My empty toolbox lies on its side in the middle of the floor. Most of my tools have been redistributed around the house and the garden. My hammer looks odd and out of place among the other items on the flour-coated kitchen counter: the empty packet of yogurt you were so proudly eating on your own, the broken egg, the bird-shaped whistle you were blowing. Forgotten and discarded to one side is an apple with tiny teeth marks framing a single bite – a reminder of how quickly you change your mind.
The microwave contains various pieces of Tupperware, the toast we made and your mother’s car keys. Thank god I stopped you before you could switch it on. The kitchen floor is littered with pots and pans.
There are toys. Lots of toys: There’s plastic golf clubs and trucks and planes and a bent pirate sword and dough and building blocks and puzzles and your guitar and your drum and things that I can’t recall ever buying for you. My blender is also on the floor. You were trying to make Lego soup.
Some of the toys have migrated to the dining room table where they sabotage the attempts of your mother’s towering psychology textbooks to look somber and menacing. Jung and Freud and Bronfenbrenner seem just a little less daunting next to Winnie the Pooh and a used diaper.
There are books on the coffee table too. One by one, you carried them from the book shelf and told me we were going to read them. Then you realised that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest contains no pictures and decided that you would prefer to scratch around in the stationary drawer. When I say scratch around I mean take everything out and put it on the floor and walk around with the calculator pretending it’s a cell phone.
The calculator is now in the bathroom – next to it is my cold, half-drunk cup of coffee. A dark brown ring close to the top is a reminder of how I had to leave it standing there to chase you around the house. It’s surprisingly tough to pin a toddler down and coax the dogs’ food out of their mouth. We all thought it was funny, except for the dogs.
We share a rare moment of quiet (apart from the ABC song playing in the background).
You are sitting on my lap. Your feet dangle between my legs, your toes barely touching the grass. You are eating a fruit stick. You tilt your head back into the crook of my neck and push, as if you tried hard enough you could squeeze yourself into me. You pull your head away and strands of blond hair stick to my beard. It tickles. I think: Fuck me; it’s hard work being a parent.
I put my arms around you and whisper: “I love you.”
You give a shy giggle and reply: “I love you, pappa.
P.S. Your mother has asked me to add a disclaimer at the end. Under no circumstances does the house get into this state when she is around. She is right. It’s only when you and I are left alone that everything falls apart.