“I’m not made for this,” I thought as I ran through the shopping mall, child thrown over my shoulder like a sack of rice, leaving a trail of loose change, random receipts and other pocket debris in my wake. This wouldn’t be happening to my wife. I’m a dad and I suck at it.
Back up an hour or so. A few days before Mother’s Day, I decided take my youngest child (male, 4 years old, lazy AF) to an upscale shopping centre to buy an upscale gift for my mum.
It all started very well. Ok, moderately well. The child saw an escalator and really wanted to ride on it. The child however, has a very peculiar relationship with the escalator in that he loves the escalator but is terrified of being on it. Imagine desperately wanting to do something, getting your wish, and then being scared out of your wits the entire time that it is happening, only to want to do it again immediately afterwards! So we rode up and down the escalator a few times, each time at his request, each time more terrifying to him than the previous time. Go figure.
Overall however, the shopping trip went fairly smoothly. We bought the Mother’s Day gift after only one detour into another shop to buy, and I’m not making this up, a baguette. I don’t know why he wanted a baguette, he just desperately did. At first I refused to buy it, until suddenly for some reason, I too wanted a baguette. So we bought the baguette. And then we bought the Mother’s Day gift.
As a reward for being such a good, helpful kid, I took him to the toy shop with the intention of buying something small and cheap. You know, one of those tiny nicknacks they usually have near the counter. A couple of Euros at the most. We entered the shop.
It was a trap. Nothing, but nothing in the entire shop was priced at less than €6. That’s at least three times my intended budget. I didn’t realise it immediately though and by the time I did, it was too late. The poor kid, who, due to Covid, had barely been outside of our flat for an entire year, went nuts. Suddenly unleashed in this toy-filled paradise, his brain went into overdrive. He started chattering non-stop, pointing and selecting then deselecting different toys that he’d like to buy. It was like watching a tiny robot malfunction. I half expected to see smoke come out of his ears.
I was stuck. I couldn’t leave then. I had to buy him something. Every parent knows the feeling, right? You’re committed to the bit. The game at this point becomes damage control. The cheapest thing I could find was a pair of armbands. I kept trying to draw his attention to the armbands, but he wasn’t interested. Nope, he wanted the massive truck that’s identical to the one he has at home, only bigger. We kept up this to and fro, armbands, truck, armbands, truck, armbands, truck. Finally, in desperation, I picked up a bucket of dinosaurs and shoved it into his hands. Only then did I realise that he already has all of the dinosaurs in the bucket at home, only in different colours!
It was too late to do anything about it though. Once his tiny fingers had clasped that plastic bucket, those dinosaurs were coming home with us come what may. I bought the bucket. Once I saw the price, I thought about kicking it too.
So we made our way to the car park, stopping at the machine to pay the parking ticket. No sooner had I paid and the machine returned my ticket to me, that my son piped up, “Wee-wee, I need to go do wee-wee.” I turned to find him dancing about circles, grabbing his crotch, looking pained. This was bad.
I grabbed his hand and dashed back into the shopping mall in search for the toilets. We were now running against a clock. I had paid my parking ticket, which meant that somewhere there was a timer timing the amount of time the manufacturers of the machine deemed was reasonable for someone to return to their car and exit the car park. I was acutely aware as we dashed towards a likely looking doorway in the mall, that re-entering the shopping centre to take a child to the toilet before going to your car was likely not included in that allocated amount of time that was deemed to be reasonable.
We reached the doorway, which turned out to be a dud: a stairwell. No toilets on this floor. No time to go through the harrowing experience that is the escalator to another floor (his pants wouldn’t survive the trauma of the experience). I picked him up, pulling a muscle in my neck, threw him over my shoulder and half dashed, half shuffled my way back to the car park.
“Ow, ow, ow,” I moaned in pain, the ligaments of my neck and back tightening with each step. Shopping bags bouncing at my side, my son’s satchel slipping off my shoulder (uncooperative) to hang at my elbow.
We made it to the car. I had no plan except a vague notion that maybe I’d get him to pee against the car tyre like a dog. Then I remembered I had a plastic water bottle in the car. I reached in, pulled it out, unscrewed the lid, pulled down my son’s pants and before I could put the bottle in place a stream of urine flew out, spraying all over me.
It was at that moment, as I was squatting beside my car, splattered in fresh urine, my child naked from the waist down, peeing into an empty bottle, my back seizing up and my neck muscles spasming, that I thought, “I’m not cut out for this.”
You might say I’m wrong but I ask you, would this have ever happened to my wife? Like hell it would. She’s cut out for it.
If you’d like more of Chris Dingli – and let’s be honest, you would – you can visit his site christopherdingli.com or have him delivered directly into your newsfeeds when you follow him on Facebook (@ChrisDingliActor), Instagram (@cdingli), and Twitter (@DingliTweets).
In addition to writing scripts and preparing for a couple of shows in July, Chris’s show for school kids ‘Shakeshorts presents Macbeth‘ is currently available online for schools to book through Culture Pass. It’s a 40-minute adaptation of Shakespeare’s Scottish play which gives kids a great introduction to Shakespeare. It’s also a handy revision tool for those studying the play for their exams. It’s completely free for schools and students under the government’s Culture Pass scheme and they can book it at shakeshorts.com.
For more interviews and guest posts from parents across the island, check out our Island Parents section.