Why Play-Doh is Like Kryptonite to Me

I didn’t have many dealings with Play-Doh as a child so when I did come into contact with it I regarded it as lurid, exotic substance. My grandmother owned a Play-Doh Mop Top Hair Shop, the mechanism of which allowed the operator to shove Play-Doh up through the follicles of plastic figurines with the intention of styling their newly-grown Play-Doh hair. It was rich in creative possibility. You could make your clientele look variously like a Vegas drag queen or a proto-hipster or a weirdly-coiffed tramp. It was brilliant.

So I was very enthusiastic when the Major expressed an interest in Play-Doh and slavered slightly as I prised open the lid of his first tub and reluctantly handed over the pristine lump. But it seems that in my old age I have become quite particular in the way I like Play-Doh to be handled. Because there is something about the sight of the Major mixing one colour in with another that strikes at my sense of what is right about this world.

Of course I would never seek to intervene with his artistic method so I have to watch on as the process is repeated again and again until all the original vivid hues have been replaced by a single greyish slurry-brown. Play-Doh also disintegrates into tiny flecks which are unnaturally resistant to hoovers and require cleaning up with a dustpan and brush, the least satisfying of all household chores. It’s basically multi-coloured gravel, only good for constructing wacky driveways. After only a few days of Play-Doh action each tub has a fraction of its initial wedge, containing something that resembles a prehistoric turd.

Regrettably both my sons have dabbled in clay in recent times. Clay is like some Play-Doh that’s let go of itself. If it had a personality it would be embittered. Embittered that it’s been taken out of its home in the ground and given over to the whim of small erratic children. It dries exceedingly quickly, turn one’s back for one second and a small pile of stones has appeared at the kitchen table. Clay leaves a powdery residue in its wake like a grainy snail and it also sucks the juice out of hands, rendering them shrivelled and lifeless.

For reasons best known to himself, the Minor decided to sample a morsel of clay, which compelled me to frantically examine the side of the pot to check if it was poisonous. It was at this point I shouted to my wife, “it’s okay, it’s only a choking hazard.”

Which is the best thing I can say about clay. It’s only a choking hazard.

Any good?

Handing Your Child Over to Near Strangers at Nursery is Difficult Obviously

There is a roundabout near where we live that has become a point of reckoning for the Major. Turn right at the roundabout and the road leads to his grandparents’ home: land of love, nurture and malted milk biscuits. Go in the opposite direction and there lies his nursery.

The Major is now intuitive to the significance of this intersection and his tension can be felt wafting through from the backseat as we approach. And when the car noses ominously to the left the screaming begins, underscored by the clacking beat of the indicator signal.

The first time I dropped the Major at nursery he protested in the most ferocious terms, unleashing a meltdown of terrifying intensity. At least I was terrified. The nursery staff presumably are battle-hardened to these kinds of explosions and his classmates only looked up briefly from their Rice Krispies before balefully chowing back down.

Each grim little finger had to be prised off individually by the nursery staff until the lapels of my coat were as shredded as my nerves. As I drove off I was filled with an onerous sense of having abandoned my own child, but consoled myself that the process would naturally become less taxing for all. But after two and half years it hasn’t.

Every time I leave him and escape from his room I can hear his yelps bouncing around the nursery corridors like a haunted mental asylum. His nurses have hit upon a tactic of carrying him to the nearest window to watch me walk to my car. I haven’t yet fathomed the reasoning behind this except to confirm to the Major that I am indeed deserting him and to confirm to me that the Major is still crying.

We introduced a reward scheme which incentivised the Major not to cry in return for Kinder Eggs. But this promise didn’t work. In fact the sight of Major sort of physically suppressing his tears down under his rib cage in a pitiful quest for chocolate even more upsetting. The Kinder Eggs went off a few months ago so obviously I had to eat them all, the small pile of unopened prize capsules a depressing visual reminder of the failed ruse.

Perversely the easier days are when the Major wakes up truculently and refuses to work with us on any level, requiring actual contorting into his clothes. On these mornings it’s a relief to hand him over, like passing on a peculiarly uncooperative relay baton.

In fairness to Major the nursery doesn’t offer an enticing proposition. It’s full of sad-eyed dolls and ancient fusty teddies. The walls are plain and often when the nurses are late switching on the energy-saving lightbulbs it more resembles a medieval dungeon. It’s regularly understaffed meaning that I’ve often presented the Major to a solitary harassed carer in the midst of a Rice Krispie distribution nightmare.

State of the art
State of the art doll technology

The nursery is owned by a holding company based in the US. A Google query reveals a very healthy share price, a nod to the fact that the Major’s caregivers are being run for profit and perhaps investment in the nursery isn’t as forthcoming as we’d like. It’s a concern that has been corroborated by a few of the less discrete nurses. There are no market forces at work here, no means of exercising consumer choice. We are beholden to our postcode; my wife looked at an alternative nursery nearby that boasted something called a dedicated sleeping room for babies, which turned out to be a cupboard.

We have removed the Major from his nursery. We are extremely fortunate to be able to fund a nanny for two days a week and a sainted granny who can pick up most of the slack in the mean time. We just have to find a nanny now, the mostly likely source currently is one dangling from an umbrella on the East Wind. I’m aware that this is an obnoxiously middle-class problem to have, but a problem nevertheless. And at least we’re turning right at the moment.

Any good?