Every 6 months the park/cafe/park routine is rudely interrupted with a visit to the child health nurse. The child health nurse is a smiley lady who as far as I can tell spends her day reassuring overzealous parents that their children are not too tall, small, fat, thin, independent, needy, fast, slow, over-slept, under-slept, she is basically an accomplished bull shit artist sprinkling feel good white lies to prevent parent breakdowns. Each time we go she tells me how fantastic Max is and I will give him a little ruffle of his hair and say something like “yes we are very proud” – knowing deep down that I’m the eighth parent that day she has rattled off the same line to I still greedily gobble up the compliment. She will ask how I am finding parenting, I will tell her that as long as Max escapes serious injury each day then I am doing my job, she will laugh politely and I will remain stony faced wondering what she is laughing politely at.
Once the pleasantries are out of the way the dreaded clipboard and pen come out of the dreaded drawer, the smile disappears replaced with a steely stare and we get down to the real business. The real business being a series of questions designed to determine whether or not your child is faulty. Our most recent visit was for his 18 month check, the big 18 as it’s known in the parenting trade, it’s not really I made that up. “Okay I will just ask some questions now to make sure that everything is tickety boo, try to answer them as honestly as possible, it’s really nothing to worry about” By tickety boo you mean you want to make sure he is not faulty and I will use as much creative license as is necessary to keep your dreaded pen away from your dreaded clipboard.
“Does he ever imitate you” – yes watch this, ROOOOOAAAAAARRRR, surprising even myself I give an implausibly realistic lion call, Max looks up at me quizzically as if he has never heard or imitated that noise and the lady scribbles something down and hurries on to the next question #longawkwardsilencefollows.
“Can he speak 10 words?” – “I’ve never actually counted” much to her irritation I then proceed to go through them giving examples of when he might apply them “no – he says no a lot, he says it with an angry expression and has clearly picked it up from his mother. One more – he usually says this when his cheeks are already bursting at the seams with mandarin segments, it’s the equivalent of clicking your fingers at a waiter and pointing at your empty glass. That’s two words as well – bonus! Car – a generic term he uses for any form of motorised vehicle, he usually points and shouts this repeatedly in a fit of excitement making him look a bit like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. Uh oh – when he deliberately throws something at me, usually food, he will look me in the eye, smile and say uh oh – I think as his vocabulary becomes increasingly developed this will be replaced with what are you going to do about that bitch? Another two worder, that makes 6″. I can see the usually bubbly lady is beginning to boil, but I don’t care I haven’t spoke to an adult for 3 days and I’m going to get my moneys worth. “Hiya – accompanied with a regal wave this is dished up to anyone and everyone, from angry alcoholic man to local prostitutes they all get it. Bye Bye – again used fairly liberally to acknowledge anything from the closing of a book to the dispatch of a nappy. How many is that now? Eight” I rack my brains for something else, he is so close to being satisfactory that I can taste it and it tastes damned good. I consider some creative license but can only think of implausibly long words. When he was pointing at the reverse cycle air conditioning unit the other day why oh why did I not spend more time educating him on it? “it’s okay if he only has eight, eight is not a bad score, I am sure”.
Just as her pen was about to scribble dud, “ball sack”, stopped in her tracks the lady looks down in disbelief at Max. “Was it me or did he just say something that sounded a bit like ball sack? You heard it right? Technically that’s a two worder and takes us to ten words”. A tear trickles down my cheek, my boy just reached satisfactory with a profanity, I couldn’t have been prouder. The women rattles off the rest of the test, the absence of a lie detector ensures I do what I need to do to maintain the satisfactory standards we came here for. He hasn’t used ball sack before or since and we probably won’t dwell on it too much. The sign of an above satisfactory baby is one that can pull something out of the hat on the big occasion, when the clock is ticking and the pressure is on – love your work Max.