Three cheers for grandparents

I got home from work this afternoon to find one of my children calmly making a Chinese dragon with his granny.

I’m just going to write that down again – I found one of my children making a Chinese dragon.

Another was happily pottering around with his Lego, and the biggest one was engrossed in his book.

The scene was calm. Peaceful. It actually looked like somebody else’s house.

After tea we all danced with the Chinese dragon. No-one pushed, shoved or fought over who should stand where. It was a properly happy moment.

This is very much not a normal turn of events after school…….Firstly, I wouldn’t know where to start with making a Chinese dragon; and secondly, if my children were doing after-school crafts on my watch, they would be falling off their chairs, hurling things across the table, and/or sobbing because we’d used the wrong cereal box.  Since going back to school a few weeks ago, the after school period in our house has been teary, fraught with emotion, unproductive, and anything but calm. Over-tired children have been more than ready to take out all their rage on me; or alternatively, on each other. On several occasions, I have wondered how much longer I can continue to do this, before quickly realising that there is absolutely no point in me wondering such a thing. I live here, and these are my children.

So what was this beautiful, serene scene before me? Who was this child, calmly asking me if I had any straws for him to stick on his dragon without even a trace of ‘I-really-need-a-selection-of-straws-now-otherwise-it-will-be-the-worst-thing-that-has-ever-happened-to-me’ in his voice? When would the normal after school behaviour start?

The difference this evening of course, was that ‘Grammie’ – my mum-in-law – was here. Back from her holidays. It was the Grammie/Grandma/Grandparent Effect. Not only were Chinese dragons being made, but there had also been handwriting practice. The handwriting practice that had been greeted with ‘Not NOOOOOOOOOOOOW, I don’t WAAAAAAANNNNNNTTTTT to‘ whenever I had suggested they might like to consider it. Chinese dragons, handwriting practice, AND reading books. It was, I am pretty sure, one of the most productive after schools we have ever had. Usually, the main thing we achieve is widespread discontent over whatever I have cooked for tea.

The Grandparent Effect is well-known in our house. My children are more likely to behave, listen and do things without fuss; and far less likely to fling themselves on the floor when the simplest thing is asked of them, when a grandparent is present. Grandparents bring with them a calmness, infinite amounts of patience, jokes, songs, time, and less of a pressing need to get things done. Which means they actually end up getting more done than I ever do. When my own mum is here, she manages to play games with the children, make a meal, do the reading books, wash up, do all the ironing, fold the clean clothes; and, quite often, knit a jumper too. I come home to a calm, orderly, tidy house full of happy children; and am always amazed that apparently this is possible. I find it difficult to believe that I will be that sort of grandparent. I can’t knit for a start…..or make Chinese dragons.

But for now, I couldn’t be more grateful for the grandparents my children are lucky enough to have. For the momentary calm they bring to our house. For the joy they bring their grandchildren just by being there (because when you’re 7 and 5, there are very few things that are more exciting than seeing your grandparents). For making bringing up children easier and more enjoyable for us.

And for being less snappy, less rushed, and so much more patient than me.

Three cheers for grandparents – they are amazing.

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For the new mummy

Hello new mummy, and congratulations.

Perhaps you have bounced straight back from an uncomplicated birth, or you might be feeling a bit like you’ve been hit by a bus. You probably had your ideas about how you wanted the birth to go; but however many books we read, none of us really has any clue what to expect…..either during labour or afterwards.

Everyone talks to you about labour, don’t they. Everyone has an opinion and advice to share. But no-one talks to you about afterwards. Well, they talk to you about changing nappies and sleepless nights and feeding – people love to talk to you about those things. They talk to you about the baby; but no-one talks to you about you.

I’m not sure why that is…..probably because we are worried about frightening mums-to-be. But when we don’t talk about it, well some of the things that happen in those early days are frightening. They frightened me, because I had no idea whether they were normal. No-one had told me about those bits.

You might be thinking that your body doesn’t look like your own any more…..and it probably doesn’t feel like your own either. The first time you attempted to stand up after giving birth your legs probably felt all shaky and wobbly, like they were about to give way. No-one told you that just standing up on your own two feet might be a struggle. No-one told you that, for a little while after having your baby, you might genuinely worry that your legs no longer worked properly.

They told you about the bleeding, though. You read about that; so you got prepared and packed all the things the books told you to pack in your hospital bag.

You just weren’t expecting the bleeding to be quite like this……you weren’t expecting there to be so much of it. So much bleeding when your legs are all wobbly and shaky and you just don’t feel able to deal with it. So you’re searching through your bag for everything you need…that bag you carefully packed before this life and body-changing event happened; but you almost feel like it was a different person who packed that bag.

It feels strange searching through this bag of things that are familiar but also feel like they belong in a previous life.

It is strange, being in this body that doesn’t quite feel like your own.

And now you need the toilet and you even feel frightened about that – no-one told you that going to the loo would be scary. Your legs are still shaky and you’re bleeding and now you’re worrying about what’s going to happen when you sit down on the loo.

You wonder whether your body will ever feel normal again.

But now here we are a few days later, and you think you’re starting to recover – everyone says you’re doing really well. So you go for a walk and then realise you no longer seem to have control of your bladder. And you cry, because you remember being advised to do your pelvic floor exercises, but you never really knew what that actually meant or whether you were doing them properly. You never really understood how much you took your bladder for granted.

And now you’d really like it back.

Your body feels like it belongs to someone else, and your hormones are all over the place and you’re sore and swollen, and you’re not sure what day or time it is AND you’ve just produced a tiny human that you now need to care for. So it’s not surprising that baby blues is an actual thing. There it is on Day 3.

Bang.

You’ve got everything you wanted but you JUST CAN’T STOP SOBBING.

But in between the crying and the bleeding and the feeling a bit shaky, you’ve got this brand new little human to keep alive. And suddenly you feel unsure about everything. Are you supposed to change the nappy before you feed or after you feed? Should your baby be in a vest and sleepsuit or just a vest? Or just a sleepsuit? In your old life you were a reasonably competent human being, you knew what you were doing; but now you need everything to be validated, confirmed by someone who knows. Where is your manager in all of this?

But there is no-one to give you all the answers…….there are just lots of other people with opinions. And all the opinions are different.

And the feeding, well that’s supposed to just happen, isn’t it? Apparently, the baby will just crawl up your chest and latch on. You’ve bought one of those nice covers to take out with you so you can ‘feed discreetly’ in a cafe. Except no-one told you about the fighting and grappling and struggling that would happen every time your baby needs some milk. No-one told you that you would have midwives clamping your baby’s head onto your breast as you struggle to get the hang of this thing that is so natural but so difficult for many.

And they said it wouldn’t hurt. But it really hurts.

New mum – you probably expect a lot of yourself. You expect your body to work as it did before, despite the fact that you have just produced an actual person and now you are using all your remaining stores of energy to keep him/her alive. Your body will heal, but not straight away. Remember what it has been through.

Don’t judge yourself by how other people are getting on – some things are hard for some and easier for others. That is parenting.

It is easy to forget yourself in all of this; but don’t forget yourself, new mum. Make time in your life for people who make you smile, who ask how you are, and who help to make this an easier job.

People like to tell new mums to ‘enjoy every moment’, but don’t worry if you’re not. Just do your best, and eat some cake. Right now, you don’t need to expect any more of yourself than that.

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The only sober one at the party (Or…..me, attempting to put exhausted children to bed)

There you are on the bathroom floor, spinning around on your back. Your little break-dancing move. Naked obviously; and shouting ‘Tickets please!‘ This is one of the funniest things In The World. Your brother can hardly contain himself, he is laughing so much. And once you’ve both had enough of that one, you move on to ‘You like CO-CO?’, which apparently is even funnier.

And here I am once again – the only sober person at the party; wondering what everybody else is finding so funny. Desperate to get this job done, because I know how long it all takes when you reach this slightly hysterical level of tiredness.

For the 28th time, I ask you to stand up and perhaps put your pyjamas on, but apparently this is too difficult. You can’t do it, you are too tired……’TOO TIRED’, you say…….‘Tickets please! Haaaahaaaaheeeeheeeee, you are soooooo funny. And I am sooooooooooo funny. Aren’t I, mummy? Weeeeeeeeee! Look at me spinning mummy. You like CO-CO?’

There are a few obvious differences between attempting to get my overtired children into bed and being the only sober person dealing with a drunken band of friends. You boys are smaller. You don’t smell of beer. Your language is clean and innocent.

But……well, there are some striking similarities too.

Standing up on two feet is just not possible, and so asking you to do it is, obviously, totally unreasonable. You can’t do it, you need help. ‘NEEEEEED HELLLLP!’ When I eventually manage to get you upright, you rock around unsteadily on those little feet of yours. You spin, rock, jump, hop, balance on one leg – anything rather than stand still.

Your already limited co-ordination skills have shut down for the day – the straightforward-sounding task of putting your pyjamas on has you totally flummoxed. I mean, you just can’t find them, to start with…..those pyjamas that mummy told you she was putting down right there……right in front of you. ‘I CAN’T FIND MY PYJAMAS! ……But I didn’t KNOW, mummy….You didn’t tell me where they WERE!’ But you’ve found them now which is a relief. Phew. And you get on with putting the trousers on your head and the top on like it’s a skirt. This is almost as funny as ‘You like CO-CO?‘ Obviously you have just about enough energy to run around and show everyone your new look pyjamas….before needing to flop back on the floor again.

You require constant direction, as if I’m having to walk you home. If I take my guiding hands off you for a moment, you are wandering aimlessly with no idea of where you are going or what your current task is. You require constant reminders of what it is you are supposed to be doing – ‘come on, stay with me, let’s stay on task. Remember what we’re doing. We’re brushing our teeth…..BRUSHING OUR TEETH. You don’t need to wander into your brother’s room to BRUSH YOUR TEETH. And you can’t do it while you’re lying on the floor either. Let’s get back into the bathroom and brush our teeth, shall we. Remember we’re trying to stand on TWO feet, we don’t need to do balancing right now.

You talk jibberish and burst into song out of nowhere…… and if a tired mummy who really wants to get you to bed isn’t the best audience you’ve ever had; well no matter, because you know that one or both of your brothers will find it all HILARIOUS. Mummy is so unreasonable at bedtime. Such a fun-spoiler…..I mean, she doesn’t even understand why ‘You like CO-CO?’ is so funny. And she’s always asking you to do unreasonable things like put your pyjamas on or brush your teeth so that you can get into that nice cosy bed. It’s not surprising you get so cross with her, really.

When I say cross, I mean you’re cross with her one minute but giving her a huge spontaneous cuddle the next. Because your mood switches within seconds – from being the fun joker to having a sudden outburst over why you still have your blue toothbrush when you REALLY NEED A NEW ONE! From giving spontaneous cuddles and kisses to suddenly needing to hit and cry and lash out.

The mood swings are sudden and messy and unpredictable; and they remind me just how much you need your beds. Even though you’re doing everything you can to resist.

Later on, when you are all safely tucked up, I pop in and check on you. And then I feel bad for being the fun-spoiler. For always seeming to hurry you along. For constantly asking you to stop this and stop that. I feel guilty that our hour before bed is so fractious and……well, the total opposite of calm and peaceful. But then I look at you fast asleep and realise we’re all ok. You’re in your beds, and that’s where you need to be.

Thankfully, there will be no hangovers for you in the morning. You won’t wake up feeling embarrassed at what happened the night before. You’ll get on happily with your day…..and then you’ll do it all again the next night. With that fun-spoiling mummy, guiding you towards your pyjamas and bed.

‘You like CO-CO?’

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To the new Reception parent

I think I have an idea how you’re feeling, new school parent…..as much as anyone can have any idea how somebody else is feeling that is. You are probably busy labelling uniform, laying it out for one last look, realising you still need to buy plimsolls, wondering whether you have enough polo shirts……that sort of thing.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be feeling anxious and excited and a little bit heartbroken and….well, like life is about to change hugely. Which it is – but in good ways, honestly. So, as you embark on life as a school parent, here are ten little things I’d like to tell you:

  1. Reception teachers and TAs are some of the kindest, most patient people imaginable. They are full of smiles, encouragement, songs, reassurance and wise words. They are fun but instructive, firm but gentle. They will wipe away children’s tears and, quite possibly at some point, yours too. There is nothing they have not seen, and they won’t make you feel bad for sharing your concerns.  You will want to tell them every day what an amazing job they do…..and you should, because they do.
  2. Reception itself is a wonderful year. It is all about stickle bricks, songs, junk modelling, mud kitchens and dressing up. Yes, it is school but it is gentle and fun and nurturing. It is a period of new friends, broadening horizons, and increased confidence. It is a truly special time, not just for the children but for parents too – developing new routines and getting to know this community of children and parents who will, most likely, be part of your lives for the forseeable future. It will fly by and, as you approach the summer term, you probably won’t want it to end. Having said that……
  3. Learning to read is painful – all of it. The books are painful and the process itself is painful. Hence my point about Reception teachers being angelic miracle workers – they do this all day and every day with 30 children. Helping your child to understand that the sounds C, A and T join together to make the word CAT and not GOAT tests a parent’s patience to the limit; and finding a good time to sit down and do it at home can feel almost impossible – before school is too rushed, and after school everyone is too tired. Be as gentle as you can on everyone, including yourself. It won’t be this hard forever – at some point, something clicks and CAT does start to become recognisable as CAT rather than just looking like a series of symbols. When that happens, it is magical…..it might just take a bit of time.
  4. You have probably worried about your child since the moment s/he entered the world….possibly before. This doesn’t change once they start school. Sometimes though, you can feel like you’re the only one with worries – everyone else looks like they’re getting on fine, but you’re fretting. Is your child on his/her own too much? Are the other children getting invited on all the playdates? Is it normal how tired your child gets after school? Should you be doing more x, y or z with your child at home? It is only by talking to other parents that you discover that everyone is worrying about something; and if they’re not…….well, I’d be interested to meet them. Find your tribe (don’t worry if not everyone is in it) and share your worries. A good tribe will be your rock over the next few years.
  5. If there is a knack to feeling like you’re on top of everything then I’ve yet to master it. The non-uniform days, the assemblies, the reading mornings, the bake days, the change-reading-book days, the school trips……there is A LOT to keep up with. Everyone has their own way of attempting to manage it, but if you feel like you’re drowning then refer back to your lovely tribe – they probably feel like they’re drowning too. Which is reassuring.
  6. For many children, school is exhausting. Whether your child has been at nursery full-time or just for a few mornings a week; it doesn’t seem to make much difference. A school day might be shorter than a full day at nursery, but it is more structured, more stimulating, and definitely more tiring. Expect your little one to be hideously exhausted. And for this reason…..
  7. After school can be….well, challenging. Most likely, your precious little one will hold it together at school but crumple the moment s/he gets home. If your child decides to take all his/her frustration and exhaustion out on you, try not to take it personally – I know it’s hard. Home is their safe space, you are their safe person – this is how it should be. They need cuddles, loads of food and sometimes just to have a good cry. Structure can be good (I sometimes find an after-school activity helps to take their mind off how exhausted they are) but other times they need to put their pyjamas on and do nothing. Go with it, and try not to worry if you are achieving very little from 3pm onwards.
  8. Don’t expect to get any information from your child about what has happened between the hours of 9 and 3. They have spent six hours at school and they have no intention of talking about it when they get home. Occasionally, I find an ‘opposites’ approach works, ie. if I say ‘Ah, I know who you DIDN’T play with today…..’ and reveal the name of the child they play with every single day, they will be desperate to correct me. But generally, I have to accept that what goes on at school will remain largely a mystery, to be drip-fed to me over the next few months as and when they feel like sharing.
  9. On this note, some of what they share may well break your heart. Things like ‘I sat on the buddy bench today and no-one came to get me‘ / ‘X didn’t want to play with me today‘ / ‘Y said she wasn’t my friend any more‘. Keep in mind that these are little children, and we have absolutely no idea what goes on or what is said in those playgrounds. I always think of that programme ‘The Secret Life of 4/5/6 Year Olds‘ when imagining life in the playground. Children’s words can be cruel; but unless my children seem unhappy or their behaviour changes dramatically, I tend to assume that everything is as it should be.
  10. I know it feels like you are losing something huge. Like a big part of your life has gone. Like their life (and yours) will never be the same. Like they are growing up, moving on. All of that is true. BUT, they are still little, very little – you realise this when you watch them shuffling about awkwardly in the front row of school assemblies. They are tiny and innocent. They still want to hold your hand on the way to school. They still want your cuddles and a goodbye kiss. You are still more important to them than their friends. Than music. Than films. It doesn’t all change just because they’ve started school. This is a magical time when a whole new world will open to your child – you will be amazed at the huge strides forward s/he takes this year, from whatever their starting point. Embrace the good bits, laugh at the funny stories, cry with pride at the assemblies and, during the hard times, just remember that you’re not on your own.

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Good luck, stay strong…..and don’t forget to buy those plimsolls.

When Big Ben chimes again

Hello 2021. This is summer 2017.

I wanted to write a little note because, according to the news this week, 2021 is when we will next hear Big Ben chime out across London…..apart from very special occasions, that is. And whilst the silencing of Big Ben really isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, things like this do make me stop and think about time. So as we listened to the (mainly Big Ben related) news a few days ago, and confused little boys struggled to understand why Big Ben was chiming constantly on the radio when it wasn’t supposed to be chiming any more; I kept thinking about what life will look like 4 years from now. In 2021.

In 2021, I will have an 11 year old and two 9 year olds. I find this almost impossible to imagine.

In 2021 we will, apparently, be out of the EU. I find this almost impossible to imagine too.

And in 2021 I will be 41 going on 42…….and probably still talking about what I’d like to be when I’m a proper grown up.

I suspect our lives will be very different the next time we hear Big Ben ring out, so I wanted to try and capture a bit of us now; in the summer of 2017.

We are in what I’m sure I will look back on as a rather blissful, innocent stage free from the pressures that things like mobile phones and gaming can bring. Our house is full of Lego, fancy dress, books, games, cars, trains and dinosaurs; all of which still keep you boys happily occupied. Something tells me this won’t be the case in 2021, and just the thought of navigating the pre-teen landscape makes me anxious.

You are also still, thankfully, at an age at which you enjoy being with your parents …..most of the time at least. And when spending time with your parents isn’t quite exciting enough, thankfully spending time with your grandparents is just about the best thing imaginable.

Summer 2017 has flown by. We holidayed in beautiful Pembrokeshire, you boys spent a happy week on a performing arts summer school; we have wandered through woods, sat in traffic jams, splashed in splash parks, fed our neighbours’ cats, picnicked in the rain, celebrated birthdays, had some tennis lessons, and generally loved the feeling of freedom that comes with the summer holidays. We have squabbled too….. Squabbled over who gets to open the first packet of cat food, who called who poo, whose turn it is to get the breakfast ready, who gets to sit next to mummy at lunch time, whose turn it is to wear the Iron Man socks and who gets to choose the music in the car. I have frequently wanted to hide away in a dark, quiet corner; made what feels like 20,000 packed lunches, and almost lost the will to live over the twice-a-day battle of getting Twin 2 to brush his teeth rather than simply stand on his head with a toothbrush in his mouth.

The laundry has been never ending. That is one thing that I am pretty sure won’t have changed by 2021. And getting you all out of the house still gives me far more grey hairs than I feel it should. I’m hoping that might change.

But I have also tried to remind myself that you boys won’t want to spend your summer holidays pottering about with me forever. And that these times are hard, yes, but also special.

The time has flown, and yet school feels like a whole world away. We all need to get back into routine, although I’m not sure any of us is ready to quite yet. But we are taking small strides, and this week has largely been about doing little things to prepare for the new term. You, Eldest Boy, are starting Juniors in September, which means new uniform and new equipment for your pencil case. You have been diligently doing your ‘button practice’ every day, in readiness for wearing a shirt rather than polo shirt. The other day you tried on your new uniform, including tie, and suddenly looked about 17. We went stationery shopping too this week, and you then spent much of the rest of the afternoon staring happily at your new pens. You are so proud.

In four years time you will be about to start senior school, so perhaps 2021 will see us doing exactly the same thing. Only time will tell if your enthusiasm, and pride in your pencil case, will remain. I desperately hope so.

You are 118cm tall and have lost four teeth so far. We have just bought new school shoes – size 11.5. Having resolutely stayed the same size for at least 18 months, your feet are finally having a growth spurt. For your birthday we bought you a CD player – you love the independence this gives you and have no idea that actually, no-one really has a CD player anymore. You are beautifully indiscriminate in your music choices and are enjoying going through mummy and daddy’s old CD collection – right now, there is nothing remotely embarrassing about this. David Gray is a current favourite – you are possibly the only 7 year old out there listening to This Year’s Love as you sort through your Match Attax cards.

You are on a mission to get your little brothers to try mushy peas. I am on a mission just to get them to eat peas. Or, in fact, anything green.

Twins 1 and 2, you are 112cm and 114cm tall respectively, with size 10.5 and size 11 feet. You haven’t lost any teeth yet. At the moment, life is all about superheroes, Star Wars, fire engines, your new walkie-talkies and singing ‘I like to move it move it‘. You have moved up to two-wheeled scooters with no problems, but have not quite mastered your new roller boots….. yet. You have loved feeding our neighbours’ cats over the last few weeks and will miss your little summer job hugely now it has come to an end. If it wasn’t for the fact that you have two allergic parents, I would consider getting a cat.

But you do have two allergic parents, so I’m really not.

You are valiantly ploughing through your birthday thank you cards, and it has been an almighty struggle. But you are doing them, and when I think about how far you have come in a year, I am ridiculously proud of your just-about-legible scrawls.

And finally, finally; this summer you got your bunk beds – you have been asking for bunk beds for at least two years now. This week I made the mistake of taking you along to the shop to choose some new bedding and we came home with the most garish Avengers duvet covers imaginable. I really should have known better.

The delay in getting your bunk beds is characteristic of mummy & daddy’s rather sloppy approach to getting anything done in the house. We have needed new blinds for the last 7 years at least, and this summer we finally got round to measuring up and even looking at fabric…..but no further than that. It is entirely possible that we still won’t have our new blinds when Big Ben chimes again. In fact, I am pretty confident that our house will exist in the same state of chaos as it does currently.

But aside from a cluttered house, shabby blinds, and never-ending laundry; I have no idea what our lives will look like in 2021. What you boys might be reading, watching, or listening to. Whether you’ll have realised that CD players are no longer the thing to have. And whether or not you little ones will finally have been convinced to try mushy peas.

But this has been us in summer 2017; and we’ll just have to see where life takes us between now and that very famous bell chiming again.

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As you turn 7 and 5 – a birthday post

How many sleeps until our party, mummy? / How many sleeps until our birthday, mummy? / And how many sleeps until MY party, mummy?

This has been the soundtrack in our house for the last couple of weeks at least. Three little boys, with birthdays two days apart – the first being tomorrow.  Piled in the corner of my bedroom are party bags, pass the parcel fillers, presents and cards. There is a giant penguin cake under several sheets of foil in the kitchen, and another cake waiting to be transformed into a space rocket.

Birthday season is well and truly underway – one little boy is approaching 7, and two are approaching 5.

7 and 5.

7 and 5!

I am having a bit of trouble with this one – these ages sound…..well, not grown up; but not really like I still have little ones. In my head, it feels like the baby/toddler years weren’t that long ago, but then when I’m out and I see mums with change bags and prams, mums trying to get babies to sleep, mums heading off to baby massage classes, mums lugging around car seats and mums putting babies in highchairs I realise that yes, we are well and truly in a different stage now.

Part of me still misses the baby and toddler days, but then another part of me loves the ages we are at right now. I feel I spend a lot of time either looking back, feeling apprehensive about the future, or attempting to cling onto the present (only the good bits, obviously).

So this is my attempt to cling onto the right now – little snapshots of you, my three beautiful boys, as you approach 7 and 5.

Eldest boy:

You are: 

Confident in your own quiet way, cautious, determined, hungry for knowledge, routine-loving, easily pleased, inquisitive, uncoordinated; an old-fashioned soul in a fast-moving world.eldest boy reading

You love: 

Books, maps, train timetables, names, lists, dates, football, kings, queens, dates of birth, a family tree, cosy jumpers, a hearty meal, twiddling your hair, school, answers to questions, Christine and the Queens; days at home with a pen in your hand, books and plenty of paper.

You can often be found: 

At a table with a pen and reams of paper, making lists.

Sitting on your bedroom floor surrounded by books.

In the garden playing football with your own running commentary and a list of scores by the door ready to update when necessary.

Likely to say: 

‘I have made up a new train line, mummy. It goes from Chorleywood to Aston Clinton.’

‘I’m going to draw another map of my made up town, North Moor.’

‘How many caps did Luther Blissett get for England, daddy?’

‘I still have quite a bit of my work to do you know, mummy.’ (Your work being your lists, charts, maps and tables – it is never-ending.)

Nightmare scenarios: 

Practising bike-riding. Again.

Not having time to finish your ‘work’.

Special skills: 

Keeping yourself amused.

Plotting train routes.

Inventing towns.

Recalling the dates of birth of family members, the Royal Family, and 85% of Watford FC’s players.

Twin 1:

You are: 

A beautiful, affectionate, eager, sensitive, messy, cuddly whirlwind of emotions. Happy to be looked after, always ready for a cuddle.

Twin 1 climbing

You love: 

Roast potatoes, chipped potatoes, most other potatoes, climbing, dancing, superheroes, big drums, motorbikes, skateboards, funny voices, fast slides, funny faces, cake, biscuits, ice-cream in a cone.

Can often be found: 

Climbing to the top of something.

Likely to say: 

‘Mummy, when can I have a skateboard?……. And what about a surfboard?’

‘I tried peas mummy and I like them. But I am only eating ONE.’

‘Can I have some more roast potatoes, please?’

‘I am NOT tired.’

Nightmare scenarios: 

A grazed knee.

A bowl of greens.

Your very precious skateboard top being in the wash.

Being told there are no more roast potatoes.

Special skills: 

Eating all the roast potatoes.

A continually grubby face, whatever the activity.

Twin 2:

You are:  

Helpful, earnest, observant, loyal, stubborn, growing so so fast, cuddly, affectionate, independent but not keen on being alone, a snazzy dresser; sometimes shy, sometimes a performer…..And absolutely never, ever in any rush. Twin 2 fireman

You love:

Observing your surroundings, parsnips, creepy crawlies, helping with jobs, feeling like a grown up, undivided attention, holding open doors, pulling funny faces, emergency vehicles, fancy dress, dot-to-dots, custard tarts, mummy’s necklaces / watch / rings /  buttons; bow ties, smart hats, flamboyant shirts, doors, locks, hand-dryers, a sensor flush.

Can often be found: 

Still sitting at the table long after everyone else has finished.

Drifting along at the back of a group.

Holding open doors.

Testing out toilet doors / locks / flushing mechanisms and the pedals on sanitary bins.

Likely to say: 

‘But I don’t want to be LAST FOR MY MIIIIILLLLLKKKKK.’

‘Can I help you, mummy?’

‘But I can carry it all by myself!’ 

‘Mummy, do you remember that day when we went to the park and there were three tunnels and we saw a blue bin and two ladybirds and a butterfly?’ 

Nightmare scenarios: 

Being the last one to put milk on your cereal in the mornings.

Being interrupted.

Feeling like you’re not being listened to.

Special skills: 

An incredible eye for detail – you notice everything.

Happily spending an hour over your breakfast.

three boys at the seaside

Happy birthday to you, little ones, as you move into your new, more grown-up sounding ages.

Let’s see what 7 and 5 have in store.

The Pink Cheetah and the Gazelle – guest post

Last Friday, my three boys were overjoyed to bring home the books which they had been busy making during their week-long performing arts course. The almost-5-year-old twins’ books were extensively decorated on the front, and on the inside contained frantic scribbles and a few stickers. The eldest boy’s book contained a story, entitled The Pink Cheetah and the Gazelle. I am putting it here, just in case anything ever happens to that book. And also because, well sometimes it’s just good to have a glimpse into the world of an almost 7 year old.

I have typed the text entirely as it was written, and have just added a few clarification notes here and there – these are in brackets and not italicised.

The Pink Cheetah and the Gazelle

One day, the cheetah sprayed glitter on himself. He was called Calum. He was playing with Eddie the eagle.

Then he and antelope and whale turned pink within a second. Oh dear! They had the pink chicken pocks (sic). They were ill. 

They went to hospital and they turned bad. They killed the vet and nearly died, with zebra kicking at them for what they did. 

book zebra kicked them

If you find this turn of events upsetting, at least there are some lovely yellow stars on the page.

They were hit by elephant and rhino when Calum and Collie (another cheetah*) were in the car. The result was that zebra and rhino were killed and so were hippo and fish (you will be pleased to hear that elephant survived*).

Ostrich was furious about all this but he didn’t want to have another solution.

Zoe the Zebra (NOT zebra who died in the car accident*) was grief stricken on what had happened. She called Police Colly who was even worse. Harold the Hare refused all this to happen and executed King Norigenkan of Nigeria (Zebra). He became king himself. It was all because of the cheetahs. 

The cheetahs began to act like anglo saxons when they got on to a boat to Paraguay. The route took 5 days.

The route from Kenya to Paraguay took 3 days.

On their last day in Kenya, they asked Karoun to execute everyone they did not like.

The end.

book sailing to Paraguay

What a lovely boat for those Anglo-Saxon cheetahs

* = added by the editor for clarity.

Editor’s note: 

Please don’t ask me about the gazelle – I have no idea. I am also unable to shed any light on what happened to Eddie the eagle, but am confident he has nothing to do with the skier.

And if you are eager to know who Karoun is then the next book in the series is definitely one for you.