Counting on cunning - and a little help from Dad
"DAD,” said Miss7, sounding worried.
"Hmmm?” I replied, almost but not quite making eye contact.
Today we'd finally managed to meet up with the Barlow family, of Big Betty & The Barlows fame. Since we decided to do this little adventure of ours we've been stalking their page and drooling over their bus - a beautifully fitted-out double- decker number with a real homely feel. We'd been sitting on the grass with Bek and Karl for about an hour at this point, sipping coffee and sharing stories.
"Dad!” hissed Miss7, her tone demanding my attention.
"What?” I asked a little impatiently. I was enjoying chatting with people whose experiences I could totally relate to about things like your home not starting when you turn the key. "What's up?”
Even while she was talking to me her eyes were darting around behind me, as though searching for something. That something turned out to be Miss5.
"I can't find her!” she said, the worry in her voice increasing and engaging the interest of mine.
This is not the sort of thing you want to be told in a park full of other families. Especially when a quick mental check reveals you've been busy chatting for an hour and haven't seen your five-year-old for at least half of that.
"Right,” I said, reluctantly tearing myself away from the conversation to glance in the general direction of the play equipment.
Rather frustratingly, I couldn't see Miss5 anywhere.
"Bugger,” I said, grunting and groaning myself up off the grass. Tracey had taken the last thimble-bladdered kid to the loo so it was my turn to be the adult.
Ever hopeful I wouldn't have to do anything as drastic as walking, I had another gander, seeing if maybe the extra height provided to me by having my legs perpendicular to the grass instead of parallel might make a difference.
"Can you see her, Dad?” Miss7 asked anxiously.
Leaving Miss7, I started walking towards where I thought I saw her last, then remembered that was when Tracey took her to the loo, so completely unhelpful. Picking up the pace a bit as I continued to not find her, I headed past the flying fox, web climb and string of swings to the far end where the barbecue and tables were situated.
By this stage unpleasant scenarios resembling CSI episodes were running through my mind as I peered through the fence surrounding the playground and into the carpark and nearby ponds.
I called out Miss5's name and glanced around. Nothing.
I took in a deep breath as I felt the time was right to start some serious bellowing and drawing of attention to myself and my plight.
"Hello, Daddy,” came a familiar, carefree voice.
I spun around.
Miss5 was pushing through some trees and bushes to the path with one of her new Barlow friends.
"Where have you been?” I demanded.
"Hiding,” she admitted while her little buddy cheerfully nodded agreement.
"I was a bit worried,” I said in a way I hoped conveyed just how worried and inconvenienced I was, "because I didn't know where you were. No one did. Even your sister has been looking fo-”
And then, just as Miss7 and her triumphant grin came racing up the path to us, it hit me: I'd been played.
"Found you!” Miss7 screamed delightedly to the two little girls. "Your turn to count. Thank you, Dad.”
And then the little miss skipped off to hide.
Learn more about Bruce's efforts to raise his family on little more than laughs at bigfamilylittleincome.com