Tidiness is temporary with a small boy and a big dog on the loose.
I used to have a cleaner when I lived in a flat and it was the best way of making sure someone actually washed the floor. I tried to convince her to come to Beach Haven: it was too far to drive. Now we don’t have the money, and what would be the point? We have a big black dog who likes to roll in mud and swim in the creek and a one-year-old whose idea of a good time is to stagger around like a drunk person wreaking havoc with our house.
Ira spends most of his day walking around, cooing and aahing and eughhhing at the sheer delight of it all as he hauls things out of cupboards and drawers. Sometimes, in a beautiful collision of mess, he likes to empty the paper recycling drawer so he can feed cardboard to the dog, who obliges his gurgles of delight by tearing it into lots of tiny little hairy pieces, which we find in corners and under furniture. Ira picks up bowls and glasses off the table before we can get to them and then he drops them — and seems only mildly surprised when they smash, before waddling off contentedly to open another drawer.
The other day after lunch, he wanted a pear — or rather, he pointed at the pears in the fruit bowl and grunted. So we gave him a pear. Then he stuck his arms up in the air, which is his signal for getting down from his high chair. We watched carefully as he wandered around the house while eating the pear and then, when we weren’t looking, he put it down somewhere. It’s never reappeared.
My beard stays unkempt and people look at me as if I’m doing it in some desperate attempt at hipsterism.
A few weeks ago — okay, it was the morning of my grandmother’s funeral — I went to trim my beard, only to find that beard-trimmer attachment numbers 2, 3 and 4 were missing. Hannah hurriedly trimmed it with kitchen scissors on the back deck. I’ve since looked everywhere — bags, suitcases, drawers — but I can’t find them. My beard stays unkempt and people look at me funny as if I’m doing it deliberately in some desperate attempt at hipsterism, and I have to explain that it’s only because my son has hidden my beard trimmers… And they get that glazed look in their eyes.
It’s not as if we don’t try. Each night, we put Ira to bed, then put everything away — bowls, pots, pans, toys, books, shredded recycling and, if we can ever find it, that pear. Then he wakes up the next morning and after the briefest of pauses he is up out of bed and wandering around the house, picking things up and putting them down. Within a couple of hours, we wonder why we bother.
But we don’t really mind, not really, especially when you think about what’s going on in his brain. Day by day, he learns a little more: this goes in that drawer, and so on. For a while, he was obsessed with the dishwasher, taking spoons out and putting them back in, taking them out and putting them back in, taking them out and putting them back in, before eventually he found the bookshelf in my office far more interesting, and then moved on to the cabinetry in front of the kitchen island.
The other day, he spent half an hour playing in the bath with — yes — a plastic sinus-flush bottle, working out how to put the nozzle bit back into the bottle, making his delightful concentrating noise — aaaaaeeeeeugggghhh — and pushing my hand away if I tried to help. He got out of the bath with it, ran around naked for a bit and then dropped the bottle in the living room. The dog, obligingly, tore it into hundreds of little plastic pieces.
Illustration by Angela Keoghan for Metro.