It’s Thursday evening and I am watching on in horror as my son’s messy friend is drinking out of my favourite cup. This cup is now dead to me. My wife appears behind him, smirking. I usher her out of the room.
“Did you deliberately give him my favourite cup?” I ask.
“Ha. I’ll get you another. It’s no big deal.”
“He eats spaghetti hoops with his hands,” I say.
“Haha. I know. The other mothers and I call him, Edward Spaghettihands.” She laughs at her own joke and then flounces off to watch Pointless.
This may seem trivial but the cup is a cherished souvenir from our trip to The Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral. It commemorates the last shuttle launch, and features a picture of the shuttle, underscored by the cheesy, gung-ho mission statement: ‘Failure is not an option’. It’s the kind of thing bolshy idiots say just before they fall flat on their face, but I love it because it reminds of a great family day out. Now, it’s ruined; covered in a pre-teen’s spaghetti dribble.
Make no mistake, I will seek revenge. I just need to wait for another weird kid to visit so I can get them to ruin something she covets. I didn’t have to wait too long…
Two days later, my daughter invites her friend round for a sleepover. My wife is dealing with the parent handover. This is when we are given the precise bedtime routine we must follow to prevent hysterics or administer medicine. Usually I don’t eavesdrop on these chats – usually I pretend to be busy – but today was different. The parent was complaining about something that happened at our school.
“The cheek of the man. Do you know what he said to me?” booms the parent.
“No. Go on, what did he say?” asks my wife. I can almost hear her drooling.
“He said my daughter is obese.” Then I hear shuffling. My wife obviously ranks this gossip as top drawer material because she is ushering the woman out of the cold, dark corridor into a warm, lit room.
“Who did?” asks my wife.
“Her teacher. Obese! How can a 7-year-old child be obese?”
“That’s shocking,” exclaims my wife. This is followed by lots of tutting and reciprocal arm folding.
The rant continues. “How can a teacher, someone who is ten years younger than me – and has NO children of his own – tell me what to do?” My wife makes the appropriate sympathetic noises and then the woman’s phone pings. “Look, I’ve got to go,” she says. “Thanks for having her.”
“Is all her stuff in the bag?” asks my wife and points to a bag on the floor which has a massive teddy bear poking out of it.
“Yes. It’s all there. Toothbrush. Pyjamas. Massive teddy bear and 6 Barbie dolls. You know, the essentials,” they both laugh. As the parent reaches the door, she turns and says, “Oh, I forgot, can you give her a couple of these with a glass of water just before she goes to bed, and two more in the morning. And – God forbid – if she wakes up in the middle of the night, just give her another one and she should go off.” She passes my wife a box in a plastic bag.
“What are they?” she asks.