I’m doing my very best dancing, every time you’re looking the other way – Breakfast Club
A night of hourly waking to a disturbed Tyson finally culminates in a 5.30am reading of toddler-friendly books downstairs. As I watch him sort through a bunch of seven my weary, sleep-deprived mind connects him to Mike Tyson because they not only share a name but they also share the same potential to turn my eyeballs into tiny red slits of bleary madness if given half the chance.
My Tyson chooses the one book I honestly hate – Australian Animals – because instead of simple toddler-friendly pictures and words like bird, dog, cat etc it has several different species with names I am not even familiar with – chat, cygnet, quoll… is this a fricken joke? Potoroo? What the fuck’s going on here?
I turn the pages mindlessly, saying bird instead of chat and rat instead of quoll and potoroo, as I think about the day ahead. Kids dressed, school lunches, reader diary filled out, school forms, school drop off, birthday invites, Tumblebears gym class, swimming lessons… I am almost asleep on the carpet when I hear Tyson say, ‘Cassowary.’ Even if he had shot at my feet with a pistol I would not have leapt from the ground more quickly
‘What did you say?’ I whisper, as I run for the video camera. It comes to life with a ping as I pick up the book and flip mindlessly to the picture of a Cassowary. The caption reads ‘Father Cassowary looks after his chick.’
I hold the video camera in one hand and the book in the other. ‘Tyson, what’s this?’ I say, tapping the Cassowary just a little desperately.
‘Birdie!’ he says.
‘No, no, no,’ I say, gripping the book so hard I almost sprain an inter-phalangeal joint. ‘What is it Tys? Come on man, I need this. What sort of bird is it?’
‘Birdie!’ he says, again.
The camera turns off with a ping. ‘Yes’, I say, picking him up for a cuddle, resigned, ‘but it’s a special kind of birdie – it’s a stay at home Dad birdie.’
I put Tyson in the high chair and tune the radio to Gold 104.3FM and the eerily appropriate song Right On Track by Breakfast Club helps to lift me from this deep weariness. I make a mental note to never underestimate Tyson again as I reflect on how often special parenting moments – that pop up in the middle of the long and at times monotonous daily slog – pass by without another adult witness to share it with. And while I’m busying about with breakfasts and lunches and school bags it occurs to me that the opposite is often true; there always seem to be plenty of people around to see the less positive moments. My eyes glaze over as I am confronted by two memories –
1. I discover Tyson sitting on the floor with an upturned bottle of water in his hands. There is a puddle around him and he is saturated. As I take off his wet clothes the doorbell rings. It’s a lady selling Foxtel. G’day, we hate your product,’ I say, as Tyson runs into view. The woman, who seems a bit stunned, looks to Tyson just as his soaking nappy falls to the ground with a thud. ‘I probably should have changed that yesterday,’ I say, closing the door on her.
2. I’m waiting inside the school gates to pick up Archie. The parents begin to stream out with their kids. A few mothers glance suspiciously at me as they walk past and I can only assume they’re noticing how tired my eyes look. When I nod at another woman, whose son is friends with Archie, I follow her eyes to my groin. Not only is my fly open like the mouth of a gaping Murray Cod but my t-shirt is slightly tucked into the top of my shorts offering the passing crowd an unobstructed view of my goolash. She offers me an understanding smile as I straighten myself up. ‘I think I’m in a coma,’ I tell her.
Tyson yells, Daddy! and bangs his high chair and I’m back in the kitchen and Archie and Lewis come bounding down the stairs all sleepy-eyed and smiling in their pyjamas and upstairs I can hear that Reservoir Mum’s about to appear and it feels like the wheels of the world have just been greased and if I don’t start moving with a bit more purpose it might just leave me behind.
Daddy! Tyson yells again and I slap my hands together, do a 360 on the spot, pump out a few energetic steps of the 80s dance classic The Running Man and spin a plastic bowl of luke-warm Weetbix in front of him.
There’s some light in the sky when Reservoir Mum sidles up for a kiss, looking all hot and powerful and good-to-go in the professional shirt and skirt, washed, folded and ironed by my strong (possibly even super strong), manly hands.
‘Lewis,’ I say, as I pump out two more breakfasts. ‘Look at these hands. I am the domestic Incredible Hulk.’
‘What’s that mean?’ he says.
‘You know,’ I say, turning to Reservoir Mum. ‘I thought Tyson said Cassowary this morning, but now I’m not so sure. It may have just been pickerpecky, or natternary or some other gibberish. I think I was just about fully asleep.’
‘Well,’ she says, ‘He can definitely scream Daddy. That’s what woke me up.’
‘Yeah,’ I reply, looking over at the cereal-covered little bugger, feeling a Hulk-like pride. ‘He definitely can.’