To misquote Thomas Mann*, "A parent is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."
Friday is my designated writing day. It's my one day off work a week. Luka doesn't know that. There are lots of things he conveniently doesn't know, like how sometimes he goes to daycare in what are technically pyjamas, and that batteries can be replaced. The day that fucking Elmo guitar with no volume control wore out was one of the best days of my motherhood.
Anyway, on Friday mornings I resist the urge to potter about the house in my pyjamas while my son creates a small yet surprisingly adhesive trail of Rice Bubbles along the lounge room tiles.
Up! Shower! Pants! Relatively clean bra! Top! Shoes!
Nappy! Clothes that may or may not have been intended to be worn as pyjamas! Hair gel so you can see out from under that mop! When did I last clean your teeth! Oh well we'll do them tonight! Shoes! Rice Bubbles!
"I want you to do it."
"You want me to do what? You want me to feed you your Rice Bubbles?"
*blonde head nods*
"But you can do that yourself! I need to comb my hair out."
He gently rests his forehead on the edge of the table and pushes the Rice Bubbles away.
*sigh* "All right."
I shovel spoonfuls of breakfast confetti into my son with one hand while running a brush through my hair with the other. Occasionally my multi-tasking limbs get confused and I run a spoonful of warm milk through Luka's curls. He thinks this is hilarious.
Right. We're ready to head to daycare. Then writing day will commence.
"Mum, I've got a big poo."
I stop at the front door, keys and four thousand bags in hand. "Really?"
He stand on his toes and shuffles towards me in poo-stance. I smell him before he gets to me. Birthday cake has a lot to answer for. Bags down, into the bedroom.
"Righto, lie down. No, lie down here, I can't reach you there. You can play with Thomas when you get home from daycare. Lie down here. Luka. Now. We have to go catch the bus, come on, lie down. No, dummies are for sleeping, you know that. Luka. Lie. Down. Now."
10 minutes later the poo has been dealt with. Back to the front door.
"Luka, where have you put my keys?"
"I made a hide-and-seek! You count!"
"We haven't got time, can you find them for me?"
*pause* "I'll count and you see how fast you can find them, okay?"
"Okay!" (Another thing that Luka conveniently doesn't know are the technical points of hide-and-seek.)
"One, two, three, four, five - leave that jacket there we've got another one in your bag - six, seven - you're looking for the keys, remember? Eight..."
Another 10 minutes later and we are successfully on the other side of the door.
"I'm a bit sad," says Luka in a small voice. I squat down.
"Why are you a bit sad?" I ask.
"In my face," he answers. I put a hand to his face. It's pretty warm. I put my hand up under his t-shirt. His back is pretty warm too. I hesitate.
"Do you want some medicine before daycare?" I ask. Maybe Panadol will head things off at the pass.
"What do you weigh, Luka?" I study the dosing guide on the bottle of Panadol.
"Okay," he says.
One weigh-in, 9ml and another 10 minutes later, we have made it to the bottom of the stairs and Luka is clipped into the stroller.
"Right!" I am triumphant, we've made it out of the apartment and it's still only 9:30am.
"I want to hold my bag," says Luka.
I reach for his bag. I've left it in the apartment. I glance up and down the hall. There's no one around. "You just stay here, okay, I'll run up and get it?"
"No, I wanna go with you."
"I'll just be a minute, I'll just run upstairs and-"
"Noooooo I wannna go with yoooooou!" He starts to wail. I do some involuntary fist-clenching, followed by some voluntary quiet swearing.
"Fucking," says Luka. I glance around to see if anyone is proffering my Parent Of The Year award, but there are no gleaming statuettes in evidence.
With my teeth carefully pressed together, I unclip him from the stroller, unwind the complex pretzel of my handbag strap from the handles and hold his hand while he takes the stairs one step at an interminably slow time.
"Do you want to put your bag on your back?" I ask, once we're inside again.
"I've got a big poo."
"Can I have a look down your pants?"
Fifteen minutes and another nappy later, I am re-pretzeling my handbag strap around the stroller.
The next bit runs so smoothly that I am quite unnerved. We stagger up to the bus stop three minutes before the bus arrives, and I manage to wrestle my wagon-load of child, stroller and bags onto the bus while only gouging out a relatively small chunk of my calf.
The traffic is light. The bus stops right outside the daycare centre. This is going well.
"This is where we hang up your bag, this is Luka's hook."
"That's MY bag."
"Hi Luka! Our friend Luka is here, everyone!" Winnie waves to Luka and he waves back in that whole-body toddler fashion that threatens to take out any object within arm's length. Toddler arms are a bit like Labrador tails. Enthusiastic and fatal to heirloom china.
"That's a great top, Luka!" says Winnie.
"These are my monster pyjamas!" replies Luka.
Ah. Scratch one thing off the list of 'things Luka conveniently does not know'.
Forty minutes later I'm back at my apartment, cup of tea in hand, laptop on. I glance at the pile of breakfast dishes, but I don't let them distract me. I choose to believe that they will be taken care of at some point during the day by my invisible, domestic-hero boyfriend. He really is a dear, and always knows just the right time of evening to suggest I stop hanging up the washing, put my feet up and order pizza. (I have to order a large pizza, obviously, because there's two of us. Invisible boyfriends can really put away the slices.)
"Right," I say. I say 'right' a lot.
I open the story I have been working on to reacquaint myself with where I was up to, and wonder why my characters roll their eyes and nod so much. I think they need to say 'right' more often.
I've written four halting paragraphs when my mobile rings. I swear, press ALT-F-S (which can theoretically stand for File-Save or Fuck's-Sake) and pick up my phone. It's the daycare centre.
"Hello, is this Anna? This is Winnie, from the daycare. Ah, was Luka unwell this morning?"
"Um, he seemed pretty okay, a bit warm maybe."
"Yeah, he's seeming a bit unwell today, I think his temperature is about 39, and he just want to lie down on the floor and rest all the time?"
I look at my laptop screen. There's a nice little standoff between Guilt and Annoyance in my head. Guilt pokes Annoyance in the eyes and pulls her hair. Guilt fights dirty.
"I probably should come and get him, shouldn't I?"
"Yeah, I think it would be good. Thankyou Anna, see you soon!"
I gently shut my laptop and pick up my keys. The weather has heated up. When I finally get back to the daycare centre, I'm a sweaty mass of frustration and chafed thighs. I stride through to the toddler room, and each step echoes like a diminishing word count. Annoyance has obviously picked herself up off the ropes and bitten Guilt on the nose.
He turns his soft face up to mine. He's so pale he's almost translucent, and the rims of his little eyes are red.
"I'm a little bit sick," he says.
I pick him up and he leans against me, resting his head on my shoulder. He's very warm, and I can feel his little arms quivering.
"Can we go home and have a little sleep?" he asks in a small voice.
Guilt pulls an AK-47 from her pants and efficiently obliterates Annoyance.
"Course we can, buddy. I'm sorry you're a little bit sick. Do you want some Tiny Teddies when we get home?"
I cuddle his hot little body a bit closer.
There's a Friday every week.