Have you ever tried having and adult conversation with kids around? It's not interesting to them and not focussed on them so they will go to superhuman lengths to get noticed; including finding the heaviest thing in the room to bang on a sibling or the most fragile thing to launch across the room.
Mrs Nation and I were talking about our future the other evening whether we were going to settle anywhere or continue our nomadic existence between various cities across the world when the children decided that making a camp out of the couch cushions on the coffee table would be a good idea.
What should have been a relatively quiet endeavour prior to going to bed involved launching one another off of the couch on to the cushions, singing and various staccato renditions of a nuclear alert. All parents know this one well, it goes ? mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum . . .
You can substitute dad for mum sometimes, but the rules for this are vague and shrouded in mystery.
The chant goes on like that until the person called mum says, "Yes darling what can I do for you?" The child, now in a meditative trance from all the chanting, looks totally bewildered and has forgotten what he or she wanted - momentarily.
The moment usually lasts about as long as it takes mum and dad to start talking again - mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum . . . sometimes both kids will get involved and there is weird stereo effect.
If you have more than two children you will know at this point the third or fourth child will run into something, fall off something or get a part of their anatomy stuck in something. Other children get locked into cupboards, fall off of beds; the possibilities really are endless.
Mums are endowed with limitless patience and that nurturing 'thing'. Men on the other hand are tetchy when anyone interrupts continually. A normally loving and caring father can become as loud as a wounded bull in his effort to be heard. The kid's eyes well up and they scamper for the safety of their mother's bosom.
"Did you have to shout that loud?" She'll say, "They're just trying to build a camp and need to staple the couch cushions together."
"No darling you cannot staple the cushions together. Mummy and daddy want to keep the cushions looking nice and don't want lots of holes in them, OK?" Wiping tears away she'll say, "Daddy didn't mean to shout, he is just frustrated because he wants to talk to mummy too."
Grumpy daddy can't help himself, "And you haven't put the stapler back from when you stapled the curtains in your room together." A statement like this brings tears as it reminds them of the last time daddy shouted.
Whilst mummy tends to the emotional and developmental needs of her offspring daddy sulks as another conversation has to wait "until later". He doesn't know what developmental needs are but they are getting in the way of him finishing his conversation so he can watch the game before he goes to bed. He really doesn't remember agreeing to have children instead of a sports car.
Mum often decides the kids are quiet enough to continue talking. Dads should know better but often they don't.
As the halting conversation starts again a child will find a musical instrument and proceed to try to play the "Bob the Builder" theme at full blast and on one note. Daddy sometimes try the calm approach, "Darling, mummy and daddy are trying to talk."
The other child joins in with the most discordant noise possible. It usually sounds like a weasel being choked to death. It is a noise that could wake the dead and is highly sought after in kiddie circles. A fight ensues over who gets to throttle the weasel and the budding conversation dies on the vine.
The mum will smile good-naturedly at her children working out their differences without the use of sharp or heavy weapons and the dad decides to go and watch the game anyway. The children get the attention of the mum with the dad being forced into retreat and they play happily and quietly around the coffee table until it is time for bed; the weasel lying quiet and forgotten on the floor. The unstapled cushions are miraculously back on the couch.
Copyright 2007 Peregrine Nation