Meanwhile, in Isavaulta....

April 02, 2006

The pre-school party season is upon us once more. Small party-size piglets have been slaughtered and staked, jammy dodger sales are at an annual high and infant thirsts are slaked by gallons of plutoneum-orange Kwenchy Kups....oh wait, what- you think I'm making up the name 'Kwenchy Kups' for comedic effect?


It was Molly's 4th bithday party held at our local infant social nexus: Kiddies Kabin. What may seem to the untrained eye like an industrial unit partially filled with well padded activity apparatus and processed sugar is, if you are under the age of obligatory education at least, a throbbing hive of unleashed radicalism. A place where the overly-authorative shackles of oppressive parental regimes can be thrown off in an orgy of aspartine-fueled fervor. Izzy was jittering with excitement when she was choosing which one of her numerous party dresses to wear, before she even gets down to the serious business of partying the afternoon away.

Isabel turns the cute up to 11 as we arrive. I check her into the playroom with one of a seemingly infinite number of sullen, facially pierced teenagers whilst Isabel asks the assembled mothers if they like her dress. They do. A couple even look at their own children dejectedly. David says he likes Isabel's dress. His mother laughs too loudly and suggests he runs off and plays with Luke.

My daughter likes to get the ley of the land when she arrives at such events. It's her mother's influence. Having said hello to Molly's mother and given her Molly's present and card she speculatively asks her if there will be food. And then for a brief run down of the menu. Having cross-checked a few specific items (flavour of crisps, types of biscuits on offer etc.) she seems happy to run off and find Molly.

Excellent. Child freedom for a little while. I pull up a chair on the Dads' table. No one makes eye contact- we know why we're here. To read fantasy novels whilst our wives aren't about to find us chores to do. I'm down with 'A Sorceror's Treason: Book 1 of the Isavaulta Triology'. The dude to the left of me has two kids and is mid-way through book 3 of Tad Williams' 'Memory, Sorrow and Thorn' triology. And the guy on the right with three kids, and his mobile conspicuously turned off? Wheel of Time. Volume 9.

Which explains a number of things, not least of which being who is buying Robert Jorden's books and why he has a captive market forever more. Man, that guy was hardcore: he had the sunken eyes, the unwashed hair, 'weekend' clothes and the selective whist-I-know-one-child-is-beating-on-the-other-it-builds-character-and-besides
-neither-one-has-died-yet selective deafness going on. I almost scraped up some pity for the poor fellow but then ruined it by coming out with the day's best comedic grammaticatal error (and I quote):

"Stop hitting your brother with those dices"


So then, to Isavaulta...

Isabel: "Daddy!"
Me: "MMmmm?"
Isabel: "Can I have some money?"
Me (laughing incredulously): "No."
Isabel: "Please"
Me: "No."
Isabel (laughing): "Are you being funny Daddy?"
Me (deadpan): "No. Are you?"
Isabel: "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease......"
Me(yawning): "No."
Isabel: "Well, I'm just going to go and have fun then- FOR FREE!" *runs off*


Meanwhile, in Isavaulta....

Isabel: "Daddy?"
Me: "Mmmm?"
Isabel: "What can I do?"
Me: "I don't know, what can you do?"*
Isabel: "Don't know"

Ahhh, the rallying cry. An infant call to arms.

Me: "What about playing with the other children?"
Isabel: "Boring. They're playing 'it' and Luke always wins." **
Me (interested): "Really, why's that?"
Isabel: "He jus' stands at the top of the tower and, and, he frows fings at us so we can't get up the ladder"

Luke, it seems, has broken 'it'. Part of my brain mentally throws up the goat as a mark of respect to the little guy.

Isabel climbs on me.

Isabel: "I need a rest."
Me: "Why don't you have a lie down in the ball pond?"
Isabel (wide-eyed): "Yeah!" *streaks off into the ball pond*

Meanwhile, in Isavaulta....


Yeah, could you back off the mike just a touch...?

This is the signal for the parents to collar their incoming progeny and reassemble them into reasonable junior members of the community rather than unleashing them as a pack of baying sugar hounds. They sit down and sing happy birthday. Then the good stuff starts. This is the part where every dinner table tantrum and screaming fit pays off for me. Izzy is a star at eating healthy food. Far, far, better than I ever was, as my sister will no doubt attest.

Molly's mother loads her daughter's plate with cucumber sticks, cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes, party sausages and a couple of biscuits (for appearances). Molly doesn't disappoint me though, she's on those biscuits like a starved puma. Isabel is on her right and the goodstuff tray is headed left. Isabel reaches for the sandwiches (the only tray within reach) and grabs three. Without a word the two girls switch plates. I swear: not a sound was uttered. This was well practiced stuff, surgical, even. Like watching a bank job: minimal eye contact, make the switch, nothing to see here.

I am shocked and impressed. Izzy wolfs down the healthy stuff and eyes up the many plates of sugar. After a jammy dodger, a mini roll, two biscuits and some wafer battlements from Castle: Raw Cane, I step in:

Me: "Isn't it time you had a sandwich Izzy?"
Isabel: "I'll have two"
Isabel reaches for the plate, takes two, and switches the tops over.
Isabel: "Jam and ham Daddy! Your favourite!"

Yeah, laugh it up little girl.


*Isabel is now immune to this line of response and just ignores me more than usual, unless I'm the only choice.

** Which, I assume, is a tag/tig/gotcha variant and not anything to do with IT by Steven King. I should really stop listening to that backwater part of my brain.

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