Towards the middle of the day, two mothers came in to see Panda, carrying their two suckling babes. I first knew it from the screaming. One of them got carried in to the anteroom and was immediately terrified of the donut. It began to ackwaaaggh.
“It’s a multisensory learning experience for them,” said one of the mothers, proving that she looks at very different articles to the ones I am consuming. The child was on edge, not sure if it was meant to be terrified or not. I was speaking in my softest non creepy voice, or at least I hope I was. I was trying to make no sudden moves. The other child just sucked and stared, baffled, but this one was always deciding whether or not to start making more noise than I could happily handle. I gave him a furry chocolate finger. It’s not edible. He stuck it in his mouth. Progress.
They were delightful and busy, and I just calmed and calmed myself. I think they might still be there now if I hadn’t started cooking in my head. My face was boiling like a cabbage by the time their calm-time was over. I ushered them out and two people were waiting. I needed to take the Panda off though. I’ve not nowhere to hide in my room. “Go in before me,” I told the next two – a mother and child. That was my mistake.
We don’t encourage children. This one was 4. The two infants had put me into a calm state of mind, but hot, and I had just invited a 4 year old to go into my little space first. It of course immediately made it HIS space. He colonised it.
I came in and he was already getting started on trashing it. “What’s your name,” I tried and he shouted it to me so he was at least responsive. Then, to my surprise, he bellowed “I like to pray!” For a moment I was relieved. I was in a peaceful state. He’s a religious child. Maybe we could all have an invocation to the great Panda, I thought as he picked up a ball with “love” written on it, chucked it at my head and repeated, clearer “I like to PLAY”. Fuck. His poor mother I think had hoped he might be distracted enough by Panda for her to get a break. No such luck. I am virtually blind in the Panda and it is hard for me to move quickly or react. I couldn’t have managed him unfettered. No chance with restricted vision and no warning. Praytime for us all. Oh God.
Some time later I was discovered hanging by my fingertips to the burnt remains of the universe, surrounded by a carnage of balloons and empty cans and pencil cases and romantic novels. I shivered back to the knowledge of myself. “Hug mister Panda goodbye, but ask him permission first.” He hugs me. “You’re not a Panda, I could see your beard,” he concluded over his shoulder as he left, and the plastic sheep fell over sideways and lost an ear.
I decided long ago never to have children,” the volunteer comments. We are trauma bonded now. The rest of the day we talk loads and some lovely people come by and it’s a fun thing. The whirlwind child was great as well, but dear lord I pity the mother. She won’t come up for air for a long long time yet… He’ll be an actor. Poor sod.