Coughing at School

Coughing at School

Last Friday I received our first ‘your son is coughing at school and endangering all of our lives how dare you come and get him before we put him in one of those decontamination tubes from Monsters Inc and shave all his hair off’ calls from Milo’s school. The call is abrupt and accusatory and not very pleasant, but probably fair enough given that person probably has to now make that call 20 times every day.

Now, I am very supportive of keeping sick children at home, but I am sure most parents would agree in the post-COVID, or mid-COVID, or post-mid-COVID, or rump-COVID world, or whatever world we find ourselves in, the threshold is somewhat lower than it once was; a polite clearing of the throat in an enclosed space is likely to earn you an express trip to the infirmary.

So, I picked up Milo post-haste (with all the shame entailed therein), removed him from the hermetically sealed zip-lock bag in which they had placed him, and took him home. The Friday was a pleasure. The three of us had grand adventures and complimented each other on the positive and healthy father/son, brother/brother relationships we had fostered and built together as we played, listened and respected each other etc etc. Friday flowed effortlessly into the weekend.

Now, readers of this blog will know Milo’s general attitude to all things is no corners cut, no compromises made. A fine attitude which will no doubt lead him to the very apex of science, the corporate world, or an organised crime syndicate. Anyway, his uncompromising attitude extends, of course, to his management of phlegm. If he identifies a small globule lingering in his throat, a globule that could perhaps be gently coaxed away with the gentlest of train-friendly rasps, he will instead gather all purging forces at his disposal and deploy them with impunity, each and every time. There is a deep intake of air, a pause, a wind-up and then an unholy hacking exhale that no globule could possibly endure. He waves the inside of his elbow around the general vicinity of his mouth, like all our virus-conditioned children now do, but that slender little elbow pocket has no chance of even stymying the progress of that great gale. Every cough invokes for me those slow motion videos of nuclear tests in the Nevada desert from 1945.

I have no doubt his immune system had almost declared victory over the weekend; little white blood cells cart-wheeling, jigging and playing drums on the helmets of their vanquished viruses like victorious Ewoks at the end of Return of the Jedi. His mucous was on the wane, his disposition brightening. We even secured a negative RAT; a nostril tickler, not just one of those lolly-pop jobs we all received from school which you only use if you want to guarantee a negative.

Still, as the sun set early on our wintry weekend it was obvious to us both that, despite our delusion, Milo’s no-holds-barred uber cough was going to do us in. There would be no school for him on Monday.

The famous lolly-pop placebo

Getting our nails did

Getting our nails did

Recently, on a Friday morning, Monty and I have been taking in a mid-morning movie and getting our nails did. It’s a positive model.

The movie cinema is busier at 10am on a Friday than you think; but very few people are taking in utilitarian animated offerings like Pils Adventures and Bob’s Big Burger Movie (or something like that). In fact over the two movies we have only had one other patron sharing the cinema with us, and he claimed to be reviewing the movie for a local paper. This seemed unlikely based on his jittery eyes and his frequent use of incorrect verb structures. I would strongly assess he was paying for two hours out of the cold, much like we were. Given the disjointed, dubbed, Francophile oddness of Pils Adventures he probably wished he rather invested in two caramel lattes at Gloria Jeans, with whipped cream. We did.

Anyway, if you think you can breeze into a cinema mid-morning on a school day, pick up a ticket and a dangerously-sized popcorn with three minutes to spare you can think again. If you plan your time like this you will absolutely miss the commercial for a local menswear store starring the owner of that menswear store wearing his own menswear to the soundtrack of Italian opera. No, the queue will be at least 12 deep.

There’s the guy by himself who does not take off his pom-pom beanie buying two choc-tops, there’s the retired couple who spend quite some time debating whether they need the medium or the large popcorn. They choose large and are then embarrassed and shocked at the size of it. They leave the monstrous box sitting on the counter for a moment or two unsure what to do with it, while the clerk tries to make eye contact around or over it to secure payment (always in cash). They then cart it away together muttering muted, bashful explanations. Also, there is usually a shabby but amiable looking chap who orders a glass of wine with his Maltesers and says something like “it’s after ten isn’t it?” to the ticket/ snack lady who does not smile in response. He smiles anyway and wanders off into the gloom. None of these people chose the movies we did.

On our second visit the ticket/ snack/ parental advice lady told me she had been told “by management” that the Big Bob’s Burger Movie (despite being animated and shown at 1040 in the morning) was not “suitable for children”. She herself does not have children, so she explained, but she was just passing on the message she had been asked to pass on to any adults who appeared intent on making a dangerous movie choice on behalf of their infants. Now, this is a tricky spot to find yourself in as a parent-in-public. The next most ‘child friendly’ option appeared to be Top Gun: Maverick but I presumed the plot was likely too complex for Monty to follow. The only other option was leaving again without movie and without popcorn; a poor option indeed. So I publicly proclaimed that indeed I was choosing to ignore the direct, expert advice of the Dendy Corporation and that yes I would be exposing my four year old to adult themes, and we went for it.

The movie was pleasant enough; there was an animated teenage boy riding a horse in his underwear at one point and several tangential references to male genitalia but Monty enjoyed himself and didn’t seem particularly scarred. I am not confident ticket/ snack/ parental advice lady was entirely correct in her advice; but that depends greatly on your parenting ethos I suppose.

As we discussed the pros and cons of upgrading to a medium popcorn next time we strolled down to the New York Nail Salon and Monty chose ten different colours at random (5 sparkly and 5 plain). We assumed our positions behind the thick perspex and held our hands still as statues (Monty is amazing at this). We were treated throughout with detached antipathy, we were scolded sharply for moving our fingers prematurely, I received judgmental incredulity for having not removed my wallet from my pocket prior to the polish application, we received no smiles, no thank yous and no polite platitudes. In short we were treated like everybody else. The sight of a father and his son getting their nails did at lunchtime on a Friday raised exactly zero eyebrows. For me, this is great progress indeed.

A bold assortment
The Second Child

The Second Child

Monty turns five in a month or two so I thought it worthwhile to reflect on the rampant inequality with which a second child is treated; in terms of parental care, interest and general nurturing. I think those of us who have or know a second child will agree this neglect generally yields good results. The relative disregard with which they are treated generally reduces neediness, increases independence and heightens resilience.

Firstly, I am writing about Monty on a blog entitled ‘The adventures of Milo and Jupiter’. This will surely be one of the many aspects of this blog that will cause angst between me and my teenage boys many years from now. Although Monty is a second child, so he probably won’t care. I will explain to him that the popularity of the blog depends on brand recognition, and that our 17 loyal followers would be horribly confused if we tried to alter the website or title in any way.

The diminished attention and care begins almost immediately. With Milo we paid a ‘car seat expert’ $250 to install his capsule, to ensure we had cut zero corners on his safety. That’s genuinely hilarious. With Monty I bunged in the capsule while Kuepps was inside with the bags and the 2nd born as we were being checked out of the hospital.

For their first child parents can reel off all the stats – like a basketball card collector in the late 80s – Milo was 3.6kg and 50cm long at birth. If anybody asks us how big Monty was we say “Big. Real big”. And over time this gets worse; second children do not live in absolute terms, only relative. Monty slept through earlier than Milo, Monty crawled and walked later than Milo etc etc. Goodness knows in specific terms when any of these milestones occurred.

And it continues:

When we bathed Milo in a baby bath we used one of those floating thermometers to ensure a satisfactory temperature. For Monty this technology was replaced with an elbow.

Milo got soothing rainforest music at night. For Monty we generally turned the drier on, but not always.

For Monty’s first Christmas he wore a suit which says “Milo’s first Christmas”.

Milo got a Women’s Weekly swimming pool cake for his first birthday – I went to three supermarkets to find blue jelly – for Monty we had bought a pile of brownies, and in fact his party was cancelled due to inclemency.

We sought to nurture Milo’s hand/ eye coordination, environmental awareness and ‘sense of self’ by taking him to Gymbaroo and Jitterbugs (baby gymnastics). Monty got a tennis ball, previously owned by Milo.

By the time Monty came around we had disposed of the ikea change table and instead removed the soft insert and whacked it on top of a low wardrobe; to save space.

Monty’s first bike (also known as Milo’s first bike) is right now sitting in our front carport, rusting.

And we genuinely have no idea how or when Monty was toilet trained. The trappings of training were all around our home; potties, toilet seat inserts, cute little urinals suction-capped to the wall with turbines to encourage good aim. We presume Monty just started using these things because all of a sudden his nappies were always dry. He never received any stickers for producing a pebble; no kinder surprises, no books, nothing. And then one evening before bed he pointed out his nappy had been dry overnight 7 days in a row and maybe he could wear jammies. We obliged and kaboom – toilet trained.

Recently Monty discovered the green hard-back edition of The Adventures of Milo and Jupiter which I printed out after my first time off with him (another classic first born gesture). “Daddy, where is the book of our adventures together?” He asked. Hmmm… I thought I had a decade or so before having to deal with this issue. No matter, let’s deal with it now.

I am now off work for an as yet non-determined timeframe with Monty. I will seek to invigorate the blog somewhat in order to produce enough material for a second hard-back edition to secure a prosperous future relationship with my second-born. Milo hasn’t bothered to read his yet, even though he has the capability. If and when he does he may be alarmed by some of the careless or callous parenting documented therein. We probably have another 6-12 months with Monty before he can read my version of his childhood. Hopefully COVID home schooling will return and buy us a little more time.

Who is this child?