Thursday, 31 July 2008

Bathtime parable – Nick Green

Mr E. Blackadder Esq. once described saving French aristocrats from the guillotine as being ‘about as difficult as putting on a hat.’ I can now say with confidence that being a writer is about as difficult as taking off a t-shirt.
Last night I was getting my three-year-old son Oscar ready for his bath. Lately he’s got it into his head that he will do everything, thank you very much, and does not need any help taking off his shirt. All attempts to assist, even the most surreptitious, blind-sided fingertip grip on the seam of his sleeve, to make it easier for him to extricate his arm, is met with screams of apoplectic fury. The only thing to do is stand back and offer the occasion word of advice, and even these don’t go down well. It’s best if you’re not in a hurry, and don’t have, say, broad beans boiling dry on the stove (but that’s another story).
Poor Oscar. He just could not get that t-shirt off. He’d hoist it over his head, dragging it across his face as it changed from pink to crimson, only for it to slip back again. He’d yank on one arm till the stitches popped, but he but couldn’t achieve that crucial elbow-past-the-seam watershed, beyond which, as we smug grown-ups know, t-shirt removal is a formality. At times, both of the above were happening at once, and he was straitjacketed, blundering around the bathroom as if he could somehow outrun his shirt, bashing into things like Winnie the Pooh in the heffalump trap. All the while raging, screaming, sobbing and wailing like a soul in purgatory, while I, his father, stood by and watched.
Oh, it might sound funny now. But let me tell you I was near to tears. Desperate to intervene, I knew that if I did I would simply spark off World War Three-year-old. Oscar, meanwhile, just would not admit defeat. I have never seen such determination. I thought of a bear, in a trap, resolved to gnaw its own limbs off before it gives up. In another minute, he might have bared his milk teeth and done it. But then, finally, he got the t-shirt over his head. Squealing, he twisted it behind his back. One last epic effort, and he shook the short sleeves off his arms, and he was out. Then he slumped down on the bathroom floor and cried.
Oh dear, I thought, swallowing the lump in my throat. It looks as if he’s going to be a writer.

8 comments:

Charlie Butler said...

And if he's crying now, wait till he reads the reviews!

Damian Harvey said...

Don’t worry Nick. As time goes on you will become Artfully Dodger-esque in your ability to gently lend a hand without the wearer even noticing. It saves tears all round.

And by the time they reach mid teens, scenes like these become quite rare – though much funnier.

Linda Aksomitis said...

I've never found a better comparison for the trials and tribulations of a new writer! In terms of the future, well, sounds like your boy will make it to the top, whatever it takes.

LynnHC said...

I like a lad with grit and determination! My son is now 22, but I remember those toddleresque cries of 'MY DO IT!' with affection only distance can bring. And yes, he grew up to be a very successful rugged individualist!

bookwitch said...

Mine had to wear vests in the Infants, but the teacher got fed up with having to turn 30 vests to the right side after they'd been removed by the children, so issued lessons on how to twist your arms, so that when the vest came off it was not inside out. Lovely, sensible woman.

Damian, do you have teenagers? Mine have even worse outbursts now, but usually not about undressing. Most likely it's a computer not doing as it's told. I have three screamers in the house, and just want to go and hide when I hear them start up.

Nick Green said...

Follow up: at last night's bathtime he got the shirt off in 30 seconds with no tears/tears.

So he doesn't have 'difficult second novel' syndrome.

Charlie Butler said...

Of course, vests that are put on inside-out work just as well, as vests, and since they're hidden away aesthetics don't really come into it. Or so my grumpy five-year-old self would have said. My father made a note of all our "funny little sayings", and one my regulars was apparently a mulish "As I dress, I stay!" My character was apparently already fully formed.

Damian Harvey said...

Bookwitch - yes,three teenage screamers. And truth be told the screaming does tend to be more of the "she's wearing my new jeans/top/shoes/hat" variety these days. Though we do still see the "I've got my head stuck" variety from time to time that reminds us that our three girls really are still the same little girls they once were.