I’m woken at six-thirty by Malina, nearly four, and her morning personality is that of a stage-one alcoholic in an enforced detox situation. Her mother is forcing her to wear a skirt for a performance at the kindergarten and she’s ranting away in Polish, the words flying around the room like wasps. Strange how they use their mother’s tongue when they’re angry, but revert to English when things are hunky dory.
‘Malina – can you give it a break?’ Without missing a beat she cuts from Polish to English –
‘I’m not Malina – I’m Roger – I’m not a girl, I’m a boy. I don’t want a skirt.’
Roger? What is this bullshit? But pre-seven am, pre-caffeine and I am the path of least resistance. I am the Zen flower floating on a river of chakras spray-painted by Yoko Ono.
‘I want to wear the orange pants,’ she says. The same pants she refused to wear yesterday and I had to enlist the help of a passing Policeman to get on her.
‘Please Roger – I’ll buy you chocolate.’
I check in with Lilly, five, prone to Norman Bates personality swings. This morning though, she’s being nice because the cosmic ju-ju laws of being a sister necessitate that if Malina is giving us blisters, she can only do the opposite. My PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE approaches me. Tired from the twenty-four hour duty she had yesterday and the mental strain of making sure I don’t buy any magic beans from men wearing wizard hats.
‘When do I’ve to be at the kindergarten?’ I ask.
She checks her phone – the Samsung Bible – ‘Ten-thirty. Don’t forget you’ve got your hospital appointment at eleven.’
I’ve a tiny mole on my leg and for the last month I’ve been running my PSW through a detailed analysis of every potential life-threatening condition I’m sure to have – skin cancer, lupus, spastic vascular syndrome, or combinations of all three. Now I’ve got to hope their isn’t a Communist-era queue snaking around the entire hospital and that the surgeon has a rudimentary grasp of English and a sufficient aura of authority to convince me that the mole is nothing more than an enlarged freckle.
I get a call from Warsaw Wyborcza asking if I’ll write a piece on Ireland voting Yes to same-sex marriages. I say Yes to writing about the Yes vote. I take out the rubbish. I hoover.
I cycle to the kindergarten just in time to catch Malina’s peformance. About two months ago, a supervising teacher recommended we take her to a child psychologist. This seemed ridiculous to me. She can be moody and difficult but she’s a kid. When we asked why Malina required specialist help, we were told it was because she sucks her fingers and is ‘withdrawn’. Hmm…
Part of me likes how the kindergarten is keeping an eye out for my girls, but another part of me wonders about people trying to justify their positions. When I think back to my school-days. Autism and ADHD weren’t part of anyone’s vocabulary and teachers had to work it out for themselves. I remember a boy called the Bubblegum Kid, on account of how he used to pick bubblegum off the street and eat it. He was always drawing dead sheep and because of this, or perhaps because he couldn’t spell words like ‘dead’ and ‘sheep’, the teacher made him stand against the wall balancing a bucket on his head.
I get on the bike, make the ten-minute dash to the other side of our neighbourhood.
‘I read your columns in the paper,’ the surgeon tells me. ‘My husband too.’
‘Glad to hear it. I hope you enjoy them.’ But she doesn’t tell me if she does or not. This is how it is here. Praise is a dish served in small portions. I show her my mole, my heart skittering like a cornered rat. She squints her eyes and dismisses it with a hand gesture as if to say, this is what your wasting both our time with? Go on, get out of here, you big goofball!
‘It’s okay?’ I ask, still not totally convinced.
‘It’s nothing. Come back in two weeks and we’ll cut it off.’
‘Just to make sure.’ Like Malina, who I’m sure is going through a typical phase, the mole is benign, but this is Poland – in a country that has been slapped by fate so many times, they don’t take chances. I go home. I write. I cook. I play with the girls. I go upstairs and fall into a dream.