There had been a few “incidents”, nothing really bad, just the odd brotherly shove when he thought no-one was looking, the discrete toy snatch – that sort of thing. It’s not surprising really: If you are the first born then you go from having 100% of your parent’s attention to, at best, 50%. The reality though is it drops a lot further than that, because a newborn requires much more of your time than a toddler. And so a certain amount of regression is inevitable, childhood logic sees the baby’s behaviour and says “so if you do that, you’ll get back their full attention”. Then when that doesn’t work there is a period of resentment which manifests itself in jealousy and chubby fingered spite. I can see why he’s jealous, she’s walking and saying things and generally being big eyed and adorable. Everything she does is cute, she can’t help herself. He’s worried he can’t compete with that. I’d decided it was time for a chat. Kneeling down I placed my hand on his little shoulder and looked him in the eye.
“Son, you’ve got to understand that you are a boy, a boy that will one day turn into a man. There are rules when you are a man. Being a man means that you don’t hurt girls, that’s the most important thing to remember. Treat girls gently and treat your sister the gentlest of all. Protect her. Being a man means you are physically stronger than they are, you might hurt them when you don’t mean to. With great power comes great responsibility son, you understand what this means?”
I looked at him solemnly measuring my words, nodding to himself as if he’d just worked something out, something deep inside had clicked, I hoped that through my words he had recognised the older siblings obligation to wear the shackles of power responsibly.
Maybe he now understood the concept of protecting the weak, of familial duty, of his noble birthright as a man, that righteous pilgrimage to mercy.
He frowned in deep concentration and asked me “Dad, do horses like marmite?”
We’ve all been there: ears straining to catch whatever it was, that high pitched whine of silence that the dead of night has – like a dog’s yawn. I am both a light sleeper and no stranger to waking up to bizarre noises (a toddler with a head cold can easily sound like someone is drowning a beagle in a toilet), but this sound was different: a percussive thud downstairs that raised fizzing hackles on my nape and had me instantly standing, head cocked like a wolf, poised in the darkness. Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction where Bruce Willis picks up increasingly deadly weapons in the shop above the gimp’s dungeon? (baseball bat, chainsaw, samurai sword) well I did a very middle class version of that (paperback, toenail clippers, glass of water) and ended up with my wife’s hair straighteners (be warned permed intruder – I am packing heat). Tiptoeing along the landing, I heard another thump downstairs and had what I call a “spanner” moment, where the expectation of imminent violence tightens one’s nuts. At the top of the stairs I paused again, straining to pinpoint the source of the noise. Through the frosted glass of the porch I could see the security light had come on, probably triggered by branches, waving evangelically in the wind. Probably. As carefully as possible I negotiated the stair gate and crept, naked, with the “tongs of justice” held out in front of me, down the stairs.
They teach you things that come back to you at moments like this, use the edge of the stairs only – you are less likely to trigger a creaking sound. Tilting your head and keeping your mouth open will help to pinpoint direction. Keep your thumb well back when striking or better yet strike with knees and elbows – much less likely to break a bone that way. Go for the soft parts, the throat particularly. The last of the “true ribs” on the left side of most adult males is particularly vulnerable if you can get enough leverage to snap it, then you can use it to puncture the heart. They teach you all that stuff and you never know when you’re going to need it. When I say “they” I don’t mean special forces, I mean the sort of badly written airport paperbacks that make men think they can fight, that fool people with no martial arts experience into thinking that somehow they’ll be okay when faced with armed “opponents”.
“Erm you might wanna turn the tongs on James?” Jason Bourne whispered helpfully.
“Is it too late to put some pants on old boy?” said Bond.
I remembered when I was young (my Dad was away and pre-dog) when my mum had heard something in the night and rather unconvincingly shouted down the stairs “THERE ARE TEN OF US UP HERE YOU KNOW – ALL WITH GUNS” presumably hoping that the thieves were gullible enough to think they’d stumbled upon some kind of IRA stronghold in Kent. But shouting here was not an option because, ludicrous as it sounds, I didn’t want to wake the kids. What if I was wrong and the noise was something easily explainable? If I made a lot of noise for no reason and my wife came running down the stairs to find me, holding her GHD’s and in the nude who knows what she might think? She might think I had decided, on a whim, to straighten my pubes in the moonlight. That’s the sort of thing that can get you sectioned. A sound like a bin tumbling over and banging against the back door drew a gasp from me and had me racing, unthinking, towards the kitchen, slightly warm tongs poised to reap furious vengeance on any trespassers. As it turned out it was actually a bin tumbling over and banging against the back door – just the wind. I completed my search, checked all the windows and doors, prowled up the stairs and slipped quietly back into bed, feeling a bit silly, but relieved that I’d got away without waking anyone up.
“Are they all dead NIcky Clarke?” my wife asked.
“Where can I get a sword?” I replied.