‘I have three girlfriends,’ Owen said to me proudly as he focussed his attention trying to reattach the broken door of his favourite fire engine. ‘Aoife, Samera, and Jenny.’
‘I see,’ I said. ‘And what makes them your girlfriends?’
He looked up at me as if I were a corrupted hard-drive.
‘Because we said, Mummy.’
It’s amazing how the scowl of a five-year-old can put you in your place. I kept my serenity.
‘I mean, what is it you like about them?’
‘Oh, they’re all very different. Aoife teaches me Cat's Cradle, and Samera knows all about dinosaurs.’
‘Important stuff. What about Jenny?’
‘Jenny smells like ice-cream,’ he smiled.
I couldn’t argue with that.
‘And, do they all know about each other?’
He actually put his fire engine down at this point, so he could turn and consider the full scale of my stupidity. I felt the slow burn of his judgement as he furrowed his brow in vexation.
‘Of course they do. We’re all at the same school. Silly Mummy.’
I bit my tongue.
‘I mean, do they all know you have three girlfriends? Does Jenny know that Aoife and Samera are your girlfriends too?’
‘Yes, Mummy. They’re best friends.’
‘So you all play together at playtime?’
‘No, at playtime I play football.’
‘And the girls don’t play with you?’
‘Samera does sometimes,’ then he thought. ‘Aoife did once, but she got hit in the face with the ball. That was funny.’
‘She wasn’t really hurt, Mummy!’
‘So they don’t mind sharing you?’
‘Why would they mind?’
‘What about when you want to get married? You can’t marry them all?’
‘That’s OK. I can’t marry Jenny, because she’s going to Oxford, and Samera wants to live in Italy and you know I don’t like pizza.’
This had never been mentioned before.
‘So I’m going to marry Aoife.’
The kid seemed to have it all worked out.
‘Then Jenny is going to live us when she gets back, so she can be our lawyer.’
I didn’t have any further questions.
‘And we’re going to have two dogs, a cat, three rabbits, a chicken, and an alligator.’
‘Samera says we have to have an alligator, as it’s really just a small dinosaur so it will remind us of her.’
A door clicked open at the back of the house.
‘Hi guys, I’m home!’ a voice called.
‘Quick, that’s your dad. You should be in bed, get all your cars put away so he can take you up.’
‘Dad!’ Owen shouted into the air as he stood up, completely ignoring the toys. The man came bounding into the room, draped his coat over the sofa and picked up our son.
‘It’s past your bedtime, mate!’ he smiled as he hugged the boy he now held in his arms. ‘Shall I take you up?’
Owen nodded. My husband leant down and dipped the boy aside so he could kiss me, then the two disappeared upstairs, leaving me to start dropping tiny emergency vehicles into the plastic box they called home.
He’s a pretty good dad, I thought to myself, but he doesn’t know anything about Cat's Cradle, or dinosaurs, and he definitely doesn’t smell like ice-cream.