It seems like yesterday and an eternity ago that I greeted my screaming daughter from wherever my wife had been secretly hiding her, but it is in fact 5 years tomorrow. I don’t understand how that tiny whelp became a boisterous, cheeky and relatively enormous child, but I assume she’s now fully grown and I can relax.
We had her party today in a large soft play centre near St Albans that is twinned with Aleppo. We’d been here for a party a couple of years ago and it had seemed fairly peaceful, but that was in the summer and when the weather was nice. The country was being buffeted by wind today so all of Hertfordshire had taken sanctuary here and the madness and noise levels were challenging. The kids had fun though with 80 minutes of soft play (we got there early and so we had an extra half an hour) and then party food and cake and balloons.
It was utter bedlam and the soft play was so big that it was hard to keep track of the kids and I sometimes wondered if we’d ever see them again. My son took off his socks somewhere in the labyrinth, so that was the end of them. I did ask him where he took them off and he dashed off into the maze like a bloodhound and I thought he might recover them. But he either didn’t understand or was distracted, like a really shit Lassie. And now I’d like to see that TV show.
At bedtime I reflected with my daughter that this was her last day of being four. I think four was my best year. It’s the mental age that I have stayed truest to. I didn’t tell her that it was all downhill from here. She was excited to be five. The idiot. She didn’t know how good she had it.
There was a spider on the ceiling as we chatted. I had foolishly pointed it out. It wasn’t a big one, but Phoebe said she wanted me to take it away as she was scared. In a brilliant bit of parental improv I told her that that was the Birthday Spider and that every year on the eve of her birthday he would come to say hello. I asked her is she remembered it being there when she was one - it had waved down with one leg. And then when she was two, the spider had waved two legs and so on. She said that she remembered. So maybe this had happened and I’d forgotten.
Today the spider was waving five legs and I said I’d tell her what happened next as the number of legs that had to be waved became higher and what happened when she was 9 on the subsequent birthdays.
But she was keen to know now, so I told her how when she’ll be six the spider will have to cling on with 2 legs as it waves and then the next year will barely be able to keep its grip with one. And then when she’s 8 the spider will wave all of its legs and realise it has nothing holding it to the ceiling and fall towards the floor. But then it will shoot a threat up to save itself and spin a web saying “Happy Birthday Phoebe”.
I thought it was a bit sad that the spider would have to stop wishing Phoebe a happy birthday at 8, so said that when she was 9 it would bring one of its kids with it and they’d share the leg duties. And then when she’s 125 there’s be 16 spiders sharing the duties.
She wasn’t only not afraid of that many spiders on her ceiling, she was actively engaged and looking forward to it.
That’s as good a story as some of her books and I just plucked the thing out of my arse. Even better I didn’t have to get a stepladder and try and extract the spider from the room.
I am a fucking brilliant dad.
Also I think the Birthday Spider might become as big as Santa. No, let’s be realistic, the Easter Bunny.
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