This weekend we are play parents. We have borrowed a two-year old neighbour kid while the parents are off on a trip with their older boy who has been in a bit of trouble with the law. Nine, and already a hardened criminal.

Actually the boy was caught shop-lifting, and as the modern parents they are, they’re doing ‘an intervention’, which means running around screaming “what did we do wrong?” and then taking the boy on a trip to compensate for any perceived neglect they may have done. Since we sometimes babysit for them, they apparently trust us enough to leave the other child with us. Well, that and the fact that Mark and the father grew up here on the street with just a few years apart between them.

The two-year-old has been absolutely delightful, and it has meant that Mark has spent most of the day on the floor with a collection of different toys. Toy cars, Lego, whatever. I really have to watch my step, or I’ll trod on some sharp bit of plastic plaything. Unless the dogs eat them first, because Watson has played a game where he runs up and steals something. Then Mark and the toddler has run after trying to catch him to get the piece back. Lady looks on in befuddled bemusement. George the Cat keeps on observing and coolly plotting. Both Mark and the child were absolutely exhausted, and are sleeping the day’s adventures off now.

Of course, The Subject came up again about us having children one day. Mark really wants to be a parent, one day, not now, but one day. I am more cautious and dithering. To be more precise, I think I’d want one. Mark wants a football team. I think I’d want one in ten years. Or fifteen. Mark says he wants our first after we get our degrees.

Of course, since this boy has a sunny disposition – so far – and haven’t kept us up all night with screaming and that, it makes it possible for us to be like magazine-cover gay parents with a well-behaved child between us. When we took the boy out for a walk in his pram, it almost felt like we already were, and I liked the feeling of us being parents. I could see us being pretty good at it.

Naturally, if our nine-year-old was caught shop lifting we’d also probably run around and shout about what we had done, and we would possibly try to bribe the little delinquent with a trip, fun, and attention. I mean, instead of giving the kid a smack on the ear, and tell him never to do anything so stupid again, or else…

The true parents will return tomorrow, and we will have to hand the toddler back. I could get used to sitting up at three in the morning and stare at a sleeping child across the bedroom, hoping he doesn’t wake and start screaming. Or I could stop the attempts to write the next Harry Potter and get some sleep.

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