I steel myself slightly as I walk in the door. The troops are always delighted to see me as each has been storing up grievances since earlier in the day which he or she would like to share, ideally, before I take off my coat.
The children accost me from all sides with competing tales of their activities. If I am first home, I try to hear from the childminder how the day went but it is always “fine”. I am, in any event, constantly interrupted by the clamour of children demanding to tell me their news and physically pinioning me to the couch. The boys have no sense of timing and always choose this moment to ask for a story or that I superglue some broken toy. Often there are offerings of colourings or drawings. The fight for my attention sometimes breaks down into open warfare. I know what Oliver James would say about this but I am humming with my fingers in my ears.
If Mr. Waffle is home before me, the childminder has gone (good) and he is in the kitchen making dinner (also good). Homework has to be done after we return from work and is invariably tedious and takes a great deal longer than might reasonably be expected due to resistance from the staff side.
Dinner follows. This exercise invariably depresses both parents as, pretty much regardless of what is served up, the boys will refuse to eat it. Consequently, I suppose, the boys desire to sit at the dinner table is somewhere around nil. Much of dinner is spent saying “Please sit down” through gritted teeth.
After the children clear the table and receive a biscuit reward, we begin the long slow slide to bedtime. Teeth, toilet, pyjamas, smiley face [elaborate and probably over-generous reward system for good behaviour] for the boys. And then, my favourite part of the evening with them, reading a story. I am reading “The Folk of the Faraway Tree” by Enid Blyton at the moment. My mother said that this is the book that taught me to read as she simply couldn’t face reading it aloud. I am finding it delightfully nostalgic though I can perceive dimly why she might have been nauseated by the cast of pixies, brownies, elves and cute little bunnies. And the boys enjoy it so much. Michael is agog with excitement. One night, I went upstairs at 10 and he was still awake staring at the bottom of the upper bunk. “Why are you still awake?” I asked. “I’m thinking about Connie and hoping she gets back to the Faraway Tree.”
And then smiley face for herself, and then upstairs with her to see her into bed. She is always slightly hysterical in the bathroom; I assume from exhaustion. Then she hops into bed with her book and I retreat warily downstairs. The boys then have to be supplied with cuddles and hot water bottles.
On a good night, nobody comes downstairs and our work is done by the nine o’clock news and we sit in front of it with tea and feel middle aged. On a bad night, one or two children come down. Daniel, very virtuously, never comes down. Michael often comes down to allege violence. The other night he arrived down weeping because he had dropped a €2 coin in his eye. He now has a crescent shaped bruise on his eyelid.
At 10 o’clock, having seen to the laundry, Mr. Waffle often retires. He believes that, if he left the laundry to me, we would never have a clean stitch. I like to believe that this isn’t true. Sometimes I sit up late into the night playing on the internet.
Everything is better on Wednesdays as I don’t work on Wednesday afternoons and the house is tidy, homework is done and dinner is ready at 6.30 [which is when we usually get home]. Unfortunate but there it is. I am [Americans please look away] taking 2 months off this summer between holidays and parental leave [unpaid, but my husband has promised to keep me] and it starts at the end of this week on July 1. Rejoice with me, if you can stand to. I feel it will make for a much more serene home life. And the children won’t have to go to course after course, a less than satisfactory solution to school holidays employed in the past. I wouldn’t describe my colleagues as ecstatic about this development but they are resigned.
And now tell me, what do you do of an evening?