There is a proverb about not counting your chickens before they are hatched.
I did this dear people. I was a fule to myself.
Last night, when the children were tired and scratchy, and so was I, we consoled ourselves with talking about the fact that it was the weekend now. Because daddy is away scamping we do not have to get up and go house hunting. Tilly is also away, and it is just me and the littlies, all snug in our nice warm house. We talked about how tired we were, and how brilliant it was that we could have a lie in, and that when we did get up we could mooch around in our pyjamas, and suit ourselves, and do what we wanted.
We all agreed that it would be bliss.
I believed my own PR there, which was a mistake.
Usually I get up at 6.45. Today I woke up at 8.30. You would think this was a lie in.
Technically it is.
But over the years of parenting I have come to understand a lot more about sleep and its various qualities. You think quite a lot about the things you are deprived of. You analyse and fantasise and become an utter bore on the subject. Especially when you start to dribble.
The best sleep in the world is that which is a) uninterrupted for its duration and b) eased out of in a soothing, gentle fashion not dictated by alarm clocks, small children or sudden noises. Both these things have to be present for a true lie in to have been achieved.
I got the uninterrupted bit, although my dreams are rather vivid and demanding at the moment, so I cannot say that sleep is refreshing at all.
I did not get the gently floating awake, having a bit of a snooze when you realise you don’t have to get up, having a bit of a stretch and generally luxuriating because you are in bed when really you shouldn’t be thing.
Mostly I was woken by lots of doors downstairs banging, and feet scampering back and forth, and some loud shushing noises.
Small children, I have come to learn, are a lot like very drunk people when they are trying to be extra quiet. It is endearing and yet supremely annoying. This is mainly because you appreciate the effort they are making, but really you want to kill them, but you can’t, because they are essentially harmless, and they are doing their best.
I hate that.
I got up. There was no chance I was going back to sleep, and I had a headache from where I had been grinding my teeth in the night dreaming about plumbing in a house we had bought (in my dream. We are still in a state of extreme houselessness in reality).
Once downstairs I sorted out the cat’s litter tray, which she had done a wee in. The cat is a very enthusiastic litter tray user. She is very fastidious and will not go anywhere else in the house, which is wonderful, but she is so fastidious that she abhors her own waste as much as we do. This means that the litter tray must be thoroughly excavated when she has to use it, so that the evidence cannot be seen, even from space. There is a great deal of digging, and pawing, and scratching and mewling involved.
This means that the floor for twenty miles around is generally covered in litter, unless I can reach her before that stage, in which case she gets unceremoniously turfed out of the tray as fast as possible.
Naturally, this morning, she had dug through to the Antipodes, and the kitchen floor crunched underfoot.
I swept and scrubbed and emptied.
Then came the children: ‘Crash! Bang! Smash! Thump!’
Like an extra loud episode of Batman: ‘Kapow!’
Just to tell me that one of them had wet in the night and they had stripped the sheets for me, and here they were and wasn’t that brilliant of them?
And yes, it was brilliant of them, and they were very kind.
But nobody with a headache who has been treading on cat litter wants to have a load of wee soaked sheets thrust at them before the kettle has even started boiling.
I smiled graciously, through gritted teeth and commended their boy scout like do goodingness.
I emptied the washing machine and hung out the wet washing.
I refilled the washing machine.
The kettle still wasn’t on.
My head went: ‘poundy poundy poundy’.
I put the kettle on.
I located pain killers.
Tallulah had run out of brioche. She thought there might be some in the freezer in the garage. Would I go and look?
There were no brioche in the garage, but the floor was extra icy cold just to really wake me up.
She had Shreddies instead. The box was empty. Could she keep the box as she wanted to make a robot?
I said yes.
Oscar came bursting in: ‘Smash! Crash! Biff!’
Could he have the Shreddie box?
No. Tallulah has already asked for it.
Pout. Sniff. Looks tragic. This is THE only Shreddie box in the world. EVAH.
I promise him the next Shreddie box.
He has Shreddies for breakfast. Huge, vast lakes of Shreddies.
I say: ‘You are not eating an entire box of Shreddies just so that you can use the box.’
Pout. Flail. Sniff. WOUNDED FACE. I HATE YOU. ETC.
Tallulah comes bounding in. She has made a puppet theatre out of a box. Would Oscar like to do a puppet show with her.
They wander out and start rehearsals in the toy room. The rehearsals are loud.
They crash back into the kitchen: ‘We are rehearsing in SECRET. It is a SURPRISE. For you.’
My heart sinks.
I sit them down. I say: ‘I am very, very flattered that you are doing a puppet show for me. I think you are very creative, and very clever, and I am impressed at the fact that you are so generous. BUT. It is half past nine on Saturday morning and so far all I have done are jobs and jobs and jobs. I have a headache. I would like to sit down with my breakfast and my lovely, lovely computer for a while. I do not want to go to a puppet show at this time in the morning.’
Their faces fall. I have stabbed a small, three legged puppy with one eye in front of them. They will never recover.
I say: ‘I would love to come to your puppet show, but later on if that’s O.K.?’
Clearly that is not O.K. Later on is in a million, squillion years. They might be dead by then.
I explain about how we had said that wouldn’t it be lovely on Saturday morning if we could do what we wanted, and we didn’t have to do anything, and it would be lovely and relaxing?
They nod: ‘We are doing that.’
I say: ‘I know you are, which is wonderful. But I am not. And I am getting all churny inside and feeling quite shouty, and rather like a pressure cooker which might explode, and I do not want to explode because you are delightful really. So please could you go away and find something to do so that mama can not explode for a bit?’
They nod and go away.
I sit down and drink coffee, and eat pills and try to think soothing thoughts.
I feel guilty that I have told them that I want time for myself. Even though it is a Good Thing that I get time for myself, because it will stop me from shouting at them. The dichotomy of parenting is the endless guilty internal tug of war. Bah!
I muse on this for about thirty seconds before:
They thunder downstairs like elephants. BAM BAM BAM.
They come to my desk, like sacrificial victims approaching the altar. I feel very, very bad. They clearly think I am about to crack up. It is usually at about this time that one of them hands me a tissue and the other hands me a glass of water. This is their failsafe; ‘mama is having a breakdown’ repair kit.
Instead they thrust two clip frames at me. They have made me some pictures and adorned the frames with ‘real plastic crystals’. There is a pencil drawing of Patrick from Spongebob Square Pants from Tallulah, and a colourful abstract from Oscar.
This is the peace offering.
I am touched. I say thank you. I comment upon how lovely the work is, and how bejewelled the frames are.
They take this as a sign that all is well between us, and that this now means they can carry on exactly where they left off twenty minutes ago.
They have got me just where they want me.
I have failed to read the signs right. I put the frames to one side and stare into the bottom of my coffee cup.
They bound back into the room like Tiggers on springs.
They say: ‘Can we go into the garage and go through all the recycling because we are making bouquets for granny and grandad, and we need wrapping paper and cardboard and string.’
I shout: ‘NO! NO! YOU ABSOBLOODYLUTELY CANNOT! WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? NORMALLY YOU SPEND SATURDAY MORNINGS GLUED TO THE TELEVISION AND THE COMPUTER. NORMALLY YOU DO NOT WISH TO SPEAK TO ME FOR SEVERAL HOURS AT A TIME AND YOU HATE THE FACT THAT I COME IN AND MAKE YOU GET DRESSED AND TURN THE TELEVISION OFF. TODAY I AM NOT MAKING YOU GET DRESSED OR TURN THE TELEVISION OFF AND YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO ANYTHING THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE PARENTAL HELP. ARGHHH! ARGHHH! ARGHHH! YOU ARE DRIVING ME MAD. PLEASE GO AWAY.’
They slink off.
I feel terrible.
That was ten minutes ago.
Now the Ocado man has just arrived.
I must have done very, very bad things in a previous life. I am obviously paying for it in spades this morning.