An Ill-Conceived Act


“Uuuuuuhhh,” came the most dreadful noise from behind me as something entered the room. “Uuuuughh-uuuuuhhhhh.” It was either the mating call of a yak who didn’t fair well over the winter or one of the kids had realised waking to find Dad singing in the kitchen can only mean one thing.

And that one thing was the same reason that come Monday morning I sprung out of bed markedly earlier than any of the previous sixteen to get the ball rolling for a smooth transition from holidays to school days. Around our house, these transitions are almost always marked by some drama, and I’m not talking about the stress of finding matching shoes, the right coloured hats or school diaries.

“UuuuuUHHHHH!” moaned the poorly love-sick yak behind me.

“Watch and learn,” I whispered to my son, Master24, who was dressed and nearly ready to leave for work.

I spun to face the beast.

“Morning,” I said in the sing-song voice I save for really special occasions. It’s my singiest-songiest voice because today’s the day I get to clean a room and have it remain clean for longer than the time it takes me to walk out.

Slumped against the pantry, Master11 was the very picture of ill-health. At least, he was hoping he was. One hand rested on his stomach while the other seemed to be attempting to wring his neck. I toyed with the idea of offering to help.

“Dad, I don’t feel well,” he croaked, and left a space for me to say go back to bed. When I didn’t, he continued, “My throat is sore and my tummy is-”

“There’s cereal on the table,” I interrupted him. “Three boxes. Pick whichever one makes you happy.”

“Dad, I don’t know if I can eat.”

“It’s a long time to lunch,” I said, putting a hand behind his back and moving him closer to the table end of the room. “Best to try.”

I have no doubt he was about to attempt another variation on the theme, but he was beaten to the punch by Miss9 who entered at that moment, stage right, with a hand on her forehead.

“My head hurts,” she told me solemnly. “I have a temperature.”

I reached around her to where I had the thermometer waiting on the bench and shoved it in her ear.

“Perfect,” I said, showing her the reading.

“Are you sure it’s working properly?” she wanted to know. “When did you change the batteries last?”

“To the table,” I told her cheerfully. “Bowls and spoons are out waiting.”

“But I don’t think I can eat cereal. I’m too sick.”

I pointed at the cutting board.

“There’s dry toast. Or buttered ones. Up to you,” I sang, even as the third act began.

“Dad, I have a big, big, Big, Big, BIG cough,” announced Miss4, skipping into the kitchen behind them. Then she gave an Academy award winning imitation of a big, big, Big, Big, BIG cough. Just one. It took all my internal fortitude not to applaud. The girl has chops. “I will stay home today and watch Onchoa.”

The hell you will, I thought to myself as I sat her in front of a bowl. I’d have dragged her in with a snot trail from her nose to her toes to avoid another Mia & Me marathon. They talk about waterboarding as a form of torture. Amateurs.

As for Master24, if his snickering was anything to go by I think he was impressed. I mentioned it was because of him and his sister I’m finally good at this. Now those two could perform! Once one of these little people works out to start acting out the symptoms a day or two before the holidays end, like Master24 and Miss21 eventually did, things will run less smoothly and my voice will go from Julie Andrews to a pissed off Batman.

An hour later I’d managed to threaten all five kids into their uniforms and car. The self-diagnoses continued, of course, but without any real conviction.

“I’ll try to stay at school all day,” Master11 announced earnestly as he exited the car in the drop off area.

What a trooper.

“You do that,” I told him. “And if I do get a call to come get you, I’ll try not to change the passwords on your iPod and iPad. Like you, I can’t promise anything.”

He somehow managed to make it through the day without the need for us to have a little chat. As did I.


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Raising a family on little more than laughs.


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