Sounds of summer

The long, hot days of summer 2018; when no-one knew quite what to do with themselves. When no-one could sleep and the children came home from school with that grimy, sticky look that only being smeared with suncream can give you. When the country was in total chaos (still), when Trump came to town, and when routine went out the window at least a month before the end of term because of a) the World Cup and b) the fact that everyone was just too hot to even contemplate putting children to bed at a normal time. When mummy spent her afternoons asking her children to please be kind and gentle with each other and to please please please come in from the garden for their tea.

And absolutely no-one listened to her.

It is NOT tea time mummy. It is not. Just one more minute. One more minute, mummy!

But you’ve had one more minute“, says Mummy, with her gritted teeth voice. “And now it is time to come in.

YES! It’s a goal for Portugal. What A GOAL!” screams Twin 1 as he rolls around the garden.

Twin 2 is furious. “I’m telling, I’m TELLING, I’m telling RIGHT NOW! That is not a goal. Mummmmmyyyyyyy – that was NOT a goal!” he shrieks, wiping his tears and his nose and his grubby hands on Mummy’s top. “He says it’s a goal but it went over the post so it is definitely NOT A GOAL. Not-a-goal, not-a-goal, not-a-goal. Yellow card and free kick to me!

Mummy resorts to her screechy voice, and threatens to eat her children’s tea if they don’t come in in the next five seconds.

Mummy then hears quiet voices drifting over the fence from next door. Tea is being poured. The newspaper is being read. Mummy immediately regrets having resorted to her screechy voice. “Whoops!” says Twin 1. “The ball has gone over the fence mummy. It was an accident, Mummy. I’m sorry, Mummy.”

Twin 1 runs off to retrieve the ball, meanwhile Mummy wants to make a thousand apologies for disturbing the peace of the entire street; and then dig herself a hole and hide. The hardest thing about summer for Mummy is that family life now takes place in the back garden instead of in the confines of the house. Squabbling children, complete with a slightly shrieky mummy. Lucky neighbours.

After 15 minutes and a selection of increasingly random threats, Mummy’s children are finally inside. Mummy announces that there will be absolutely no more playing outside if her children can’t listen to what they’re being asked to do.

One by one, Mummy’s children announce that it is not their fault.

Mummy talks about the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, before then asking them to take a moment to think about their neighbours.

“Do you think the neighbours want to be listening to you shrieking while they’re trying to enjoy a sit down in their garden?” asks Mummy. “And do you think they want to get whacked on the head by a football as they’re trying to drink their tea?

Mummy’s children agree that this is probably not an ideal scenario for the neighbours, and then swiftly move on to a passionate argument over who has got the most Costa Rican players in their Panini World Cup sticker album.

Now boys“, says Mummy, “we are all very hot, and tired……”

I am NOT tired”, interjects Twin 1.

“OK, well we are all very hot and not-tired”, Mummy continues. “And when we’re hot we feel irritated.

I am NOT irritated!” says Twin 2, sounding more than a little irritated.

Well, irritated or not; in this hot weather, what we all really need to do is be gentle with each other. And kind…..

Mummy’s children start poking each other with their forks and searching for onions/peas/any unknown ingredients to pick out of their dinner.

As I was saying,” Mummy continues. “We need to be gentle and kind to each other. So can you please all think about what you are saying, and not say anything that is deliberately intended to upset anyone.”

The eldest boy tells Twin 1 what a bad goalie he is – he is absolutely, definitely not as good as the Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea. Twin 1’s sobs into his dinner and kicks his big brother under the table.

Mummy knows that any more words from her about being kind and gentle are pointless, and that she will be saying more or less the same thing to her children tomorrow anyway. And so she leaves them to their arguments about how their goalkeeping skills compare to David de Gea’s, and goes to raid the treat tin. Because, in this hot weather, it is very important that Mummy makes the effort to be kind to herself.

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The great injustices of life – popcorn, Pringles, and a trip to A&E

We were coming towards the end of our holiday, and the sun had finally decided to make an appearance. Keen to make the most of it, there was one boy in the pool playing catch, a second boy on a sunbed; and a third boy who hadn’t quite had enough of the waterslides – up and down he went, again and again.

It was a classic holiday scene.

And then came the shout down from the top of the slides – “He’s hurt himself!” called the biggest boy of the group; our friends’ eldest one. “He needs some help.”

So far, nothing unusual. Twin 1, aged 5 and the most boisterous of the three, is always tripping and tumbling. He comes home from school with an accident slip in his book bag most days. I imagined that he had fallen on his face and cut his mouth again – that happens quite a lot. Or perhaps yet another grazed knee.

And then he appeared…..with a lot of blood and what appeared to be a hole in his head.

A HOLE IN HIS HEAD!

I am not good at dealing with such situations, but I tried my absolute best to hide my panic and think I did reasonably well, until I reached my husband and shouted that we really needed to find some first-aid very urgently indeed as our child appeared to have a HOLE IN HIS HEAD!

This was probably not the best choice of words. Twin 1, already distressed at the sight of quite a bit of blood; was understandably alarmed by this latest news. “What do you mean I have a hole in my head, mummy? What do you MEAN???”, he sobbed.

It’s not really a hole, sweetheart; no it’s not a hole.” I said, desperately wishing I could take back my words. “I got it wrong…..that was a silly thing to say. But we do need to get you some first aid. And probably go to the hospital.”

We found the owner of the campsite who told us where to find the local A&E. We found a plaster, we stopped the bleeding, and my common sense told me that the hole was fixable. We were all much calmer.

Our friends offered to look after the other two boys so that we could concentrate on the injured one – advantage number 270 to holidaying with friends.  The eldest boy and Twin 2 were beyond thrilled at the news that they were going on an unexpected playdate. Would this mean they would finally get to play Fifa 18 on their friend’s Nintendo Switch? What about Mario Kart? Perhaps the evening could start with a football match outside? There was just so much fun to be had.

I suggested that they might like to calm their enthusiasm a little and remember that their brother had just had a nasty fall and now had to spend his evening at the hospital. Perhaps asking if their brother was alright might be a nice thing to do?

They looked suitably sombre.

“Are you alright?” asked the eldest boy.

“Are you alright?” asked Twin 2.

Twin 1 tried to hold back his sobs but couldn’t quite manage it. “It’s not fair, mummy”; he said. “They get to go and play with the others and I don’t. I want to go and play Mario Kart. And LOOK! Now they’re outside playing football too.”

I tried to explain that I would be a thoroughly irresponsible parent if I decided to let him go and play football followed by Mario Kart rather than take him to the hospital to get his wound attended to. It didn’t help.

I offered him a few Pringles followed by some caramel popcorn; which seemed to work much better.

Fuelled by his snacks, Twin 1 ran outside to find out how the football was going.

How’s it going guys?’, he asked. For a brief moment, you wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong.

Apparently football was going well – it was 2-2.

The others crowded round the injured boy. Friend A, the eldest of the group, looked at the injured head. ‘I can see blood coming through the plaster’, he said. ‘I really think you need to get to the hospital – I hope you get on ok.’

You are probably imagining him to be about 15…..He is 8, but clearly very sensible when it comes to giving medical advice.

There were nods of agreement from the others.

Have a good time at the hospital!’, shouted Friend B, aged 6 and the only girl of the gang.

Yes, have a good time!’; they all called out.

Thanks!’, shouted Twin 1 as he strode to the car with his backpack. It was all so ridiculous I couldn’t help but smile as we went on our way.

My first ever experience of French A&E was generally very positive. Obviously I would have preferred not to have been there in the first place; but given that we were I came away really quite impressed. AND the parking is free. FREE! In fact, when we asked a man if we needed to pay, he looked at us like he’d never heard anything so ridiculous before.

Anyway, the injured boy was amazingly brave while the (now much less dramatic looking) hole in his head was stitched, and then the doctor gave him a whistle as a well done. That was probably the only less positive bit about the hospital experience….. thankfully we may have misplaced the whistle since returning home.

We headed back to our little cabin with one tired out but actually quite proud-of-how-brave-he’d-been little boy, and picked up the two other boys who had had the time of their lives. And then everything returned to normal alarmingly quickly.

Twin 1, still struggling to get past the fact that his brothers had played on Mario Kart and Fifa 18 without him, let slip that he had had some Pringles and TWO pieces of caramel popcorn.

Twin 2 could not believe the injustice. Couldn’t he have some caramel popcorn? What about Pringles? And what was this…….Twin 1 was now eating more slices of pizza than he’d had? Perhaps it is worth injuring yourself if these are the rewards.

Clearly I had got my priorities all wrong. In an alternative universe, Twin 1 would have forgotten all about his head and instead would be flinging himself around on the football pitch before playing endless games on the Nintendo Switch; while Twin 2 would be busy finding some steps to fall down in the hope of earning himself some Pringles and caramel popcorn.

Life is so unfair when one of your siblings requires a trip to A&E.

hospital trip

Panic over and all fixed up. Big thanks to the lovely doctors and nurses.

A turning point

I have seen a few posts recently about the challenges of parenting pre-school aged multiples. We are a couple of years on from that now, but I’ve been thinking back to when I was navigating my way through that very tricky territory.

I remember those days so clearly.  When your little ones suddenly have language and are able to express themselves…. which you would think might make things less frustrating, not more; but of course it doesn’t because they don’t yet understand what is and what isn’t reasonable (and, of course, you are attempting to reason with two at a time). When it feels like one twin is always upset over something and you’re not sure how much energy you have left to reason with children who have not yet mastered the art of reasoning. When one minute it feels perfect but the next you are rocking in a corner, questioning everything and just wishing you were a different sort of mum and able to give your precious little people the time and attention that they deserve.

I don’t have any magical advice for this very tricky stage, but if I could go back and have a chat with myself two years ago, I think I would tell myself the following:

  • Stand back every so often and let them resolve some things for themselves. Tell them you’re not getting involved, and go over the top with praise when they manage to resolve whatever they’ve been squabbling over.
  • Realise when you are just adding to the noise – this is the hardest thing because when it’s all going crazy, well sometimes you just can’t help but join and in and let rip yourself…..but when they’re in the moment, squabbling over who gets to wear the tractor socks or who gets to use the special purple cup; they absolutely WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU.  You can try, you can reason; but most likely……well, it will just be more noise. I still have to remind myself of this one all the time.
  • Have a safe spot/safe toy/special cushion…..something they associate with calming down. We only started this one in the last year or so – my boys will now calm down with a fidget spinner, a favourite cuddly; or if they’re feeling really really angry and just need to go and hit something I encourage them to go and hit a cushion rather than lashing out at a sibling.
  • A lovely doctor we saw a few months ago suggested this next one – let each child take it in turns to be ‘in charge of the day‘. Being in charge of the day means that you get to make all the big decisions…..you know, all the really big decisions like who gets to use the yellow spoon with the lion on it, who gets to open the front door, who gets to turn the television on. All the things that cause proper angst and heartache. And then at the end of the day, whoever is in charge gets 10 minutes of ‘mummy / daddy time’ – doing a drawing, playing a game or whatever. In theory, no-one can complain that it’s unfair because everyone will get their turn. It is not flawless and it can cause a few problems of its own, but it does help eliminate a lot of the bickering.
  • When you can, change the dynamic. It is hard to emphasise enough how valuable one-on-one time is (I wrote another post about this), particularly for multiples. It removes so many of the elements that makes parenting so draining and achieves the exact opposite – a bit of one on one time with my boys usually reminds me how much I enjoy their company, and makes me better equipped to deal with the more challenging moments. It’s not easy to schedule time for, but if you can arrange a trip to grandparents/friends/an aunt or uncle for one without the other, it changes everything.
  • DO NOT EVER compare yourself to other parents. Ever. Don’t look at pictures of your friends and their children on big days out and feel bad because you’re not doing the same. Don’t look at other children going from football to yoga to French and think that your children are missing out. Keep it simple, because there is plenty of time for #makingmemories and for adventures……I know we all feel the pressure to make every moment magical, especially these days; but with more than one at the same stage it can’t always be like that. And there is plenty of time for making memories when they’re old enough a) to enjoy them properly and b) to actually remember them. So just hang on a little while, because there is good news coming……..

It. Does. Get. Easier.

Or many of the things above do, anyway.

Over the last 6 months or so, I have noticed some BIG changes with my lively pair (who will be 6 in the summer); and I have realised that we have definitely entered a new era. What signalled the start of this new era was being able to read, and once that clicked, so many other things seem to have clicked too. Learning to read means so much more than just plodding through Biff, Chip and Kipper books after school. Learning to read is everything and feels like the proper start of independence. You see, as well as now being able to pick up a book and attempt to tackle it themselves, they can also now play proper sit-down games together; with minimal input from me. I first noticed it a few months ago when I watched them playing Top Trumps after school – they were happily playing by themselves, with no need for an adult hovering over their shoulders. Now games are a regular feature, and they have even been known to keep themselves amused with a few games first thing on a Saturday and Sunday morning.

Activity books are also achievable and, if my boys are feeling co-operative, something that they can do while I’m preparing the dinner. They can follow the instructions, attempt the puzzles and read where the stickers are supposed to go……which is excellent if, like me, you struggle to cope if the stickers that are supposed to ‘complete the scene’ on page 16 are stuck willy-nilly all over page 12 instead.

Something else that seems to have clicked over the last 12 months or so is the ability and desire to sit down and do some drawing or colouring – and not just furious scribbles on a page but trying to draw actual things. This was almost unknown two years ago. They still need to get outside regularly and run off some energy; but there are now so many more options for sitting down activities when I need them. Having mastered some basic life-skills, they just seem so much less frustrated with life.

And because of all of this this, the really good news is that it is so much easier to go out and have adventures. We can do bigger days out (I won’t pretend they’re not still exhausting), we can do train journeys, we can handle later nights. They can sit on a train and read a book or do some puzzles. When we’re out and about they can walk further, keep going for longer and there is less kit for us to carry around. So much so, that I am now desperate to book up more adventures – now that they are old enough to appreciate them but young enough to still want to have them.

The age my boys are at now does not come without its own challenges, obviously – that is for a separate post of its own. But in terms of the pre-school years – well, hang on in there ……because just like all the other phases, this too shall pass. And a new stage awaits.

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Back to school we go

It is back to school today, and the 5 year old twins have been asked to take in something that will remind them of their Christmas holiday.

“I am taking a pompom from New Year”, says Twin 1.

“I am taking a mask from New Year”, says Twin 2.

“But what do I say about my pompom, mummy?” asks Twin 1.

“Well why don’t you get dressed and then we can talk about it?”, mummy suggests.

“But I don’t know what I’m SAYING!!!” says Twin 1 as he rolls around on the floor.

“Just say what the pompom reminds you of, sweetheart. You danced with it at our little new year’s party, and you had your friend to stay – you remember. Now, why don’t you put your pants on?”

“But I can’t REMEMBER that, mummy. I can’t remember ANY of it.”

“I can’t remember how to do my tie up, mummy”, says the eldest boy with tears in his eyes.

“We’ll help you with your tie in just a minute, sweetheart.” says mummy to the eldest boy; before turning to Twin 1 and requesting that for now he concentrates on putting his pants on, and puts the Christmas holiday task out of his head.

Mummy is doing her best to use her most patient new-year-new-voice, voice.

“I’m going to take my finger torch as well” announces Twin 1.

“And I’m taking my finger torch”, says Twin 2.

“That’s not FAIR, he’s COPYING me!”, says Twin 1.

“I’m NOT copying you!” insists Twin 2. “It’s just a really good idea – I like it. It’s not because I’m copying you, I just want to take it.”

“Why are you discussing the Christmas task with them?” booms daddy, who is just about to leave for work. “Why don’t they just get dressed?”

“I am trying to get them to get dressed”, says mummy through gritted teeth and in her slightly less patient new year voice. “I didn’t bring up the Christmas task, they did.”

Mummy returns to the subject of pants with Twin 1, who is on the floor sobbing about pompoms and finger torches. Mummy understands that Twin 1 is feeling anxious about going back to school and that he is expressing this through his outburst about the Christmas task. She would still like him to put his pants on.

Mummy announces that no-one is taking finger torches and adds an imaginary line to the note that came home from school. The imaginary line states that twins must not take in the same item as each other.

Mummy then separates the twin boys in a bid to speed up the getting dressed process.

“But mummy!”, shouts Twin 1. “I can’t remember ANYTHING, mummy! NOTHING is going to remind me of my Christmas holiday!”

“Ok darling. Well just tell your teacher that then. Just say that you’ve forgotten all about your Christmas holiday and nothing will remind you of it” suggests mummy. “Shall we go and have some breakfast?”

“I’m going to take the tiger mask, mummy”, announces Twin 2. “Actually, the elephant. Or what about the lion? I’m putting my tiger mask on now. Do I look like a tiger, mummy?” he asks.

“Yes you do, darling”, says mummy.

“No he DOESN’T!” bellows Twin 1. Because he has BROWN HAIR, and he’s wearing TROUSERS! And he doesn’t have white paws.”

“Did you know that no two tigers are the same?” asks the eldest boy. “Like ladybirds.”

Everyone takes a moment to process this information. Mummy then prepares the breakfast and explains to her children that going back to school or work after a break is sometimes hard and that we all have to be kind to each other to make it easier.

The eldest boy and Twin 1 kick each other under the table and call each other names as mummy is explaining about being kind.

“If I take my tiger mask then I can tell everyone about my tiger onesie, can’t I mummy?” says Twin 2. “I know I can’t take my tiger onesie though”, he adds.

“That’s right, sweetheart”, says mummy.

“Wait a minute!” says Twin 2 urgently.”Or can I take my tiger onesie?”

“No onesies allowed, darling”, says mummy. “Shall we all put our shoes on?”

The children start putting their shoes on after at least 87 requests from mummy. Twin 2 announces that his shoes are too small, and the eldest boy panics about what to do with his playtime trainers – should they be in a bag or not in a bag? Should he take them out of the bag when he gets to school? He doesn’t need the bag as this will just be an extra item on his peg, so how will he get the bag back to mummy?

Mummy and her children leave the house.

“I am just going to say I did dancing with my pompom, mummy.” says Twin 1 as he walks down the path in his bobble hat. “That is all I’m going to say.”

Mummy’s heart breaks a little bit.

back to school

 

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?’

Bedtime feet

 

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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A twin journey

“I think you need to look at the screen”, said the sonographer. So I finally looked up.

“There’s baby number 1”, she said. “….And there’s baby number 2.”

I hadn’t wanted to look up until then. Because the last time I’d been on that bed, there was an awful silence. One of those silences which is heavy with meaning. One of those silences which means there’s a problem.

And so when I was back on that bed, my head was very deliberately turned the other way.

Baby number 2? …….. Baby number 2?

It took a moment.

There were definitely tears…..tears of panic, really. I was thinking of giant buggies and new cars and the fact that since having baby #1 I had always looked at anyone with twins and thought ‘how on earth is that possible?’

“But we’ve already got one”, I said to the sonographer – as if that piece of information might change things. “What are we going to do?”

“First time is the hardest”, she said. “You’ll find it easier this time.”

That was about five years ago now. It almost feels like a different life.

Since then, I have thought I can’t do this more times than I can count; but also known that I don’t actually have a choice, because I have to do it.

I have felt bewildered, overwhelmed and at times totally inadequate.

I have watched crawling twins, climbing twins and walking twins gain in confidence as they worked out how to get to all the things which had been deliberately put out of their reach…….And I have felt like things were rapidly slipping out of my control.

I have eaten too many sweets, a lot of cake, and tripled my coffee intake.

I have accepted kind words from strangers and tried to stay strong when people have felt the need to be unkind.

I haven’t completed any of the baby journals or scrapbooks that I completed for my eldest boy. Instead there are hospital bands and locks of hair and scan photos strewn casually around the house. Sorry about that, little ones.

I have struggled my way through hundreds of painful, over-tired bedtimes.

I have cried. A lot. Tears of exhaustion, frustration, joy and everything in between.

I have despaired over squabbles about who gets to open the bedroom door first, who gets to go to the toilet first, who gets to wear the Spiderman pyjamas, who gets to choose their cereal first, who gets to wear the stripy hat, who gets to choose the music in the car, who gets to be the one to open the front door on the way out (this is the most coveted job of them all, and is always worth fighting over).

I have felt like the world’s worst referee.

I have spent nights being budged out of my own bed, nights lying on the floor next to small boys’ beds; and too many Sunday mornings trying to convince little ones that 5.30am is just not an acceptable time to start the day.

But there is also this – the fact that you, Baby number 1 and Baby number 2, are now a proper team….. a unit. The fact that, as you get older, you are increasingly able to take comfort and confidence from each other. When I think about your play, your chatter, your day-to-day fun….well, I’m just not particularly important anymore. Apart from for logistics……and snacks, obviously. At four years old, you are now able to cooperate, share and take it in turns – of course you still have your moments, but who doesn’t? The skills are there, and you display them more frequently than you used to. You consult each other on which television programme you should watch next; you arrange to swap hats and trainers. You have got used to always taking someone else into account – sometimes this doesn’t suit you…… of course it doesn’t. But this is your life and you understand that. You are proud of yourselves when you manage to reach a compromise…… I am proud of you too. You organise your play meticulously: it always involves each other and only occasionally involves me – let’s play Fireman Sam and Elvis, let’s play doggy and his owner, let’s play daddy and baby, let’s play cow and farmer.

Frequently I feel like I am talking to myself – you are too busy in your own world to take much notice of me and…..well yes, that can be infuriating. But then when we’re not in a rush, I remind myself to take a moment to watch and listen to the way you talk to each other. The way you manage to work out a compromise. The way you adjust each other’s school uniform. Even just the way you use each other’s names. Because these are the things I know I’ll be desperate to hold onto as you get bigger and my window into your world gets smaller.

‘Impossible’ is what I used to say about having twins.

It isn’t impossible, as long as you adjust what you expect of yourself.

But the struggle to hear myself think, the feeling that nothing is being done quite as well as it should be, and the physical exertion required to get two small children of the same age through the most basic tasks…..well, somehow it all seems worth it when you see your twins manage to come to an agreement over who gets the top and who gets the bottom half of a hot cross bun.

Well done, boys – mummy is so proud x

arm-in-arm

I wrote this because February is TAMBA’s #lovemultiples month. Yes, I know I am sneaking in at the last minute on the very last day of February, but I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail all month so the fact that I’m a bit late to the party with this one too seemed fitting.