Reasons to be Cheerful: The King And His Loyal Subjects
There’s a new ruler in James Brown’s household—and he’s thrown his food on the floor to prove it.
King of the Castle
My son Billy is a year old next month, which pretty much makes him the king of all he surveys. When he’s angry about something—a special person leaving the room, a settee that won’t move, an emerging tooth that hurts—hands rush to help him. When he wakes in the night, someone’s there to give him a bottle of milk. When he wakes in the morning, there are two adults already lying either side of him, and all he has to do is put his fingers in their mouths or grab their noses and they’ll smile and play with him.
When his nappy feels uncomfortable, someone will change it. When he decides he doesn’t fancy riding in the pram, he can go stiff-bodied enough to be transferred to the chest carrier. When he does decide to go in the pram, he’ll end the struggle with a knowing grin that tells the adults he’s ready to go outside now, as if there hasn’t been a stand-off at all.
From an early age, Billy has refused to lie down in his pram and instead insists on sitting up in it, pillows stuffed around him to give him a regal view of the pond, the tree, the sky and the park. The position is appropriate, as Billy is the King Baby and the world rightfully moves around him.
He has of late decided that the photographic books on the lowest book shelf are in the wrong order, and they would be better if he pulled them out one by one and left them in a pile for the adults to reposition in a more pleasing arrangement.
Having proven he’s capable of climbing all the stairs in the house on hand and knee while an adult courtier stands patiently behind him to prevent a fall, he’s now discovered his own special room in the palace— one with his name on the door, many cuddly animal subjects and a whole array of nice things to play with. He’s also, much to his delight, discovered that he’s capable of opening a drawer, if only to bring his wisdom to the inaccurate piling of his clothes (which he can help the adults address by pulling them out and dropping them all over the floor).
At the end of every day, Billy’s servants run him a bubble bath and he sits happily amidst it all, moving an array of brightly coloured floating objects around as he sees fit. And slapping the water until it hits everyone.
There is, of course, one forum in which Billy likes to put on a display of his omnipotence and that’s when he’s lowered into his special eating throne and pushed against the table. To the now-traditional accompaniment of The Jungle Book, Billy is proud to display his dictatorial state through the process of not eating.
While he’s served with bowl after bowl of toast fingers, strawberries, omelette and specially puréed Billyfood, squeezed from handy-sized sachets, he makes sure to lay down the law in the style to which he’s become accustomed. The young King will only eat when he feels it’s appropriate, and he’s trained his elders to sit with him and do his eating for him, as they pretend to put small plastic spoons full of warm food into their mouths.
Regardless of whether or not he liked the food the previous time he ate it, it’s up to Billy to decide if he puts it in his mouth. If it’s a “no”, he chillingly picks it up, holds it out to the side and drops it to the floor. Ruthless, merciless and thorough.
Once his arm has been outstretched the once, it’s highly likely this action will be repeated until the bowls are empty and have also been dispatched to the floor, so the adults know who’s in charge. He’s not happy until everything’s been swiped to the ground with a smile. For pudding, he’ll do his best to reach across the table to grab car keys, sunglasses or an inhaler.
Should the adults persevere with a new round of food or even pick up the debris from the mat beneath his throne, he’s now inclined to shake his head with a delightful smile on his face, communicating his intolerance of their misguided ambitions.
All this royal duty is carried out with an expression that wins him followers among all the people who arrive to bow beneath him. When he’s not being presented to gift-bearing dignitaries, he also has the benefit of being shown endless photographs and videos of himself —sometimes soundtracked to a pleasant song.
His immediate attendants have shown no sign of reducing their attentions, despite not having slept properly for a year, and he’s now also receiving extra time with grandma, which has allowed him to move into the utterance of new sounds beyond the simple “daa-dee”—which seems to amuse them so much.
The talk around the court is that his Royal Highness will soon be moving to a new wing of the palace called “his own room”, and that the senior courtiers will soon be allowed to “sleep all night again”. The latest royal notices in Reader’s Digest suggest King Billy’s parents are indeed “cheerful”.
James Brown, founder of Loaded magazine now edits Sabotage Times—an online magazine with the motto: "We can't concentrate, why should you?" Since November 2010 James has written over 50 of his popular monthly Reasons To Be Cheerful column in Reader’s Digest, you can read more by clicking here.