Things I get asked in supermarkets by people I've never met. 'Oooh. You've got four children. How on earth do you cope?'
"Well", I say, shoving bottles of Pinot under the loo roll. 'Television helps. Obviously. And if it all gets too much I sometimes lock them in a cupboard.'
It's one of those questions that is utterly pointless. I have no choice but to cope. I am the queen of coping.
But as all mothers know, there are varying degrees of excellence. One of my favourite shortcuts involves giving the children breakfast for supper. (This happens when there's nothing in the fridge because I've avoided going to the supermarket to justify my life choices to a total stranger in aisle seven.) So they get bread, cereal and milk. And when they wake up in the morning they get it again. It works well for us.
I can see how people might assume that the arrival of number four was – oops – a surprise rather than a conscious but slightly insane decision on our part. Our first child wasn't planned and neither was the third. I think two out of four is pretty organised, actually.
But I'm so glad we did it. The older three were born within four years of each other and it's been an exercise in fire-fighting on a inferno scale. One of my biggest regrets is that I can remember a blurry big picture – first days of school, favourite bedtime stories – but no matter how hard I try I just can't recollect all those little details that give my memories that wonderful high-res definition.
Having Dolly has brought it all back. She's reminded me how lovely a baby's hair smells when they get out of the bath. And when her teeth finally appear she can remind me, too, of what it's like to stay up all night soothing a red-cheeked, dribbling bundle of crossness. This time round I've vowed to savour each magical, messy moment.
So put that in your trolley and let me get on with buying my wine.
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