Midnight has started to talk. But he has only got as far as commands, and he is enjoying wielding this new found power over us.
It’s like living with a mini dictator from the moment we wake.
‘Go downstairs,’ ‘You sit there,’ ‘You play cars,’ ‘Mummy get popcorn.’
We find ourselves increasingly fearful of his demands, especially, when we don’t understand him.
It’s breakfast and Milk and Mayhem eye their porridge with suspicion.
‘Who made this?’ asks Milk.
‘Daddy made it,’ says Mayhem, pushing his spoon into the middle.
‘How did you know?’ my husband says, pleased that they recognise his effort.
‘Because you haven’t stirred it enough’, says Milk politely.
‘Yes, it’s all lumpy,’ says Mayhem. ‘Like your driving daddy. Your driving is all lumpy and bumpy.’
‘And mummy’s is all smooth like her porridge,’ says Milk with delight.
My husband glances at me and looks a little forlorn.
‘Give me that!’ Midnight interrupts.
We all look at what he is pointing at.
I pass him a banana.
‘Me no like that!’ He shrills and the banana spins off into the air and lands somewhere near my computer.
‘Give me that!’ he screams.
We try water. We try an apple.
My husband points at a satsuma.
Midnight holds out his hand.
We all wait with baited breath while my husband frantically peels the satsuma and places it in front of our glaring toddler.
There is a pause.
‘ME NO LIKE THAT!’ he screams and the satsuma is propelled into oblivion, to be found in a few weeks and mistaken for a yellow ping pong ball.
‘I just don’t know what he wants!’ I say in exasperation.
‘Is he cross because of the virus?’ asks Mayhem.
‘No. Everyone else is, but he doesn’t know about that.’ I say.
‘Get down on his level’ suggests my husband.
I kneel down next to Midnight, aware that the floor by his chair is a perilous mess of lego and regurgitated baby bels, from last night’s torturous dinner.
‘Can you use your words?’ I say calmly stroking Midnight’s hot red face.
‘POOOON! POOOON!’ he screeches and grabs porridge from his bowl and slaps it on my head.
I wipe the porridge from my brow as the older boys start laughing.
‘He wants a spoon,’ says Milk. ‘I can understand him. He wants a spoon.’
My husband gives Midnight a spoon and we all sag with relief as he digs into his porridge.
Later, while I pick the sticky oats from my hair, my husband checks on me. ‘Are you OK? You seem a little stressed.’
I sigh. ‘I am stressed. I feel as if my job is to try and satisfy an extremely unreasonable and violent boss, while failing to catch flying fruit, and utterly failing to provide a wholesome environment for everyone else.’
My husband agrees with me. Which is unusual.
‘Maybe Midnight is bored?’ He says.
‘Of course he is! Do you know what we did today? We played cars, then he went to sleep in the car and when he woke up I let him choose your pants from the supermarket, as his main activity.’
‘So maybe you could do more fun things, like painting?’ My husband suggests.
I roll my eyes.
‘Bubbles?’ My husband continues, a little gingerly.
‘Don’t even talk to me about bubbles’, I say.
My husband raises an eyebrow.
‘They have ruined that too.’ I sip my tea.
‘Bubbles used to signify fun. Blowing bubbles, making children ooh and ahh, giggling, jumping and popping. All those lovely words and feelings, associated with the word bubble. But they have stolen that word. They have taken it and turned it from a lovely bubbly fun word to ‘You must only stay in your bubble,’ ‘you can form a support bubble’, ‘do not mix your bubble.’ And they’ve given us awful words. Social distancing, Self isolation. Awful.’
‘I think you might need a bit of time on your own.’
I look at my tea. ‘Yes maybe I should self-isolate. But I do agree with the boys about your porridge. Is there anything else I could have, or will you be feeding me toilet roll?’
‘Oh don’t worry ab0ut that, I know where there’s a very juicy banana,’ he says and raises his cup with a wink.