Maki and I drop Archie and Lewis at tennis practice and hightail it towards Tyson for the 4.30pm pickup and while we’re sitting in the last right-hand turning lane before Kindergarten, listening to I Like That by Richard Vission & Static Revenger, waiting for the green arrow, I glance in the rear vision mirror to see Maki’s eyes closing over and it’s like I’ve been flicked on the arse with a wet tea-towel because Maki has reached that age where even a microspasm of day-sleep will keep him awake for hours past his usual bedtime.
I’m all of a sudden flailing about the interior of the Tarago like Tom Hanks’s Castaway character searching the ocean for his soccer ball friend, except that I’m screaming ‘Makiiiiiii!’ instead of ‘Wilsooooon!’ as my arms and legs act independently of thought, turning the volume full bore, winding down all four windows hard, flipping the visors up and down in a futile attempt to reflect sunlight into his eyes, adding my voice to the ruckus by yelling anything that comes to mind: ‘Let’s go bub. Hey! Wow… wake up! Little Miss Muffet had a…. lamb. Can… can you see… the birdie? Jesus… GOD!’
I was hoping the torrential rain would help to rouse him but it’s coming in at the wrong angle and only wetting me. Thanks to being the fourth born of four boys Maki is able to reach a depth of sleep that makes him un-revivable within minutes and if don’t wake him in the coming seconds I might as well give up altogether and try for something more realistic like waking up Michael Jackson, or Lindsay Lohan.
‘Here… play with my iPhone!’ I choke, but when I throw it into his lap without even affecting a raised eyebrow or a shimmy of a shoulder I am forced to pull out the false promise which in the past has made his eyes peel open and bulge with the hungry energy of a worm-desperate baby bird: ‘You can play the iPad now! It’s in my bag, right here. You can have it!’
My hopes rise and fall as his hand reaches forward an inch before falling back to his lap in such a devastating way that I have to resort to my last hope – what I call the ‘defibrillator method’ – which amounts to reaching back and tickling the inside of his thigh while saying ticky-ticky-TICKY in a high-pitched voice and it’s as this is happening that the lights change and a car draws to a stop on the left of us and I’m immediately aware of what the driver is seeing – a grown man with all four windows of his car wound down in torrential rain listening to some mega-loud funky Disco with sexually suggestive lyrics while tickling the inner thigh of an unconscious three year old – but I’m not at all worried because I caught a glance of the driver and the car is one of those family friendly four wheel drives which means the driver will know exactly what’s she’s seeing and is probably already nodding sympathetically, having lost many quiet evenings to the same malady. She’s possibly even considering winding down her window to ask, ‘Are you losing him to an unscheduled nap?’ to which I’ll reply, screaming above the rain and the disco, ‘It’s nearly dinner time. He’ll be awake till fricken midnight!’ which – if possessed of the true comradery formed in the parenting trenches – will encourage her to starting honking her horn and screaming, ‘Wake the fuck up! Wake the fuck up!’ to assist me.
The green arrow signals an end to my efforts and a dull acceptance of the night to come and as we travel the last hundred meters to the kindergarten I take one last glance at Maki and there he goes, smacking his lips as he turns his head away from the open window, breathing in and then out as the final entry point to the kind of deep blissful sleep I would prostitute myself for.
He is as certain in his warm and wonderful cuteness right now as he will be at ten o’clock tonight when he’s singing nursery rhymes and playing pick-a-boo and asking for another raspberry on the belly or on the neck and this is only confirmed after I’ve parked and lifted him from his seat and carried him from the car, past the gates, through the kinder line-up, even collected Tyson from the mat, as he kept sleeping over my shoulder the whole time.
As I nod goodbye to Mrs Clarke on the way back out the door she says, ‘I think you forgot to collect Tyson’s artwork’.
‘Is it okay if I get it tomorrow?’ I say. ‘I have a dead baby on me right now.’
Mrs Clarke gasps and smiles and says, ‘Don’t say that!’
‘There goes my evening me-time,’ I say, rolling my laughing eyes at her.
‘Oh well,’ she says.
‘Yes,’ I say, smiling at a woman who walks by looking at Maki and cupping her clasped hands beneath her chin in cute-affected awe. ‘Oh well.’