GUEST POST: Putting up with the Jones’.

I am very happy to be writing a guest post – thank you!

This story begins just a few days ago, at about tea-time. For context though I’ll tell you something about the day in question – I mean this whole post relies on a mood being set and set right from the start.

So Thursday was my first day off mid-week with DS for over a month; I had a dentist appointment and afterwards picked him up from nursery to spend some real quality time. I’ve just started to work for a company in central London, where my hours are long enough to mean that some days I wake before DS, but get home when he’s asleep. It breaks my F. heart; I used to be at-home-dad! Without sounding too corny – I mean, I am pretty loose with masculinity to be honest – but anyway, without being too corny, I preferred being a ‘male mum’.

So there it is, it’s Thursday, and this previously lovely next door neighbour decides to cause a scene. I am in the kitchen and I’ve just finished feeding DS. DS is still in the high chair watching CBeebies. Patricia steps into her garden and I haven’t seen her because I’m facing the other way. Patricia’s usual bubbly tone is absent, she doesn’t flinch, but her lips purse just enough to mumble out a rogue wave.

Is DS all right?

Hello?

I didn’t hear her and I’m still happy, besides DS has eaten well. A parents mood usually mirrors their child’s diet; the more buoyant the tummy, the more buoyant the behaviour. Patricia decides to repeat herself. I can see now that a thick layer of rhetorical positioning was being employed here. Setting yourself up for a volley was never deemed skillful on the playground at school and I don’t have much time for it these days either. I didn’t know it right then, but she was about to hit the volley quite square and quite firm at just about head height.

Is DS all right?

Oh hiya! Yes, he’s a bit moany, but he’s fine.

He’s been crying for one and a half hours…

Well, he’s going through his terrible twos stage, trying to show me who is boss, and a few other things going on too.

Yeah but don’t you give him a hug or anything?

Excuse me?

Don’t you give him a hug?

What the F.? This sweet old person has turned out to be an interfering lady-dog. I feel red in the temples, not the cheeks, and it burns too; somehow my blood is simmering when it reaches head height. I don’t know how to respond to someone I have spoken to like a ‘nice old person’ for two months while living here. I mean, now that I’ve had time to think, I remember that there are only two types of old people: cute and humble, or grumpy and rude. I need to tell her to F. off, but I love the moral high ground too much to let her ruin my composure. I’m not embarrassed by her accusation, I’m embarrassed for her.

Actually I don’t appreciate this line of conversation, Patricia.

Well I live next door and I hear him crying all the time.

I know, but when he is being difficult I ‘do’ the ‘parenting’.

Well are you? Because..

Patricia, I don’t have to stand here and… actually, I don’t have stand here. Goodbye Patricia.

I close the door and Patricia shouts something that is made incoherent by the pane (window pane that is). I’m not used to this, being young and rather innocent – I mean, in the sense that I don’t ever see aggression coming. I expect people to be pleasant by default. It’s a downfall of mine that makes me vote left and respect old people. One of those tendencies is under review – ever since the Lib Dems created a Tory coalition that is.

C.B.

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