Friday 12th January 2007, early afternoon
We were already late having lunch and have now got to hurry if we’re going to make it to the children’s play date on time. I manoeuvre between mounds of scattered building bricks to fetch Angel’s diluted apple juice, almost slipping on a stray sheet of scribbled paper, and curse under my breath. The kids are already installed at the large wooden dining table in the kitchen extension, rustic enough to weather pens, paints, glue, the kid’s spat-out food and assorted sticky stuff. This zone of the house multi-tasks as downstairs playroom, kitchen and general living area all in one - with resulting chaos. Angel’s meant to be eating but she’s reaching out like an octopus to everything she can grab and play with except her spoon. She’s singing, too, which doesn’t mix with lunch, and spits a gooey lump into her lap before I can grab a wipe to deal with it. I’m trying to be cross but her ringlets fall around her soft little face and she grins lovingly, grabbing me as I come past with those tiny fingers covered in saliva and crumbs, planting an air kiss on my hand. That’s parenting! My children smell the sweetest, have the most imploring, liquid eyes, the softest most kissable skin and make me laugh every day: but the dinner table is a battlefield, our greatest source of conflict (I’ve been known to retreat into the next room in tears). You feed them organic this, additive-free that, wholemeal this, free-range organic and pesticide-free that, and spend a fortune at Waitrose and knowing my luck they’ll turn 13 and crave McDonalds. I get up to fetch another cup of juice and trip over a ‘Thomas the tank engine’ bath toy, just saving my balance in time. Next I manage to over-fill the cup and spill juice all over the kitchen counter, from where it seeps down into the drawers and dribbles back behind the toaster. I’m trying to dab at my splattered shirt when Kal, who’s finished all his fish fingers but left his vegetables untouched, whines that Angel’s throwing her grapes all over the floor. I pick them up like a robot, trying to stay calm.
‘Please kids, be good, today is really not a great day so far’, I mutter, half to myself and half to the children.
‘Why not, Mummy, aren’t you happy?’ asks Callum. This almost brings me to tears.
After the children have eaten I quickly unload the washing from the dryer to take it upstairs before we go, turn round and realise that my expensive linen pillowcase from "The White Company" has fallen off the pile I’m carrying through the kitchen and I’ve stepped right onto it, treading in a stray streak of tomato ketchup! I close my eyes, say a little prayer for sanity, and decide it’s time to get out of the door. It’s not that part of me got lost when I had kids, but that part of me got paused, like the Bob the Builder DVD when the children’s half-hour is up. Getting out of the house and indulging in some (silly) womanly chat will help me paint over the cracks.