Once upon a time, in a faraway land called England, there lived a young girl who was able to get out of bed and leave the house thirty minutes later. She even managed to have breakfast, blow-dry her hair and put on make-up, and when she closed the door behind her, she did not look down to find peanut butter fingerprints on her skirt.
Then she had children.
How do I get up at 6am (through no choice of my own) and still find it a struggle to get out of the front door by 8.30? It usually goes something like this…
6am – wake up to a cry of ‘Mummy, get me out!’ My half-asleep husband goes to retrieve Littler Boy from his cot and then deposits him on our bed. Two podgy legs climb over my head before using their feet to pummel my face. The transformation from asleep to awake is complete.
6.30 – I have consumed the required shot of caffeine to navigate my way through breakfast and Littler is happily installed at the kitchen table with whatever he has demanded (or pulled from the cupboard himself, his verbal skills being somewhat limited). Bigger Boy pads down from his lair, nappy askew and generally resembling Stig of the Dump, but bouncing around with a grin on his face as if he has been up for hours.
6.45 – The lengthy debate about TV before or after breakfast has reached a conclusion, and one of us has won. Who has won depends on a) how tired I am and therefore how much I can be bothered to argue and b) the quality of the dramatic performance put in by Bigger. Sometimes I fancy an episode of Peppa Pig myself, so that I can slump in front of the television while working my way up to full alertness and speech capability at my own pace.
7am – Weetabix has been wiped from the table, walls and floor, and Littler is onto his second course. Strawberries and blueberries are soon trodden into the floor throughout the apartment.
7.10 – Once we have all located his essential equipment for the day (cycle helmet, mobile phone, keys, etc.), my husband gets a shower of kisses and leaves the house. We all wave from the window.
7.15 – Bigger has been dragged away from the TV (probably because Fresh Beat Band has come on and I cannot bear the assault to my ears) and, after several attempts at achieving a breakfast that meets his exacting standards – standards that change by the minute, so that when you think you’ve got it just right and are half way through pouring milk onto his Cheerios, he reveals that he wants them without milk – he is munching happily. I think this is a safe moment to try feeding myself. It is at this precise instant that Littler will grab a spoon from Bigger and knock over his orange juice at the same time, which will send Bigger into an outraged jig around the kitchen and require me to wipe orange juice from all surfaces within a two-foot radius.
7.20 – Littler is onto his third course. The remnants of this will soon be found smeared over the sofas.
7.30 – I have managed to bolt down something that passes as breakfast and quickly leave the scene to have my shower before anyone notices.
7.40 – I arrive to find Bigger and Littler happily enjoying each other’s company, reading books or playing with puzzles. Just as I’m marvelling at the vista before me, one boy snatches something vitally important from the other and the spell is broken. Democratic Mummy role is triggered and peace is restored.
7.55 – I am dressed and vaguely presentable. I have clothes on, at least. Which is more than can be said for my sons, who are still parading around in just nappies. They are cajoled into having their clothes put on, and then I clear up the kitchen. At this point, Bigger decides he needs an extended stay in the bathroom. Littler supervises proceedings at close range, poking his head around in wonder as I deal with Bigger’s shorts and place him on the loo. I extricate Littler from the bathroom and we leave Bigger to get on with it.
8.05 – Having cleared the kitchen, I remove Bigger from the loo. This is when Littler will be pushing his trolley around and jabbing it into my ankles as I deal with loo roll and hand washing. Littler insists on washing his hands too, pushing Bigger off his step as he does so, thereby sparking a brand new spat.
8.10 – I make Bigger’s packed lunch and put it in his lunch box.
8.20 – Change Littler’s nappy for the second time.
8.25 – The Sun Cream Battle begins. By some miracle, some of it ends up on the boys as I chase them round the room.
8.30 – Shoes on, bags grabbed, sunglasses on, water cups gathered, keys found…I am invariably carrying at least six items as we march down the stairs. I am invariably carrying three or four by the time we reach the bottom.
8.35 – Dropped items have been retrieved, Littler has been persuaded that whichever wheeled vehicle he has been intent on pushing down the stairs cannot be brought with us outside today, and I have managed to push the pushchair down the stoop and left it on the pavement ready for the boys. I gather them up, bring them down with me, and feel like it’s lunchtime already. Good job they’re worth every minute of it.