At eleven and a half months it was time to take the twins to nursery for the first time. There were a few tears but after a while I managed to compose myself and get up off the floor.
I jest, of course. It was more complicated than that.
The nursery staff came and gave the boys a friendly smile and very impressively, knew which twin was which.
My wife handed Ben over as the knot (that wasn’t there ten seconds before) tightened at the pit of my stomach.
Zac started crying immediately. Normally when he cries it’s because he’s tired or hungry or he’s done a poo the size of his head. But this was a different cry. This wasn’t whiney – this was desperate.
There was real, adult emotion in his sobbing. He sounded like he’d been betrayed.
As tears streamed down his face he shot me a look that seemed to say:
I trusted you. We had something. But you’ve brought me here. A strange place where I don’t know anyone. How could you?
I was aware that graphic interpretation of his crying wasn’t doing anyone any favours so I quickly turned to Ben in hope that he’d have already settled in, having been there now for a full twenty five seconds.
Someone had sat Ben down on the floor, facing away from me. He still had his coat on (clearly outing him as a newbie) and all the other kids had scrambled round to get a closer look at the fresh meat.
Some were crawling, a few were standing up, one was even doing this rather unsettling arse-shuffle that I’d previously only seen dogs do. But they had one thing in common – they were all staring at him.
Staring in the way that only kids can. Wide-eyed and with enough intensity to cook an egg.
There was no malice in them, clearly, but my god it was intimidating.
Don’t show any weakness, son I thought to myself before remembering that this was an Ofsted-approved nursery, not a high security prison.
The staring continued but Ben stared back. Some of the regular ‘crew’ grew bored and went back to their daily tasks of nose picking and raspberry blowing. A small victory it may well be, but I felt a huge jolt of parental pride as I watched my son settle into his new surroundings with all the ease of a foot into a comfy old slipper.
Unfortunately I hadn’t been that wrong about something since I accidentally brushed my teeth with Anusol at the Glastonbury Festival in 2004.
He slowly turned his head towards me and I knew I’d been premature when I could see his bottom lip protruding from his face like a novelty draught excluder.
He did one of those extended inhales that babies do when they’re preparing for an extra noisy bawl – it seemed to last longer than The Leveson Enquiry – and he let rip with a scream you could cut diamonds with.
At this point I made the executive decision for us to leave the room. The whole scene was beginning to resemble something from Kramer Vs Kramer and another kiss goodbye would’ve been like throwing petrol on an emotional chip pan fire. I grabbed my wife like a presidential bodyguard in the midst of an assassination attempt and we fought our way through the empty corridors until we were outside in the rain. I think it was raining, it may have been Ben’s tears.
We got into the car feeling strangely all grown up. Our babies had become, if not quite little boys yet, significantly older babies. My wife opened up the small gift bag the staff had given her – it contained a packet of tissues and a couple of biscuits. I secretly wanted a tissue but made do with a chocolate digestive.
We looked at each other and tried to convince ourselves they’d be alright. After all, it was only a day at nursery, right?
Then we realised we had another conundrum to contend with. What on earth would we do with ourselves for the next seven hours?
We could do pretty much ANYTHING for the WHOLE day. No nappies, no bottles. Just us.
Scary. What the fuck were we going to talk about?
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