Cannibalism

I’d rather eat my own hand than go, my wife says. You think along those lines, though less graphically. But it must be done. Family day at school. Teachers to talk to. The principal. People to meet. You think I’m no good at this, the small talk and the crowds. But the kids are gung-ho at the idea. So you go, cheerily as you can.

You and the other families are divided into teams, given a colored piece of paper to pin to your shirt. The Blues, the Pinks, the Salmons. You’re with the Greens. Off you go. Win, win, win. Beat them at musical chairs, sack races, hoops. Have fun.

At the first game, the pillow race, you stand at the back. You look on, your two kids with you and your wife with your four-month-old daughter. Get with it, you think. Let go of your inhibitions. Participate. Clap, hoot, holler, smile. Cheer on the Greens. Go for it. Do it. For the kids.

It is your wife who is the first to steal away – to feed the baby.

You participate. You race with your five-year-old daughter, holding the pillow between your backs, not dropping it. Get to the midway marker and turn around. Don’t drop the pillow; keep it between your backs. Race. To the finish – and you’re second to last. That was good. You huff. Did you have fun?

You look at your team, hooting on the next racers. You look for your three-year-old son and he’s not there with the Greens. He’s walking off, following his mother’s exit. Now your daughter is following too. Sorry team, but parental duties call. Got to get the kids, sorry. They’re now with their mother, in the play area, 50 yards away. On the monkey bars, down the slide, in the sand pit. Other kids follow and soon there’s a crowd on the monkey bars, the slide, the swings. They’re playing Power Rangers. Pow! Pow! Pow!

And you’re sat next to your wife and baby, and talking with a guy you’ve seen around. He surfs, you surf. This is good. You talk about the surf spots down south. Oh, and did you catch it the other day, at the Rambla? It was going off. Insane, the best ever. Absolutely.

Lunch comes, lunch goes. A picnic. Then the activities resume, the games, the awards ceremony. Come on kids, come on parents, the teachers call out. Clap, hoot, holler. The Blues have won it.

Come on kids, come on parents, they call out again. The music is on for a dance. You take the kids; you try to dance. Wriggle your shoulders a bit, move the arms, the legs. Smile and move your body, a bit. But you can’t. You can only nod your head. If anybody looks at you, just smile. No, you say, you’ve got to let go. Do it. Dance for the kids. Other parents are jigging, spinning, twisting, wriggling. All the moves, following the lead of the teacher. Jigging, spinning, twisting, wriggling. They’re into it, fully. You try again. But your daughter and son are not into it so you back away, to your wife, the surfer, the monkey bars. You sit back, stretch out your legs and think this is more like it – it’s either this or self-inflicted cannibalism.

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