Monday, 20 July 2009

The Involuntary Throw

‘Welcome to my world’ is a phrase I don't really like. It’s a lazy devise used by smug under-stressed people who are fully aware that the situation they’re describing is one most of us would swap our washing, ironing and aging relatives for in a second. It also seems to imply you’re not living in the same world with the same glamorous levels of pressure and responsibility in the first place, which is rarely true.

Most of the time it’s actually just a friendly, conversational devise I know, it’s just that’s not the way I’ve heard it used in the past half an hour…

Anyway, welcome to my world: first day of the summer holidays so, of course, exciting bit of new and extremely time-consuming business on the horizon, all potential play-dates settled in Italian villas for the duration, and swine flu. Well, sore throats and bad tempers at the moment, but I’m preparing for the apocalypse. And things are getting tense already.

There are lots of things you learn about yourself when you become a parent that you would never have been able to guess before entering your first labour ward. Many are good, most involve crying, and some are destined to shape the next decade of your life in their persistent presence. For me, the latter is my inability to remain calm when objects are being thrown. And the knowledge that objects will be thrown regularly and at random from now until early September has been the backdrop to all the waking time I’ve spent with my children over the past week.

In my experience, the involuntary throw will take one of two classic forms. The first is an unconscious movement on a trajectory in direct opposition to the line of sight. It usually occurs when the child is consumed by a brightly lit TV screen but simultaneously feels the need to dispense of a juice cup, so hurls it over the shoulder without thought for what lies behind. This is your everyday involuntary throw: it’s easy to master, it isn’t age exclusive, and it’s the precursor to the common habit of dropping clothes neatly on the floor just inches away from the wardrobe or washing basket when you’re all grown up.

The second occurs when the child is holding something with excellent aerodynamics while standing within target range of a family heirloom, designer lampshade or aging relative. In this case the throw itself is a conscious movement, but the desire to hit the target is involuntary and deeply instinctive. In this case, no amount of screaming or power staring can prevent the inevitable.

In both instances, my response is always several minutes of irritable shouting using vocabulary based on responsibility and guilt that’s aimed at a child at least five years older than the one in front of me. Which doesn’t make anyone feel any better.

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