Breakfast is served. By which I mean three bowls are dumped on the table, sometimes accompanied by spoons. Loud references are made up the stairs to time, school and hurrying up. This is repeated.
Damn, my belt-tightening trip to Aldi has been busted. Harry, six, eyes his “cheerios” with suspicion. “They look like dog biscuits,” he says, before shoveling in a large spoonful.
“ Mmm, delicious”.
Kit, three, is working through his breakfast checklist. Critical factors include colour of bowl, position of banana in relation to Weetabix and volume of milk up the side of said Weetabix. A nervous pause. His lower lip is unjutted. Eating commences.
His twin, Alec, arrives head first down the stairs bellowing “hot milk!”, before clambering up onto his chair and falling off the other side.
The other two roar with laughter sending Alec into a fury. “Harry’s a wee wee poo poo head”, he explodes, unleashing the worst insult from his thankfully limited arsenal.
“Fart bum!”, replies his brother.
“Poo poo head!”
“That’s enough”, I mouth, inaudible above the exchange of toilet dredging.
Alec leaps down off his chair and aims a punch that lands on Harry’s knee. Harry swiftly returns one to his ear.
“That’s enough,” I repeat, aware that the volume has exceeded the recommended level for good parenting.
Quiet is temporarily restored. Alec returns to his chair rubbing his ear. Harry belatedly remembers to say ‘ouch’ and looks smug. I pretend I can’t hear the hissed ‘fart bums’ ricocheting across the table.
My husband comes in with his coffee, having abandoned his attempts to listen to the radio in the kitchen.
Alec rubs his ear again hopefully, this time with his Weetabix-coated spoon which drips a trail of slime down his nursery sweatshirt.
“Daddy’s the lemon!” he shouts, triggering the daily scramble to avoid being the last to finish. Kit begins whimpering at the mere thought of being today’s victim.
Harry is already down from the table and riding round the room on a fire engine designed for an 18-month-old. It is our most popular toy. Inexplicably its batteries are still in full working order. We finish our breakfasts to the sound of sirens wailing, accompanied by the odd ankle shunt. In other words, in relative peace.