I think my children should have come with some sort of hazard warning, an alert to dangers ahead. Nothing too imposing just a few tags with prompts to how our future may evolve. My little lost souls with Paddington bear style labels attached.
Six and seven years old and it was the third time in about a month that fire had featured as an activity. I can’t recall the first occasion but just two weeks previous the boys had locked themselves in the upstairs bathroom at grandma and granddads and set fire to bits of toilet roll with some matches they had squirreled from beside the fire place. On this day in question Mr H and I, distracted by household chores requiring urgent attention due to an impending visit from someone, we sent the boys to play in the garden. Later when crossing the garden I spotted a lighter flung on the floor. How strange I thought, unusual even or most uncommon and with a knowing nose for mischief, which any Christie sleuth would be proud of, I went to investigate.
My suspicions revealed the activity of attempting to burn things, thankfully not too successfully, had conspiratorially taken place behind the decking. Completely enraged and also greatly alarmed by this fire fascination I lined the guilty parties against the wall, I demanded hands be shown and smacked them. Both cried, Stig tears fell from the hurt of the smack and the disappointment in him. Tink bit back his tears and anger bubbled within. I panged with guilt immediately and the tears on my own cheeks smarted with shame, my gut to parent as my parents had I knew was wrong.
Later, after eight at night and after the children’s bedtime, ensconced in the lounge with the door firmly closed harbouring the new kitten, I was totally unaware of the break out which had occurred. My phone rang.
A voice sheepishly asks “Hi Sarah, are you aware that Tink is in the Co-op in his pyjamas?”
Heart lurches, sickness presents in the back o f the throat, rage, embarrassment, dismay, mortification all churn and tumble unsure which will fall free first. As Mr H is out I had to bundle the other sleeping son into the car and drive the very short distance to the Co-op. The pounding in my head beat “how could this happen? How could this happen? HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?”
Within the local shop, uncomfortable faces have managed to trap the wayward boy in the shop office. Hiding under the desk coiled and presenting his back to the world, he’s a suppressed spring quivering in anticipation of release. Tentatively I search for his face, a connection or understanding, defiantly he lifts his chin and I am cut deep by the steely sharpness in his eyes. He doesn’t come easily, in fact dragging kicking and screaming is an accurate account. I just want him home so do not wait to therapeutically prise him but heave him into my arms and dump him into the car.
Later as we lie on his bed and he finally allows me to sooth his pain, I understand with even greater horror the consequence of my actions. He of course has informed me “it is all your fault” and “You should never have smacked my hand”. He wants to know “Why did you have to do that?” The wound is deep, infected by a painful past; it will take time to heal.
Later still, the next day I visit the Co-op to thank those involved and to glean a greater understanding of the event. It transpires that the absconder had also visited the shop twice during the day and on his second visit, he’d left with a handful of comics. My jaw at this point is on the floor. The extent of his resistance to being captured is also exposed with a description of kicking screaming and the line “Get off me you F**king B***h”. Bang there goes my jaw again. That will also explain why Stig couldn’t find him whilst they were playing hide and seek.
“Oh go and check the sheds he’ll be somewhere” I dismissed Stig, as the stress of the chore I was attempting took priority.
Sure enough, behind the play house at the very far end of the garden I find a pile of soggy paper and plastic tat that most definitely used to be children’s magazines.
Sometimes, a long time after, ten pounds of holiday money has been handed over for the stolen goods and apologies have been made, small jokes are told about our little run away, thief. Slight ribbing which is taken mostly in jest. Tink will however inform you now, and for now I believe him “you know I don’t do that anymore”. I’m sure however if I turned him upside down and search for a warning tag hidden in some dark corner of his being I will find a future alert for lighting fires, absconding or stealing. I just hope they don’t once more arrive in a single day.