Arlo, my four year old, makes friends wherever we go. Even older children, who look at him like he’s some crazy-talking-fictional-character, warm to him eventually. He’s relentless in his eagerness to have fun and that’s infectious. This puts me in contact with a lot of new faces. You could label some cute. Others energised. But the majority can only be described as mucky! I include my one year old, Ove, in this. He looks mucky after a bath. That’s not easy to do achieve, so I’m sympathetic to the plight of the mucky child phenomenon.
But I recently witnessed something so unbelievable it’s difficult to describe its mucky-magnificence. Arlo was playing with a boy at soft-play. His face was out of view. An ancient, reptilian, part of my brain was alerted – protect your child, there’s muckiness afoot. I grabbed Ove and we entered the soft-play equipment. Sweat oozed from my armpits. Kids crying. All wanting something from me that I couldn’t give. I dodged, climbed, pushed Ove to the top until we came face-to-face with Arlo and the back of his new friend’s head. The room fell suddenly quiet, it darkened. A chill filled the air. Ove looked at me, I nodded, and we scrambled onto the final platform. Arlo shouted, ‘Hi, Daddy.’ His new friend turned suddenly before I could reply. Ove grasped my hand. The illuminous snot hanging from this kid’s nose was nothing short of miraculous. I was hypnotised by its shear otherworldliness. A childish part of me wanted to prod it with a stick. Was it real? Is anything real?
This living organism attached to that child’s face made me question my very existence. But I acted swiftly, I told him, ‘You need to go find your mum sharpish and ask her to wipe your nose, mate.’ He knew, his eyes told me he knew. I respected him at that moment. He had the presence of mind to not wipe it on his thin sleeve – he would’ve needed an arm longer than an orangutan to achieve this anyway! Instead he chose to continue enjoying himself. Neither boys concerned about any social faux pas, such as spinach in the teeth or in this case, a new organ developing on his philtrum. But unlike these children, I have a keen eye for such things, so I pointed towards his mum and off he went. Returning moments later with a handful of Cadburys buttons melting in his grasp and chocolate smeared all over his now snot-less face. And I just thought to myself, this kid’s living the dream.
BY ADAM GLENNON