“If Dad gets Coronavirus he’ll probably die because he’s got mental health issues,” DS1 informed the wife.

“People with mental health issues aren’t going to be affected any more than anyone else by Coronavirus,” she explained. “It’s people with asthma and high blood pressure, like me, that will have issues.”

“But it’s an underlying weakness that makes you more vulnerable,” DS1 persisted.

Get my packs packed, love, the Grim Reaper is on his way over.

With the virus and its implications the talk of the day, week and month, DS1 is all over it. Chatting about it constantly. But, rather than being afraid of Covid-19, he is embracing it fully.

“I wish I could get it,” he confided. “Then I could stay at home and play Xbox all day.”

That’s the spirit. We’re all in this together.

Short notice

Last weekend, DS1’s friend Joanne was coming over for the afternoon and a sleepover, while the wife went to a gig with Joanne’s parents (you know, when you used to be able to do that sort of thing).

He seemed excited by the prospect and raced upstairs to get dressed when I reminded him that she would be here in half-an-hour.

But once she’d arrived, he began to act up – crawling around the floor, making funny noises. 

Joanne is well aware of his strange ways, so I suggested she give him a bit of space until he settled down. With Joanne out of the way, I tried to fathom out what was going on in the boy’s head.

“You didn’t tell me she was coming round,” he volunteered.

“We did.”

“Yes, but only yesterday.”

True, we had been a bit unprepared on that front. But, he’s known Joanne since he was born. It didn’t occur to us that it would be a problem. She often comes round at the drop of a hat and it’s never been an issue before. But, this time, he was all over the place.

I suggested that the two of them went to town armed with some of my hard-earned to buy some goodies. Normally, DS1 jumps at this when Joanne is over – a chance to break free, and buy some Match Attax and a sausage roll, while having the security blanket of his friend to do all the talking.

But he refused to go. “I’m not going,” he affirmed. 

He wanted to stay at home to get his head right. This was good – he was experiencing high anxiety, but he realised it and was dealing with it – self–isolating before his time.

Joanne headed off to town on her own, soon returning with a make-your own volcano kit and some mini eggs. Money well spent.

This seemed to do the trick, though. DS1 came out of himself and the two of them set to work, making a mess of the dining room and the kitchen. And using up our entire supply of vinegar.

But eruptions over and eggs consumed, he reverted back to how he’d been when she arrived – crawling around and making strange noises. Joanne retreated to the sofa to play on her phone, leaving him to get over himself.

He came into my study, doing everything in his power to irritate me – prodding my keyboard, opening draws and general annoyance tactics – and whimpering.

“Look,” I said, in my firm voice. “Go and be with your friend.”

“But she doesn’t want to do anything.”

“How do you know, you won’t talk to her.”

“She’s just sitting on the sofa playing on her phone.”

“That’s because she’s giving you some space until you’re ready to interact with her.”

“It’s not.”

“Why don’t you ask her if she wants to play football?”

“She doesn’t like football.”

“She does, she plays at school.”

“She won’t want to.”

“How do you know?” I was fighting a losing battle. “What about Xbox? You could play Minecraft together.”

“She doesn’t want to. She just wants to be on her phone.”

“How do you know? Ask her. If you don’t want to ask, just go and switch the Xbox on and set the game up. She’ll see what you’re doing and join in. And if she doesn’t want to play, you still can.”

“I want to do something with her.”

“Well, ask her then.”

“But she’s just on her phone.”

“That’s because she’s giving you some space!” I may have said quite loudly.

“Fine.” He sloped off.

I left it about 10 minutes, then popped my head around the lounge door to see how things were going.

Joanne was sat on the sofa on her phone. DS1 was curled up on the chair at some strange angle, doing nothing.

“Are you not playing Minecraft?”

“She doesn’t want to.”

“Have you asked her?”

“No,” piped up Joanne.

“You haven’t even switched the Xbox on. How would she know that’s what you want to do?”

“She’s just on her phone.”

“Because she’s waiting for you…” I was going around in circles here.

Not exorcising his demons

I left them to sort it out between them before I said something I’d regret. A few minutes later I heard the back door slam. I looked out of the window and saw them in the garden playing football.

Phew, I thought. But not for long. They were soon back inside. DS1 quickly returned to my study – with his irritating head on. 

I dragged him back downstairs to bang their heads together, metaphorically. Although physically was tempting.

“I didn’t want to play football,” said Joanne, when I asked what had happened. “But I’ll play Xbox.”

OK, good. A solution. “There you go [DS1}. Put the Xbox on.” I left them to it again.

But the Xbox remained off. Instead, they relocated to the dining room, where they started playing Minecraft together on their phones. Strange, but whatever. If they were playing together, I was a happy man. All was fun and laughter – well, not quite, but it was definitely better than it had been.

Teatime approached. It being Saturday, that meant sausage surprise. DS1 has now become quite adept at making it himself – apart from the chopping the pepper and boiling water for the pasta part. And, today, even stirring it in the pan was delegated to me – Minecraft was on the agenda. 

Given where we’d been, I allowed him to be slack with his cooking duties. But, when he came into the kitchen to check how I was getting on and found me laying the table, he hit the roof.

“I do that,” he stormed, snatching the knives and forks out of my hands and putting them back in the draw. He then returned the plates to the cupboard.

“Why…” I started to ask. Then thought better of it.

Having returned everything from whence it came, he proceeded to take them back out again and put them back on the table. 

I just shook my head in disbelief.

“Can I watch Saturday Night Takeaway?” asked Joanne, after tea was devoured. “I need to see if I’ve won a competition.”

“Sure.”

It’s not something DS1 watches, but I suggested that it could be on in the background while they carried on playing Minecraft.

“But I want to watch Demon Headmaster,” whined DS1.

“OK, so let Joanne watch Takeaway and then when that’s over you can put Demon Headmaster on.”

The boy smiled in agreement. All appeared good in the hood.

An hour later DS1 crawled up to me. “Demon Headmaster,” he said.

“Has Takeaway finished?”

“Yes.”

“Well, put it on then.”

“But I can’t.”

“Why?”

He averted his eyes.

“Is it because Joanne’s there?” I deduced.

“Yes.”

“She won’t mind.” 

But he clearly did. He just couldn’t put it on while she was there.

Why?  Who knows? Not me, for sure. Not even him, probably.

Gremlins in my mine-d

I awoke the next morning to find the two of them back on that Minecraft.

I jokingly said: “Have you two been up since 3am playing that?”

“Yes,” replied Joanne. “I couldn’t sleep.”

Seeing the look of horror on my face, she added: “But I didn’t wake [DS1] up.”

That’s something at least.

I just had to hang in there for another hour and then Joanne’s mother would come to pick up her insomniac child. Then, maybe the boy’s anxiety would subside and he could find a way to relax for the rest of the day.

While I was contemplating some peace and quiet, shouting emanated from the dining room.

“Stop it!” screamed Joanne.

“But you’re killing my gremlins,” DS1 wailed.

“I have to.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Owwwww. Stop hitting me,” wailed Joanne, running downstairs; tears flooding down her face.

“What was that for?” I asked my errant child.

“She was killing my gremlins.”

“Yes, but you don’t hit someone because you don’t agree with them,” I said, using my outstanding knowledge of moral values.

As I cuddled the boy on the stairs, trying to calm him down and find out what was really going on in that head of his, the doorbell rang.

It was Joanne’s mum.

“Oh, not good timing,” she said as she saw us entwined on the floor.

“Perfect timing,” I replied.

Seeing the need to invoke a hasty exit strategy, she gathered up Joanne and her belongings.

“Good riddance,” DS1 shouted as they departed.

Now, here were some underlying issues creating vulnerability if ever I saw them.

To be continued….

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