The mission: Child's play? No, not really.
Nicholas Barber tries to keep a six-year-old amused - for a whole afternoon
Saturday 01 May 1999
I should stress at this point that Josie is as bright, happy and well- behaved a child as you could ever hope to have dumped on you at a moment's notice. But she does have her limits and an afternoon's chatting is beyond her. I ransack the flat for amusements, but neither Pictionary nor poker seems appropriate, and I can tell after five minutes of rolling a tennis ball back and forth across the carpet that Josie's heart isn't really in it.
We set off for the children's playground. All of a sudden, I'm shaken by a nervous sense of unearned responsibility that I haven't experienced since a man in Corfu let me hire a moped with neither experience, driving licence nor helmet. "What happens if she gets broken," I wonder. I start to see every car and every dog as a potential threat.
Soon we're enjoying ourselves too much to worry. Josie's favourite game requires me to chase her around a climbing frame and then fall over, and I don't see why we can't continue in this only mildly painful manner for hours. Then, abruptly, we have to stop. Josie needs to go to the toilet. Now. If not before. She explains as coyly as she can that in similar emergencies, Mummy sometimes angles her over some bushes and lets her sprinkle. I explain as coyly as I can that that ain't going to happen, so she'd better hold on until we're back at the flat.
We make it in the nick of time. While Josie's in the bathroom, I sprint to the corner shop to buy some felt-tips and crayons. Josie is not as grateful as I'd hoped. "Why did you get those?" she enquires. It's the unmalicious innocence of the question that makes it so withering. Remembering how taken she was with Disney's Hercules cartoon, I try to interest her by sketching a square-jawed muscle-man wearing a skirt. Josie humours me. "Is it Daddy?" she asks. This is particularly hurtful, as Daddy is a bespectacled academic. I've never seen him in a skirt either, although of course I don't know everything he gets up to in his own home.
Still, the drawing reminds me that I've got a video of Disney's Robin Hood somewhere, which I was given for my 25th birthday. It seemed like a weird present at the time, but this afternoon it keeps Josie entertained until her parents return. I don't care if it's a cop-out. I just remember a verse from "Being A Dad" by Loudon Wainwright. "It's as hard as it looks, you've gotta read 'em dumb books, and you end up despising Walt Disney." Au contraire, Loudon. I don't know what I'd have done without him
Life & Style blogs
'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
MIT robots can now clear hurdles as they run
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
Reproduction: how much do you remember from your biology GCSE?
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
- 1 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 2 Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
- 5 Kate Moss on the naked Calvin Klein shoot and the obsession that ended her relationship
£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...
£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...