try to negotiate him into his seat, holding him in place with my hand around his tummy. He flails his arms around. I plead. I’ve read that I need to indulge this emotion. It’s normal for them to have extreme feelings that they don’t know how to express. It drives them to meltdown. The adults that I share the road with on my commute are similar, we’ve just learned to curse each other from the safety of our cars. I accept my fate. He wriggles. In the book it said that I should sit it out while he rids himself of the anger before trying again. I want to get home and who knows how long that would take. So I do the only sane thing and wedge him in before bribing him with raisins. It worked and we were off.
“More.” He calls from the back. I try to keep him happy while not crashing into the car in front as I pass raisins backwards. “More.” Raisins are slippery little critters and he can knock them back without them touching the sides. I’m spending more time concentrating on trying to pass him the little pieces of dried fruit than I am on driving. It’s like a re-imagining of the Sistine Chapel Creation of Adam, with raisins and set in an Audi on the A34. “More.” He’s dropped another. I’m almost dislocating my arm to reach back while he gropes as far forward as his little arm will go. After a few days and a few near misses the back of my car is covered. It’s dangerous. It won’t do.
So I move on to apricots. Easier to pass and they take longer to munch. “You use apricots to get him into the car.” Another parent concludes with a raised eyebrow and a superior look. “Yeah. So what. Not all the time.” At first I can mix it up. Make him think that he’ll get the treat and then sometimes give it and sometimes not. I’m in charge. After less than a week of this he won’t settle unless he’s chewing on some dried fruit. People jump lanes, beep horns and throw hand gestures at one another. We’re not allowed to cry. I can’t keep bribing him with food. He can get through four dried apricots before we’ve got navigated the first traffic jam of the journey. He’s started to not want his tea when we get in. I needed a non food based child calming solution.
He’s tired after a long day of playing in the sand, stealing toys off other kids and doing some great drawings that we can give to the grandparents. Over an hour it can take us to get the eleven miles from work to home. I put some of his CDs in the car. ‘For when it gets really bad.’ I told myself. When he is on a mission to shout over the top of Radio 4 and won’t contemplate me playing the Pixies. After all, he is one half of our team. He has a right to get his tunes played in the car. I can’t dictate that we listen to my music or my radio stations every day. It’s a fair and rational split. “Again.” The problem is I’ve created a rod for my own back. I can’t reason with him that sometimes we have my stuff and sometimes we have his. He wants his all the time. “Again.” We listen to his and sing along to different nursery rhymes and make different animal noises. He settles on a medley of classic nursery rhymes played on a glockenspiel. It’s how I imagine James Blunt would deliver a nursery rhyme based album. Basically, I could block it out.
Then I made my error. It was on Boxing Day when me and the precious one where heading up north. It was my M6 solution. Hickory Dickory Dock wouldn’t get us through an M6 traffic jam. I needed the big guns. I bring Shoe Baby. A kind of happy-go-lucky indy album of child focused songs. It stays in the car post-Christmas. It’s now a feature of our commute. He’ll no longer even accept a different nursery rhyme CD. It’s traffic, dried fruit and the upbeat world of the Tea Party of the Year and all the cheery animals at the zoo. I want a peaceful life. The down side of his favourite CD is that it is only twenty minutes long, to accommodate his lack of concentration. We can get through it two or three times on a single journey. Before long I know all the words to all the songs.
His demands get worse over the weeks. He’s a back seat tyrant. Once his favourite song finishes he shouts, “How do.” “How do.” “How do.” I try not to crash. His previous general sense of unhappiness has been given a focal point. If only his favourite song was playing then life would be all good. “Not how do. We’ve already listened to it twice today.” I negotiate. “There are other good tunes.” I skip to my favourite song, Magic Motor Shoe. I sing along and wave my arms to entice him. “Toot toot scoot scoot what a magic shoe can do.” I lower my rear view mirror so we can make eye contact. Thank god it’s dark so the people in the cars around me can’t see me dancing. Someone pulls out in front of me into what can’t be described as space in the road. “What a magic shoe can do.” He’s not having it, “How do. How do. How do.” He’s determined. I return to How do. “Say hello to your fingers. Say hello to your toes. Say how do you do to the end of your nose.” Again. And again. And again. And again.
It seemed like such a good idea. It was a way out of the impasse. At least he doesn’t cry for forty minutes. He sits happily in the back. I stare forward. The whimsical tune tapping at my head. The rush hour eating away at me. I’ll find myself singing “How Do” at some point when he’s fast asleep in bed. Maybe a DVD player attached to the back of my seat could be the solution – after all, a bit of Thomas might ease the precious one’s woes and relieve me of How do. The old lady ended up eating a horse (pre-scandal days). “Hello thank you kindly, for coming to the show and when you leave won’t you mind how you go.” At least it’s not One Direction.