Monday, June 22, 2015

The Mutton Muncher

Owen and Evelyn: (singing repeatedly for the entire drive home): Pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows!!!!

Ten minutes later

Owen and Evelyn (screaming like a brutal, metal band)" PINK FLUFFY UNICORNS DANCING ON RAINBOWS OF DEATH!!!!



Every now and again I meet people who cannot understand a bloody word I say. Completely thrown off by the fact that whilst I appear to be speaking English, I'm doing so in a deliberately different way. As if what I'm doing is a weak attempt at a funny voice. Which really isn't the case. If it was I'd pick country Southern - not whatever my own voice is. Which is amusing really because I've been relentlessly obsessed with The Walking Dead that now my inner monologue is stuck on Backwoods Georgia. An absurd number of times per day I find myself muttering in Daryl Dixon. Or - more ironically considering - in a purposefully, irate Rick Grimes.

I picked up my son today and needed to know something. And while speaking to both of my son's teachers I inadvertently referred to him as Oboe. One of them gave me the suspicious look as if to say, ".....I don't think he's his real dad - he doesn't even know his name." The other completely blanked. And did that thing where - because I spoke with an accent - asked the other teacher, "what did he just say?" I then felt compelled to go all fumbly and middle class. Think every Richard Curtis movie ever. And tried to explain that I tend to call him Oboe. Ending with the I'm-not-even sheepish, "...it's sort of like his nickname."

The one teacher (the one who now thinks I might be an imposter trying to smuggle off a child from school) then gave me that look that she found the name I call my son kind of pathetic. And to a degree I do know what she means. I've cringed when overhearing someone calling their kids their own pet names. I almost felt the need to let her know the history. That the very first nickname he had was when he was rolling around the living room demented when he was about two. For a solid month I called him The Insanity Orb. Then anything that began with an O. The worst of which was, "O Lordy Lordy." Somehow I landed on Oboe and he's been that ever since. His sister warmed the very sinews of my heart once when she started calling him The Littlest Oboe. But I am aware that you have to be careful with a nickname. They can last forever. One small incident. One tiny event and you can be lumbered with an appalling nickname (there is no better evidence of this than Greg Davies' very funny bit on nicknames - the Baghdad one is classic.) I've been a callous victim to this myself. Even recently. One or two slightly iffy pronunciations and the revelation that I went to university in Swansea. That was all it took. Before I knew it I found myself - after meeting a whole host of lovely English people in Las Vegas - walking through The Bellagio while they called me Shadwell. At least it didn't descend to something even worse.l ike The Mutton Muncher. Which I imagine is racist.

My friend's Secret Crush

Anyway - the pretext of this whole entry is this Father's Day card Owen made for me.


Almost everything about that card is wrong. I certainly don't have a dodgy, 1980s RAF mustache like that. I mean look at it. It looks like the Batman bat signal gone all hairy for Movember. And a green tie with a blue shirt? That's possibly the most offensive thing anyone has ever suggested about me. I haven't even mentioned his actual answers to the Dad questions. It's entirely fantasy. And that's the point. Owen knows it's all wrong. I suspected as much. He's started doing something I'm not all that happy with on principle. But annoyed too that it's funny at the same time. That is - he's flagrantly making crap up.

His sister did something similar when she was five. As in once I picked her up from school and it turned out she'd told her teacher that her real parents had died in a war in Europe. From smoking. Like we'd perished in a bizarre incident during the Bosnian conflict. I recall being over the top about not having been involved at all with Salvo Milosevic. A bit derogatory in trying to clarify that I'm aware of the stereotype that American knowledge of world geography is pitiful - so best point out that England and Serbia aren't the same place at all. Then pointing out I didn't smoke. Her teacher had then reassured me that it's a really good thing that she has her imagination. At which point she let me know that every single morning Evelyn would tell the whole class about the insane adventures she'd get up to at home with her Dad. Clearly fanciful, made up stories. About how her dad is really a superhero. Who sometimes wears a black leotard and a yellow cape. And how she and daddy once hid in the leaf pile in the front yard in just their underpants and a cape (as a disguise so nobody would recognize them as superheroes) until the mailman came. Then threw bread rolls at them because she'd once told Daddy she was Celiac. And Daddy said the stale, hamburger buns would be like kryptonite and then they could steal all the mail. I tried quite hard to not look utterly guilty at that one. But the fact was I worked damn hard to have my kids use their imagination as much as possible.

Which Owen does do. Except he has taken to a strategy of making things up in a very dry, trust-me-this-is-true way.Such as lying about drawing a can of poo on that fan he made. And when I first started picking him up from school I caught him telling a group of other kids on the playground that, "my daddy's bum is broken so he's going to die." And on this Father's Day card - he was beyond giddy that his teacher thought I worked at Walmart. He didn't make it obvious he was lying. She really did think I worked there. Which hurt her brain slightly because she also knew that I didn't from other conversations we'd had. Which is partly where my conversation with them today came from. Just a little reminder that no - Daddy doesn't work at Walmart. And no - Daddy isn't 20. And yes - Daddy does know there is no apostrophe in "tomato's." Which is when I learned that when he gave those answers he did so very sincerely.

I've come to learn that Owen really is a talker. The woman who was the very first person who looked after him other than me would often say that the shy, doe-eyed thing he'd do was such bullshit. Because I'd close the door after dropping him off and he wouldn't stop yappering away until I pulled up in the car. And he does that at school now too. And good Lord he's a witty little bastard at times. He still tells the world's worst jokes. None of which make any sense at all. All of which he finds hysterical. But when he's in the mood he is frighteningly sharp. No better example was when a kid was mildly bullying him on the playground for being younger than him. Which went...

Fat six year old to my son: You're not a man like me. You're a baby.
Owen: You look like you ate a baby.


I won't lie - my heart melted a little.

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