We have a comfortable table that fits all of us in the kitchen at our new pad in Buenos Aires. It’s a white wood table and has four matching chairs – and two fold-up metal chairs borrowed from my Dad’s apartment. The table is multipurpose. It’s for homework and for using the laptop, sorting clothes and for my kids to create art and all of us to play board games. It also is a dumping ground for bags and jackets when we come in.
Right now it’s a table for breakfast and World War III. Almost. The eldest is flipped off at the middle boy because he keeps copying her.
“I say, ‘I want Honey Grahams and Stars,’ and he says he wants the same,” my seven-year-old daughter tells me. “He’s always copying me and I don’t like it.”
I try to explain a thing or two but the just-poured coffee still hasn’t jump started my brain this early in the morning and so my words come out minced. By the time I can say anything intelligible they’ve left the table with empty cereal bowls and splotches of spilt milk.
I sit down with my coffee and listen as the three kids come and go from bedrooms to the living room. They talk, play and complain. Then comes a bout silence followed by a bout of friendly chatter. I get up and peer into the living room. The two eldest are sitting on the sofa together leafing through a picture atlas all about the ocean. Peaceful and content.
So I go pour myself another cup of coffee.
Then the chatter escalates.
“I’m a shark,” my daughter says.
“Me too,” my five-year-old son says.
“No, you can’t be.”
“Yeah I can.”
“No because I am. You’re always copying me.
“So don’t be a shark. Be a whale.”
“No, a shark.”
“But I’m a shark.”
“I’m a bigger shark.”
I stay in the kitchen and sit down at the table. It’s too early for intervention. I will let nature take its course.
The funny thing is that it while I fret over the battle of the sea creatures and consider crawling back into bed, nature does take its course and they don’t fight as sharks. They go camping in the middle of the living room with blankets and pillows taken from their beds to make sleeping bags and tents. They start a campfire to cook a second breakfast of pancakes with chocolate and strawberries. And dulce de leche.
Then a soccer match starts. My daughter is the Argentine star Carlos Tevez. My son wants to be Argentina the country or himself, but after much persuasion he chooses to be England’s Wayne Rooney. And they play for a few minutes before switching to hide and seek in the wilderness of their very own living room.
It’s peaceful so I come out of hiding. The sofa is my destination but I’m told it is a mountain range and you can’t sit on the mountains in this wilderness. So I turn around and return to the kitchen and to the table. It’s a good table.