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Friday, 22 September 2006

life: get one


The doorbell rang at 7.30 last night, and I could see two neon green vests through the obscured glass panels next to our door. I figured that it was either the police or construction workers, or perhaps other members of the Village People. Two policemen walked in and asked if we have children, and if so how many and their ages. Two thoughts crossed my mind: they are doing some sort of neighbourhood census at a weird time of day or there is some lunatic on the loose and they are going to warn me to lock all the doors and windows. Paul came down the stairs with Jack in his arms, pointing out that this is our one child who is 19 months of age. The policeman asked if Jack had been crying lately as a neighbour rang the police because they were "concerned" about Jack's crying.

No, seriously.

Luckily, one of the policemen had a 19-month-old daughter himself and after taking one look at Jack, knew immediately there was nothing sinister going on in our house. (Apart from that sweatshop we've got in the loft, but who can resist the large cash bonuses from Nike? Oh, and that small child we keep up the chimney. But I digress.) We had a chat about grumpy nights and teething, and he rang his wife to ask which type of teething medicine they used. They left with a "no harm done" farewell, and said that they wouldn't even file a report. It was all rather jolly and civil, but I was seething. What idiot would ring the police for this? Jack cried mostly in the evening. If he did cry in the middle of the night, Paul went into his room to calm him down and even spent one night sleeping next to him. Granted, his cries probably pierced all houses within a 10 mile radius and it's been warm so we've had the windows open, but why on earth would you suspect the worst based on a couple of sporadic crying episodes?

It made me feel sick to know that someone in our neighbourhood thinks we're abusing our son. Considering what we've been through lately and knowing how much more my son means to me now, the accusation is maddening.

I fantasize that the telephone conversation went something like this.
Operator: "Huntingdonshire police, how may I help?"
Concerned Citizen: "A child has been crying really, really loudly in my neighbourhood lately and I'm concerned for its wellbeing."
O: "Right, how long has this been going on?"
CC: "Two nights."
O: "And for how long? All day and night?"
CC: "All night. Well, part of the night. Maybe just the evening. Off and on."
O: "And could you hear any other noises like shouting or anything else out of the ordinary?"
CC: "No, just crying."
O: "How long have you lived in the area?"
CC: "Several years."
O: "Have you heard crying from this house before?"
CC: "Erm...no. Not really."
O: "So basically, you heard the sounds of a small child crying a few times over the past two days or so in the evening. Nothing else?"
CC: "No."
O: [makes little circular "cuckoo" motions with her finger and rolls eyes at colleagues] "Okay, we'll send someone out to investigate."

I am certain that the person who made the complaint is not a parent, has no common sense, and has a lot of free time on their hands. Either that, or it was someone on shift work getting pissed off with hearing my son scream his lungs out when s/he was trying to get a bit of sleep and called the police "concerned". Whatever the motive, it really saddens me that people are this paranoid these days. Have you not seen a toddler throw a tantrum at the supermarket and heard the ensuing screeches?

I'm tempted to push Jack around the neighbourhood in a ratty stroller, wearing nothing but a stained dressing gown, fuzzy slippers, and with a cigarette dangling from the corner of my mouth. Perhaps I'll place a bottle in a brown paper bag in Jack's lap. That'll give the neighbour something to talk about.

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