Friday, October 7, 2011

Not a rooster

It’s 5am. I get up early, but the small Tim Brooke-Taylor impersonater in my life gets up earlier. This morning, his blond locks hang over me in a similar fashion to my hangover. It’s draped gently over my brow, not a very bad hangover, more like having your gumline carefully stroked with a chisel made out of Wil Anderson.

“I want some Rice Bubbles,” says mini-T.

“I just need to have a cup of tea, and then I’ll get you some Rice Bubbles, okay?” I say. It’s safe to say at this point, I’m lying. I just need to have a cup of tea, 2 Codral Cold and Flu tablets (Original Formula), Vegemite toast, maybe four pieces, 1.5 litres of soda water, a text from my mother asking if I’ve sent my grandmother a birthday card, a funny ache in my leg that may or may not turn out to be middle-to-upper-calf cancer, a Lego brick embedded in the arch of my foot, another cup of tea, a scribbled note to myself from last night that reads “if you stand on the table you can touch the ceiling!!!”, and a small child patting my face with his tiny soft hand.

I turn my head towards him and he grins. Little shark teeth. Then his expression changes, he looks amused but somehow admonishing.

“You’re not a rooster,” he says.

My eyes dart about briefly, but the lounge room appears to be in its usual state: ie. mainly held together by fossilised Rice Bubbles and granola-type clumps of hair and cous-cous.

“Sorry?” I say.

He turns his small face up to mine. It’s still lightly flushed with sleep, and I brush his blond curls out of his eyes. He reaches out a hand and cups my cheek. It’s such an adult gesture, I almost blush.

He smiles and shakes his head. “You’re not a rooster.”

Kids say the darndest etc and out of the mouths of etc and never look a gift horse in the etc unless you fancy an equine-spit facial. But having a two-year-old cradle your face in his hands and gently inform you, apropos of nothing, that you do not belong to gallus domesticus, is unnerving.

I assume it’s from book he’s read, or a daycare song, or something. We don’t take it any further. I go get the Rice Bubbles, and douse my hangover.

A few weeks later, we get home from daycare one evening and embark on the dinner/bath/tantrum/fine/whatever/I don’t give a shit/no bath then/straight into pjs routine. We curl up on the couch and he picks out every single book on the shelf that features a digger. The heavy-machinery epic tale is prepared. He opens the first book, and as I draw breath, he turns his little face up to mine and rolls his eyes. He looks amused.

“You’re not a rooster,” he says. He turns back to the book. “It’s the yellow digger!”

At this point, I need more information.

“Hey, buddy,” I say, then pause. How to ask a 2 year old to explain this? “I’m not a rooster?” I ask.

“Nah,” he says. “You’re not a rooster.”
I struggle to form my queries. “Why am I not a rooster?” I ask. He looks confused. I try again. “I’m not a rooster?” He confirms this, and pats my hand consolingly. “What am I?” I ask.

“It’s the yellow digger!” he says, and points at the book.

I try again. “I’m not a rooster – is that from a book too?”

“Yeah,” he says. The problem is, he says ‘yeah’ to pretty much everything. “Are you just saying yeah because you don’t understand the question?” I say.

“Yeah!” he says.

“Is it from a song?” I ask.

“Yeah!” he says.

“How does the song go?” I say.

“Goes,” he says.

Once he goes to bed, I Google the phrase ‘you’re not a rooster’, hoping it’s a song from some show featuring a genital-free chap in an orange lycra jumpsuit whose name I would know if I ever turned on the tv. The top twenty Google results instruct me in rooster management. Which would be very helpful, but I’ve already been informed that I am not, in fact, a rooster.

A few days later, I bring up the subject myself. “Hey Luka,” I say.

“Hey Ma,” he answers.

“I’m not a rooster, am I,” I say.

“Nah,” he flashes his little sharky teeth. “You’re not a rooster.”

“Are you a rooster?” I ask.

“Nah. I’m a boy,” he says proudly.

“What am I?” I try.

“You a mother,” he says.

“Yeah, I am,” I say. I reach out and take his little hand. He closes his hand over mine. He’s two years old, and even now his grasp can barely encompass two of my fingers.

“You’re Ma,” he adds.

“That’s right,” I say. “I’m your Ma.”

“Yeah,” he says. “I’m gonna get my digger truck.”

“Okay,” I say.

He jumps off the couch and trots to the toy box. He turns back to me, grins, and the shine in his eyes just floors me. “You’re not a rooster,” he says lovingly.

“No, honey,” I say. “I’m not a rooster.”

Late that night, when everyone else is in bed, I think about what he’s told me. I’m a mother. I made a boy that I learned to love. I’m almost certainly not a rooster. But at only two years old, how does he know what I am, and what I’m not? And why does he tell me about it with such joy in his voice?

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