I was certain that dancing to Jamiroquai’s Virtual Insanity was the answer but even classic moves like The Running Man and The Electric Robot have failed to hold Tyson and Lewis’s fighting at bay for more than several minutes.
Desperate to continue with ‘the distraction technique’ I press myself to the carpet to reach for an alphabet book wedged under the couch but I just can’t reach it and a toddler scream signals that they are at it again. As I consider giving myself a facial carpet burn to stem the rising levels of frustration I am forced to accept that a new dynamic has formed since Archie started back at school. Lewis and a now two-year-old Tyson have about as much warmth for each other as two shaved cats in a fridge.
After weeks of their constant back and forth I am finally cornered by a rolling, thundering doubt; is this just normal kid stuff, am I a really shit parent or – worst case scenario – could I be a terrible dancer? The latter thought almost cripples me and requires an intense focus to pull me from the darkest of depths. ‘No,’ I say to myself, loudly enough that the boys can hear me, ‘I can dance.’ And – perhaps less importantly – I can also parent. This is just a matter of digging deep and trying something new.
‘Hey,’ I yell. ‘Let’s fill the beanbag we got for Christmas with Styrofoam balls. You can hold the bag Lewy, Tyson can watch, and I’ll pour the balls in.’
Lewis screams ‘yes!’ and I feel an immediate rise in self-esteem – I have brought focus and moved the boys’ attention away from each. This should prove to be some uncomplicated, easy fun.
‘To the bathroom,’ I yell, knowing there is the potential to lose one or two balls to the floor.
Several minutes pass as I curse the manufacturer’s carelessness and try to pull the tag-less zip down before I remember that they are purposefully tag-less for safety reasons. Finally I use the point of one of my canines and hand the open banbag to Lewis. ‘Hold it open like this,’ I say. He jumps up and down with excitement as I tear a hole in the sack of Styrofoam and tip it towards the beanbag. ‘Hold still mate, this will only take a minute.’
What begins as mere astonishment quickly moves to freak-out dread as I realise that thousands of spongy little balls are spilling to the bathroom floor. ‘For the love of God!’ I scream. ‘Hold it open, Lewy!’
‘I am,’ he says, laughing.
I twist and angle the sack several times but for every one bean that enters the beanbag another hundred spray from the sides. My frantic efforts to contain the spill only make it worse and in an attempt to deflect blame I mumble, ‘I can’t believe the beanbag hole is so fricking small, Lewy! Surely it makes more sense to use a longer zip?’
Lewis yells, ‘They’re all falling out Dad,’ as my mind presents me with an image of the World Beanbag CEO – he is Ricky Gervais. I am part of his latest sitcom project and as more Styrofoam balls become airborn his shoulders hunch up and jerk wildly around his giggling head.
The sound of water hitting tiles directs my attention to Tyson who is performing one of his favourite tricks – dipping a face-washer into the toilet and emptying the water on the floor. Before I can even chastise him he slips into a rising Styrofoam tide and peppers his wet hands and clothes with tiny white dots. He holds one hand in the air, smiles and says, ‘balls!’ as I scramble to stop him from breathing them into his trachea.
As the need for a mass evacuation arises I am suddenly aware of a super-human inner resolve. ‘Drop the bag, Lewy,’ I state firmly, as I rip Tyson’s jumper off and swat him free of debris. ‘To the living room!’
There is a centering hum in my ears. I know what must be done. As I set the boys up for what could be some of the most intense minutes of my life I find that my parenting skills are not only perceptive and sound but they are profound. I am Reservoir’s answer to Deepak Chopra. I am the bogan Anthony Robins.
‘Lewis, I don’t think you can dance as well as Daddy,’ I say, kneeling in front of him and holding his hands. My intention clearly to use his mighty will against him.
‘Yes, I can!’ he says, defiantly.
‘Hmmm, I dance very very well,’ I tell him, as I press play on the CD player. ‘There are not many who can move like this.’ Virtual Insanity begins again and, almost effortlessly, I create the illusion of a wave of electricity passing right through my body, from fingertip to fingertip. Lewis begins to get his groove on in order to prove me wrong and within seconds Tyson is mimicking him.
‘See Dad?’ he says.
‘Yeah,’ I say, and my heart sinks for the briefest amount of time as I consider the possibility that – as a dancer – he is equally as talented as me. ‘You’re a great teacher, too, Lewy. See how Tyson learns from you?’
Knowing that Jamiroquai only ever had three good songs – Virtual Insanity, Cosmic Girl and Alright – which luckily fall in succession as track six, seven and eight on the High Times Singles CD, I calculate that I have approximately nine and a half minutes to right the wrong in the bathroom.
As I make my way there, I turn for one more look. My boys are dancing together in the living room and it’s funny and crazy and joyous. I am suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of privilege. Nothing is beyond me. I will fight the urge to suck the balls into a vacuum cleaner and turf the beanbag.
The world has opened up to me in a particular way and I will meet it head on. When the last song begins to fade I will emerge from the bathroom with a beanbag full of beans and I will throw my children into it again and again and again, as many times as they request it, with complete disregard for anyone’s safety.