A while ago poor Michael was sick. Nothing serious, just a runny nose, a cough and a bit of a temperature. But, if I put him down, he roared. It was one of my half days and I had tried to nap in the afternoon because I was tired after a difficult night with Michael and had a slight cold of my own but anyone will tell you that, even if your twin babies are asleep with their minder, having a little girl poke you in the eyelids is not conducive to napping. So we went to the supermarket, hung out clothes, fed the neighboursâ€™ cats and generally laboured for the afternoon. The childminder left me on my own with all my children about 6 (terror) and, unexpectedly, Mr. Waffle was stuck late at work (disaster).
By 7.30 the boys were cranky and tired, particularly Michael, but every time I tried to put him to bed he would wake up and cry. Perhaps the whooping from the other two didnâ€™t help. While I was in the bathroom running the bath for the two healthy ones, Daniel was putting his new found crawling skills to good effect in the bedroom and I kept darting in to check that he was alright. I couldnâ€™t put Michael down because he was deeply miserable and the Princess was lying in our bed saying â€œIâ€™m sick, Iâ€™m sick, pay attention to me not to Michael, Mummy come hereâ€. Under other circumstances, it wouldnâ€™t have been a crisis, but I was so tired and it seemed to me that they all wanted me immediately and I couldnâ€™t split myself in three so I shouted at the Princess â€œYou are not sick, you are being a painâ€. I had never shouted at her before. I have occasionally gone into another room, stuffed a towel in my mouth and had a rewarding silent scream, but I had never shouted at her. It was absolutely dreadful. She went pink, then white, then pink again. Daniel who I had just plumped down on the bed thought that I was shouting at him and he began to cry in terror, big round tears coursing down his little chubby cheeks (Michael was still in my arms and completely indifferent, I canâ€™t feel that he is the sensitive one among my children). It was awful. I started to cry myself, the combination of guilt and self-pity proving irresistible. I picked up Daniel to comfort him and Michael started to cry because he was not now in my arms. The Princess looked at me in horror â€“ whatâ€™s wrong, Mummy? â€œNothingâ€ I said sniffing â€œI just canâ€™t manage everyone and look, Michael is crying nowâ€. She hopped up and put her arms around Michael (who screamed some more at this unnerving development) and said â€œDonâ€™t you mind him, Mummy, Iâ€™ll look after him.â€ You know how it is, once someone is nice to you when you start to cry, all you can do is cry some more. As I rescued Michael from his sisterâ€™s embrace and kept an arm round a more quietly sobbing Daniel (who later in the evening squealed in terror when I put him sitting on the bed – happy memories, clearly), she said â€œMummy, when will you be happy again?â€ So I said that I would be happy by the time she counted to 60 (that’s one minute, everything is a pedagogical opportunity for the pushy parent, you know) and so, I gathered myself together and faced into the remainder of the evening and, I suppose, we all survived.