Are we nearly there yet?

The countdown is almost over. Never mind the sleeps, there are only three more drop-offs to go until the summer holidays.

And while six weeks in each other’s company is not always the bliss I imagine, the relief of being released from the nagging, cajoling, comforting and threatening that is needed to drag the boys from their beds to the school gates on time each day is compensation enough.

It is only the knowledge that the term is almost over that prevents our already glacial journey grinding to a halt altogether.

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Hopping to school

Chief holiday cheerleader is Kit, five. Having finally woken, he opens both eyes and sits up.
“Is it the holidays yet?” he asks.

The answer, alas, sets off the first strop of the day.

Ignoring it, I get out his and Alec’s shirts which until a month or so ago had seemed white and rather smart but are suddenly grey, grubby and sporting a yellow sun cream tide around the neck. There is a brief locking of horns over who wears the Friday socks before a relatively civilised descent to the breakfast table where Harry, seven, is already eating his cornflakes.

While I fetch the Weetabix, Kit gets in a sneaky joke (in contravention of a Bomford HQ cardinal rule).

“Why did the cow cross the road?”

“Because it wants to go to the cinema?” asks Alec

“No. To go to the moo-vies,” says Kit

“That’s what I said!” shouts Alec.

Harry intervenes to try to explain, but Alec cuts him off.

“Oh, fine,” he huffs.

Sensing that the rules are up for renegotiation, Alec then starts to demonstrate the school’s Brazilian song that everyone has been learning for assembly. Rather than all sing together, Kit and Harry add their versions on top of Alec’s, each slightly out of time and, of course, tune.

Against this cacophony can be heard a little squeak. It is my voice. I go to the mirror and breathe on it to establish some proof of existence.

“Kit, you’re singing over me!” shrieks Alec, much to Kit’s amusement until he realises Harry is doing the same to him whereupon he shouts, “Stop Harry!,” before running from the room crying.

My husband sounds the 10 minute warning and the boys are herded upstairs to brush their teeth. I accompany them while he waits downstairs ready to slap on sun cream and shoes.

“Five minutes!” he bellows, two minutes later.

To say that the children respond to our order-barking would be an exaggeration. In fact, no one appears to have heard a word. The greater the urgency, it seems, the slower they become.

“Did you know that Minnie Mouse is a girl and Micky Mouse is a boy?” asks Kit between brushes, oblivious to the sound of pacing downstairs.

Alec has poked his toothbrush down the plughole and Harry is brushing his chin. My husband appears in the bathroom looking tense and ushers Kit towards the stairs.

A few seconds later I hear Kit say: “Halt. Password!”.

There is a pause as my husband tries to remember previous ones in order to open Kit’s ‘barrier’ and get down the stairs.

“Please can I get past?”

“No.”

“Kit is King,”

“No.”

“I don’t know. We really need to be putting shoes on now.”

“Just guess!”

“Alright. 1234?”

“No!”

I sense Kit’s barrier may get blown off its hinges shortly. Luckily Harry comes to the rescue.

“Click your fingers,” he shouts and my husband is allowed past. His tread sounds rather heavy on the stairs.

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Kit is unimpressed by the demands of the school run

Alec is missing. I find him in his bedroom sorting out his Pokemon cards.

“I can’t find my best card,” he says wobbily. This is clearly a problem that can’t be hurried.

“One minute!” shouts my husband from below.

Thanking the lord for the fact that none of my sons is capable of finding anything located more than two centimeters from where they are searching, the card is quickly retrieved from under a nearby pile of World Cup stickers.

We rush down the stairs and I try to jam on Alec’s school shoes – not easy as one sole is flapping. The front door is already open and Harry is standing outside.

“Look Mummy, look!” he yells. “I’ve found a crystal.”

“Look!”

“Mummy, look.”

“Mumm-eee!”

I finally get the shoes on and turn round.

“Actually, I think it’s more of a brick than a crystal,” he says, tossing it into the flowerbed.

Kit emerges from the kitchen clutching the packed lunches, prompting Alec to run crying into the dining room.

“It was my turn to carry the lunch bags,” he wails.

By now my husband is quite agitated. One minute is definitely up.

Kit is persuaded to give Alec the lunch bags and they head for the door, trying to trip each other up.

“OUT!” roars my husband, just as one of Harry’s classmates and his family walk past our front gate.

“Hi!” we beam in unison.

My husband hoists the school bags onto his shoulder and trudges off down the path. Squeals, laughter and the sound of a lunch bag being used as a football can be heard all along the road.

I close the door. Silence.

Only three more days to enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

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My dinnertime dictatorship

It is suppertime at Bomford HQ. The boys have shuffled, protesting, from the television to the dining room. I have broken the news. It is tuna curry.

“Yes! The best meal ever!” says Harry, six, in a surprise development.

Alec’s face crumples. “Pooiest meal in the whole wide world,” he says, climbing despondently onto his chair and assessing his plate.

Economical with his language, he glances over at his twin brother, Kit, four.

“Ugh, Kit?” he inquires.

For once, it is not a double ‘ugh’ as Kit is already tucking into his meal. Two out of three – not a bad strike rate.  We only have one meal that they will all happily eat and I save that for swimming night, for obvious reasons.

Alec, four, immediately leaps off his chair clutching his trousers. “Need a poo!” he splutters before sprinting from the room.

Kit’s fork clatters to the floor. It has gathered a shriveled raisin and a hair clump by the time I retrieve it from the far side of the room. Reluctantly I leave to fetch him a clean one. One potato, two potato…. three –

“Mummy! Kit threw his rice at me!”

“No!”

“You did!”

“Harry nappy baby bum!”

“Please be nice,” I shout pointlessly from the kitchen.

Next, the sound of a chair scraping the floor and rapid patter of footsteps. A wail.

“Mummy, Kit hit me!”

Oh to be Mr Tickle. With those extraordinarily long arms of his I could probably throttle both of them from where I stand.

There is a sound of muffled straining, a gush of water and Alec is back in our midst looking mournfully at his now congealed curry.

Alec before mealtimes got complicated

Alec before mealtimes got complicated

Welcome to my “nursery of democracy” as the family dinnertime was christened by a food writer recently. Yes, that cradle of civilization where my sons learn to socialise and together we develop our family culture while catching up on each other’s news. Presumably all while eating food topped with a smiley face fashioned from a couple of olives and an organic carrot.

In truth, our mealtimes owe more to North Korea than the free world.  Bribery, threats and blackmail are often employed simply to get the boys as far as the dining room table, let alone actually putting food in their mouths.

So while other households grapple articulately with the complexities of modern life over their spaghetti bolognese, my family is stuck in the starting blocks, barely able to transport fork to mouth or bum to seat without encouragement of an official nature. As dictator-in-chief, my job consists of blocking the exits, providing helpful reminders that food is often nicer when it’s hot and confiscating anything which could be fiddled with, broken or used as a weapon. If there is a lull in this role I then crack down on excessive table drumming (Harry), burping (Kit) and repetitive joke telling (Alec). I admit that this approach does not leave much room for discussions of a more philosophical nature, except perhaps to ponder on how quickly bedtime is approaching.

It is no doubt a relief to everyone when I finally leave the dining room, laden with half empty plates, the boys’ food intake quotas eventually met.

Harry follows me into the kitchen in an attempt to get first dibs on the Pretty Peachy yogurt, safe in the knowledge that once selected, both Alec and Kit will want it and therefore refuse to eat anything else.

I would point this out to him, but I am standing by the bin with most of Alec’s tuna curry in my mouth. I motion to him to return to his seat with less authority than I’d hoped for.

When I return to the dining room clutching an apple and some jaffa cakes, Alec’s face brightens.

“Best mummy ever!” he shouts.

“You don’t really know that for certain Alec, ” Harry cautions, sensibly.

“Mummy ever,” repeats Alec, defiantly. He senses there could be a jaffa-related bonus if this loyalty to the leader continues.

Kit’s apple is eaten and he is now dismantling his jaffa cake. Flakes of chocolate litter the floor until all that is left is the orange jelly in the palm of his hand. Finally and joyfully this is stuffed into his mouth.

“Can I get down?” shouts Harry from the lounge.

Dinner is officially over – it must be, the room is empty.

An hour later and I am switching off Harry’s bedroom light and heading down the stairs.

“Mummy?”

I emit a non-committal grunt.

“I’m huuungry..”