Sunday, 13 March 2011

Happiness is....

So it turns out that young, married, childless couples are happiest. I don't get it myself, how could anyone not see a day spent with small children as the ultimate in adult fulfilment?

Who doesn't want to be woken up by two small boys charging into their bedroom at a most unsociable hour screaming: "Mummy, daddy, [insert name of relevant brother] is being mean to me". Swiftly followed by a heated denial from accused sibling, followed by noisy sobs from both boys.

As we pull the duvet tight around our ears in a vain attempt to drown out the noise and hold on to slumber for a few more precious moments, up the stairs float forlorn cries of "Mummy. Daddy. Cheeha", signalling the awakening of the twins and the subsequent awakening of their bellies and thus increasinly hysterical demands for breakfast (in otherwords Cheeha, which is toddler for Cheerios).

Up we haul ourselves, fingers crossed not too hungover from having drowned our parental sorrows the night before. Downstairs to deal with the war zone that is breakfast. Four locusts descend and make short work of toast, cereal, milk, juice and anything else they can get their claws into, leaving nothing but the husks of their repast scattered liberally around the dining room.

As they trail around the house, spreading more crumbs and making continual demands for yet more food and drink, we unload and load the dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer, and make a stab at pushing back the tide of mess that continually threatens to engulf the house. What's not to love about this picture of domestic bliss?

Then it's out with the bullhorn to give the older boys a subtle hint that it's almost lunchtime so perhaps they should get dressed. We know we should have started this process earlier as for some mysterious reason it seems to take small boys approximately two hours to pull on socks, pants, T-shirt, jumper and jeans - a process that we parents have pared down to mere seconds by now.

As we snap at the heels of the older boys to hurry up, we are simultaneously rounding up the toddling twins and holding them down to change nappies and put on their clothes. This is faster than getting the big boys dressed because we are in charge, always assuming there hasn't been a tidal wave of poo produced as a result of their prodigious breakfast.

So now it's at least 1pm and therefore feeding time at the zoo yet again. We cannot face the Sisyphean task of feeding and clearing up quite so soon after the last time, so we decide to brave a restaurant. Now I love eating out, because someone else has to cook, serve and get on their knees to scrape up the filth splattered about by the children, but I will admit that it is no longer the indulgent, relaxing pursuit it once was.

Instead of sitting pondering the menu, nibbling on olives, taking our time over our meals and enjoying a glass or two of wine, and then perhaps dessert and a coffee. Now we are under starters orders from the moment we enter the restaurant as we know we have a half hour window to stuff food down all of us before the troops get restless.

Us adults just pick the first thing they like the sound of while making the tricky choice of which of the dishes on the usually highly unimaginative children's menu is least likely to be met with disgust by the boys. Then we grab the first passing waiter, gabble out our order and beg him to hurry. All the while desperately attempting to keep all knives, breakables and salt and pepper shakers out of reach of the twins.

Our food arrives and goes cold as we variously chop up and distribute the children's food, and then do our best to persuade twin one that it is unlikely to kill him, so could he perhaps stop screaming for a moment and give it a try.

I would love to neck down an entire carafe of wine to bathe this whole affair in a more fuzzy and attractive light, but I know that being mildly pissed and a mother is a dangerous, if tempting, mix. Instead I stick to fizzy water, which the boys constantly purloin to make their apple juice bubbly and spill all over the table cloth.

Time is abruptly up and the twins began to querulously demand: "Hout, hout", which means they want out and once they have escaped the confines of their high chairs, no one is safe. Chairs will be dragged around, cutlery snatched from neighbouring tables and woe betide and glassware that comes within reach. It is our cue to demand the bill post haste and beat a speedy retreat.

Naturally it is raining so we can't let our dogs, oh sorry boys, loose in the park. Instead weakened by the best part of a day spent in their company, we give into the boys wheedling demands to visit a toy shop. A serious error in judgement.

Toy shops are the inner circle of hell. As I explained to my boys, I like watching them deliberate over which plastic piece of crap they want to bring home to instantly lose interest in, about as much as they would like spending time with me in a clothes shop watching me umm and ahhh as I choose the perfect outfit. Reluctantly I conclude that at 39 years of age it would be inappropriate for me to express my boredom by lying on the floor and crying, but I am sorely tempted.

At last we leave, and for a few blissful moments they fall asleep in the car. We can chat without constant interruption, and we can listen to the radio without them asking what the title of every bloody song is. Thank God for Google is all I can say, or else they would think every tune ever written was snappily titled "I don't know".

Peace is shattered when we arrive home and guess what? It's time to feed them again. As I make sandwiches with four different fillings and milk with four different flavours, my husband unloads the dishwasher. As he tidies up the debris a few moments later I deal with the umpteen wash of the day as they decide to play football in the kitchen.

The only consolation is that it is almost bedtime and, after an arduous round of baths, pyjamaing, stories, cajoling to brush teeth, they will all, eventually, fall asleep. For a few brief hours it will be as if we don't have children, and we can get a taste of the happiness of a young, childless, couple, before they all wake up again.


  1. Yes funny that... who would have thought that couple with no children would be happiest.... not exactly rocket science!! More money to spend on yourself, no early morning wake up calls, no arguing....bliss.Although my 2 boys are 10 and 12 I now find I have to add 'Taxi service' to the list of ever growing and ever annoying duties. Sooo planning on getting my own back when I'm old, grey, and incontinent and staying at their house!!

  2. Ahh yes, life would be so much easier....
    but would we really trade it? x