Written by Mark Parry
A is for…Adder.
You probably think the adder is the snake to avoid in the UK – Britain’s only venomous serpent. But there’s one a whole lot scarier.
“I’ve done a snake poo!” shouts Hugo.
Nothing makes him prouder than announcing those five words.
“Look at it, Daddy,” he demands. “Look at it. It looks like a brown snake!”
“Now, you need to wipe my bum, Daddy. Okay?”
Sometimes, it’s a real privilege to be a parent.
B is for…Baddies.
A police car whizzes past with sirens blaring.
“Daddy, I think they’re going to catch a baddy and put him in jail,” he says excitedly.
“Ooh, I expect so, yeah,” I reply.
“Who told baddies to be baddies?” he asks.
There’s a short silence while I try to think of what to say.
“I think it was their mummies,” he decides.
C is for…constructions.
He’s adamant that nothing, ever, should or could be built without firstly consulting the ‘constructions’.
“But they tell us what to do, Daddy,” he says. “You need to follow the numbers and the pictures on the constructions otherwise we’ll build it wrong and, knowing you, it’ll probably fall down.”
D is for…diplodocus.
He can’t remember where he left the remote control, he can’t remember where he’s hidden Mummy’s slipper and he never remembers to be quiet when his little brother is sleeping – and yet, somehow, he has an incredible memory for anything from 200 million years ago. Whether he’s swishing you with his mighty Diplodocus tail, horning you with his Triceratops horns or eating you all up like a hungry T-Rex, every day is a battle to survive the physical onslaught from the prehistoric creatures that lurk around every corner of our house.
E is for…England footballer.
I did dream that my little boy would grow up to play for England – to lift the World Cup and become a football legend. I’m not sure that dream is going to become a reality.
Every Sunday morning, Hugo plays football. The match kicks off and within 30 seconds, with the game going on around him, Hugo is battling an invisible ninja nemesis – a judo chop, a karate kick and, to finish, a punch to his imaginary opponent’s midriff. He looks over to his father for acknowledgement of this tremendous knockout blow.
“Hugo!” I shout from the sidelines. “Concentrate on the game!”
He smiles, nods, and gives me a big thumbs up.
But after a brief stint of chasing the ball, he stops dead in his tracks and looks skyward. He then starts to chuckle and point up to the roof of the sports hall. Soon, he is joined by Daniel – another 4-year-old who will never play football for his country. Together, with the game still in full flow, they stand statue-still pointing up at the ceiling. A goal goes in at one end and an equaliser at the other – but Hugo and Daniel are oblivious. It transpires that on the skylight stands a seagull. A seagull on a skylight is enough to distract my future England international son.
F is for…Firebomb night.
I like to think it was a simple mix up rather than anything more sinister when he revealed he was really looking forward to going to ‘Firebomb Night’ this November.
G is for…George.
‘What is it about Curious George?’ I ask myself.
Why does Hugo love this little animated American monkey so much? He could sit for hours watching the cartoon capers of ‘Georgie’, as he calls him, and the Man with the Yellow Hat.
But then I think about George’s curiosity, how he causes unintentional problems, clowns around and is forever getting into mischief.
It all sounds very familiar.
I imagine George is a big fan of snake poos, too.
H is for…Hugo.
“Hugo, be gentle!”
“Hugo, can you please make sure you wee INTO the toilet next time!”
“Hugo, please stop licking my face!”
“Hugo, what’ve you done with my phone?”
“Hugo, don’t eat that, it’s alive!”
“Hugo, I don’t think Orson likes that!”
“Hugo, let go of that cat!”
“Hugo, get down off there!”
“Hugo, do you have to make so much noise!”
“Hugo, leave that seagull alone!”
Actually, feel a little sorry for Hugo.
I is for…Iron Man.
It’s 7.05am in Brighton. Hugo is up, showered and carefully selecting which unlucky fly (aka raisin) will be scooped out of his porridge next and shoveled into his mouth. I’m standing ironing my only clean shirt.
“Daddy, I’m stronger than Superman AND Spiderman!” says Hugo.
“Oh really?” I reply.
“Yeah. I’m super-strong – even stronger than the Hulk.”
“Daddy, which superhero would you be?”
“Err… I’m not sure,” I say. “Who do you think I’d be?”
There’s a pause. A four-year-old deep in thought.
“You should be… Iron Man,” he declares.
“Iron Man, eh? That means I’ll be really strong too, with my Iron Man suit on!”
“No, Daddy. Not Iron Man,” says Hugo.
He proceeds to mimic an ironing action with his hand. He’s mocking me. My four-year-old son is doing an impression of me ironing my shirt.
“Ironing man…” he chuckles.
J is for…jam.
Our flight lands, the seatbelt signs go off, passengers rise en masse to grab belongings from the overhead lockers… and then, nothing for an age. Holiday-makers, businessmen and students are stacked up in the aisle waiting for the doors to open to disembark the aircraft.
“Look at all these stuck people,” remarks Hugo.
“They’re just standing there not moving – it’s like that traffic jam we were in last week.”
“Do you know what this is, Daddy?” he says. “This is a people jam.”
K is for…kaka.
Kaka is Swedish for cake. And Hugo, who is half Swedish, loves kaka – in fact, he loves cake in any language.
“Me and Mummy always share a slice,” he reveals. “Because if we eat a whole slice ourselves, we’ll get tjock,” he adds, puffing out his cheeks and pushing out his tummy.
“Tjock?” I reply
“Yeah, tjock. Tjock is Swedish for fat,” he explains.
“Actually, Daddy,” he says looking me up and down. “Have you been eating whole slices by yourself?”
L is for…love.
“I love you to bits, Daddy,” says Hugo, one evening.
“But, Daddy – what does ‘love you to bits’ actually mean?”
“Well,” I reply. “It just means you love every little bit of someone.”
“Oh,” he says.
“I love Mummy to bits, too.”
“That’s nice. She’d like to hear that from you,” I tell him.
“No,” he says smirking. “I mean I love her in bits. All chopped up.”
M is for…manbird.
Another Sunday morning spent on all fours in an East Sussex park amongst dandelions, dog poo and Snickers wrappers. We’re hunting for bugs – specifically, ladybirds.
“If mummy ladybirds are called ladybirds,” he ponders. “Are daddy ladybirds called manbirds?”
N is for…never on time.
We’re never on time for nursery in the morning. Never. Ever. It’s always a frantic, mad dash to get ready. I have a train to catch, but first I must deliver Hugo to nursery.
We’re in the hallway – his clothes are on (yes, he’s wearing a Captain America outfit but that was one battle I didn’t have time for). His shoes are on, his coat is on and I just need to grab my bag from upstairs.
“I need a poo,” declares Hugo.
“No,” I reply. “There’s not time. I need to catch my train. You’ll have to hold it in. You can go when you get to nursery.”
I sprint upstairs, grab my bag and come back down.
Then I notice a trail of clothing. His shoes. His trousers. His dinosaur pants. Even his Captain America cape – all on the floor.
I follow the trail – it leads to the bathroom. And there he is – completely naked, on the toilet, smiling.
Looks like I’ll be getting a later train.
O is for…owlette.
Hugo has, according to himself, better eyesight than Owlette. He’s stronger than Gekko and he’s faster than Catboy. He is, he believes, all three PJ Masks rolled into one. And we spend HOURS putting these claims to the test – we have strength-testing wrestling matches on the bed, we have speed-testing races down corridors narrowly avoiding collisions, and we are forever – and I mean forever – squatting on busy pavements, putting our eyesight to the test to find ants and determine what their name is, how old they are and who their favourite PJ Mask is.
P is for…pluto.
“Do you know what the solar system is, Hugo?” I ask him one morning as we’re walking to the park.
He gives me a look.
“I already know that, Daddo!” he snaps.
“I already know about the solar system and the universe and the planets and that we need to get a rocket to go into space and that the sun is 69-hundred times hotter than an oven and that Jupiter is the biggest planet and that there used to be nine planets but now there are only eight because Pluto is not a real planet any more it’s only a dwarf planet…”
“Do you want to go on the slide first?” I reply. “Or the swings?”
Q is for…question.
A recent study suggests the average four-year-old can ask as many as 80 questions a day.
“Why doesn’t Earth just float away into space and bash into the moon?” he asks.
“Do snails have names for each other?” he ponders.
“What is the sky made of?” he queries.
“Have you not heard of Google?” I want to ask, about 80 times a day.
R is for…rat.
“Have you ever seen a rat, Daddy?” asks Hugo.
“Yeah, we had rats in our flat once,” I reply.
“Huh? Did they live with you?” he asks, a little confused.
“Annoyingly, they just turned up one day,” I answer.
“You mean like Felix did?” he says, pointing to his little six-month-old brother.
S is for…salami.
“Daddy, when we go to America, will we see a salami?” asks Hugo.
“Err… I’m sure we can do,” I say. “I didn’t know you’d eaten salami before? Have you had some with Mummy?”
“No, Daddy… a salami,” he says. “Do you think we’ll see one at America? We’ve got a book at nursery about salamis and I think they are there.”
“Oh,” I reply, confused.
“Do they have them in America, Daddy? No or yes!” he demands.
“Have you ever seen a salami, Daddy?”
“Would it wash our house away or flood my bedroom?” he asks, growing concerned. “Do we get salamis in England?”
“Oh,” I reply. “Do you mean, like, a huge wave that comes from the sea?”
“Yes,” he replies.
“No, we don’t get them in England – and it’s actually called a tsunami,” I say.
“I know,” he replies. “That’s what I said – a salami!”
T is for…tadpole.
“I saw a dadpole yesterday,” says Hugo. “Jack says they turn into frogs – but they don’t look like frogs!”
“No they don’t – but a tadpole is a baby frog,” I confirm.
“Why are they called dadpoles if they’re babies?” he asks. “Shouldn’t they be called babypoles?”
“It’s actually tadpole not dadpole,” I tell him.
“Oh,” he replies, a little disappointed.
“Do dadpoles know they’re going to be a frog?” he asks.
“I’m not sure,” I reply.
“If I was a dadpole,” he says. “I’d turn into a crocodile instead.”
U is for…uh-oh.
Hearing ‘uh-oh’ from another room strikes fear into the heart of, I imagine, every parent in the land.
Has he accidentally spilt milk on the sofa again?
Has he accidentally ‘deaded’ another woodlouse?
Or has he accidentally knocked the laptop off the sofa again whilst attempting to forward roll from end of the couch to the other?
“Sorry, Daddy,” he says, as I enter the room. “I was just trying to do a loop-da-loop but then your pooter fell onto the floor.”
V is for…volcano.
Hugo loves volcanoes and our living room floor is, for most of the day, not a floor but a pool of molten lava. You can’t step on the lava – that’s the rule. Only lava monsters can step on the floor – and Hugo is, predictably, the only lava monster in the world. But just like a volcano, his temper is explosive. He can erupt at any moment – if his Babybel breaks in two, if the noise of a boiling kettle drowns out Curious George on the iPad or if you dare to correct his version of The Grand Old Duke of York (“When they were up, they were down, And when they were down, they were up”).
If he erupts, and you’re responsible, you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of one of his favourite and most emphatic phrases.
A stamp of the foot, a snort of the nose and two clenched fists are accompanied by the declaration: “I’m not going to be your friend EVER again!”
W is for…wasp.
“If I could be any insect,” reveals Hugo. “I’d be a wasp.”
“Yeah? Why’s that?” I ask.
“Because wasps like jam, and I like jam!”
X is for…X marks the spot.
“Shiver me timbers,” cries Hugo, as he marches into the living room.
“That’s what pirates say. But what do pirates do?” he asks.
“Well, we don’t really get pirates any more,” I reply.
“Why? Do we get treasure? I saw a treasure map in a book at nursery and, do you know, there was a big X on the map.”
“Yeah, pirates used to hunt for buried treasure and X would mark the spot the treasure was buried,” I tell him.
“But there’s a big X on that wall on the way to nursery,” he says excitedly. “Does that mean some treasure is buried there?”
“No, that’s just graffiti,” I say.
“Graffiti,” he says. “Is he a pirate?”
Y is for…You be a buffalo.
As you may have noticed, Hugo has a constant desire to showcase his strength, and his favourite stage for this is the king-size bed that sits in his mum and dad’s bedroom.
“Daddy, let’s wrestle!” he demands, as he bounds into the bedroom.
The thing is, he’s getting too big for this now. He’s only just turned four but he weighs 22kg. He’s a little bruiser and not even that little.
He’s now bouncing up and down on the bed, warming up.
“You be a buffalo and I’ll be a gorilla,” he says.
Five minutes later: “You be a T-Rex and I’ll be a Brachiosaurus.”
Once that bout has ended, it’s: “You be a rhino and I’ll be a lion.”
The only rule to this combat, I’ve discovered over the course of the last year, is that if Hugo doesn’t win within five seconds, there’s no more bounding, no more bouncing, just a glum 22kg gorilla, Brachiosaurus or lion sat sulking on the bed.
Z is for…zebra.
We’re walking back from a soft play session and reach a pedestrian crossing.
Hugo has a smile on his face. “Daddy, I know what a joke is!”
“Oh,” I reply, apprehensively. “Go on then…”
“Two donkeys are stood by the side of the road,” he says. “One donkey says to the other: Shall we cross? ‘No way’, says his friend. Did you not see what happened to the zebra?”
He may not have a career as a footballer, but maybe he can be a standup comic instead.