DAY 74: Looking after a real life child

13 Nov

I HAVEN’T given anyone my undivided attention since 1989. I got away with it in my teens because I was troubled, in my twenties because I was a writ-err, and in my thirties because Gen Y 2.0 came along, with handsets for hands. It certainly won’t be tolerated by a child, though; hence my avoidance of them.

I’ve agreed to take Tiger-Jane, aged three, to the Melbourne Museum while her mum gads about doing her job… but anxiety sets in as I take the train down. What if I need to write things down/get out my computer/obsess quietly over some issue? And the irritation that trots beside me every day like a devoted spaniel… can it be outrun by a three year old on a sugar high?

We’re meeting in the café, so I scoff down a piece of cake before TJ sees it and then watch Nicole like a hawk to see what parent-y tactics she is employing. When Nicole leaves, TJ sets up a wail, with real tears, I’m impressed to note. Proper mothers look on as I pat the child beseechingly on the arm and promise her that we’ll see as many dinosaurs as she likes; not having the slightest idea if there are any.

Fortunately, the first specimen we come across is the skeleton of Phar Lap, which looks a bit like a dinosaur to the untrained eye. (How gruesome: “Phar Lap reunion: see his skeleton on display next to his hide”.) After perusing this spectacle, we set off at a cracking pace – no time to take in exhibits on 19th century working class Melbourne, Koori voices, or textile designers, apparently, but we do press some buttons. The one thing that does slow up my young charge is a tableau of policemen taking an Aboriginal child away from its mother. I’m terrified TJ’ll make a connection and start wailing for her own mother again, but instead she asks sombre questions about the scenario.

Eventually, the lure of the spotty biscuit, which I promised her on completion, reaches mystical, holy grail proportions, and we can put it off no longer. I have no idea how to buckle TJ into this unfathomable pushchair, seemingly designed specifically to get its wheels caught in toilet doors, so she gamely agrees just to balance as we head out in the rain. “Hey, lady,” she snaps, whenever we hit a bump.

A misty reunion with Mum (hers) and an explosion of chocolate follows, but I’ll stop writing now if that’s okay; I’m starting to sound like columnist for a Sunday magazine.

Thank you for a lovely day, lady.

Keeper? Her mum wanted her back.

One Response to “DAY 74: Looking after a real life child”

  1. Michael November 24, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    I think this must be your most terrifying task yet! I find children always look at me funny. IT’S LIKE THEY’RE JUDGING ME.

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