I have a theory, it goes like this: every single child in the country is engaged in a sophisticated, organised and unremitting campaign of sabotage designed to corrode, and eventually obliterate, the very institution that holds family life together. That's right, I'm talking about the morning routine.
If it fails, the nation fails. Nobody would go to work and nobody would go to school. When you called 999 nobody would answer because whoever usually picks up the phone would still be shuffling around in his slippers at 4pm trying to convince his four-year-old to put some pants on.
And when the next generation came to power they would have nothing to offer the world but the ability to eat Cornflakes at a terrifyingly slow pace.
The motives behind this conspiracy are not entirely clear: either small children would just rather stay at home or they're all budding anarchists.
I suspect it is more of the former but I can't be sure. Whatever the reason, if your morning routine bears any resemblance to the following your beloved offspring is undoubtedly in on it.
Your child wakes and immediately begins shouting, "MUMMY! DADDY!" at an obscene volume, before sprinting into your room and burrowing into your bed as if she is a termite looking for a new home.
She knows it is vital to force you out of bed as early as possible – the less sleep you have the less you'll be able to combat her.
She coughs and declares that she is feeling poorly, this will become a theme throughout the morning.
She is hoping you are still haunted by the time you sent her to nursery with a little temperature and got a call at lunchtime to tell you she'd vomited her fish pie up the wall. Try and ignore that memory.
Before you can say: "Get dressed before you go downstairs", she's downstairs not dressed.
You become engaged in a standoff with your other half. But unlike most standoffs this one involves lying down. When you hear your child playing with the knife block and realise your partner is snoring, you decide you'd better get up.
You've lost the standoff.
At some point before your child leaves home for university you'll start the day with a constructive activity. But for now you're going to start it with the Bob The Builder, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Who wants to be constructive at 7am?
You offer her breakfast, but she's not hungry yet. She is however still poorly. You wonder if Calpol constitutes a good meal and how hard-and-fast those dosage rules are.
You offer her Shreddies, Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, toast, crumpets, a full roast and last night's curry but she's still not hungry. And anyway she's holding out for the Coco Pops you've hidden at the back of the cupboard behind the smoothie maker you never use.
You decide to go and have a shower. You'll deal with this later.
It's later and you've got to deal with this. You give in and let her have the Coco Pops. When you get the milk you're surprised to find your tie in the fridge.
She's not - she hid it there.
She wants another bowl. All of a sudden she's eating as if she's been lost in the Sahara for several weeks.
It really is time to get dressed now. But no one is as particular about what she wears as a child who knows her parents are unlikely to let her leave the house without clothes on – she has you just where she wants you: "Go on, I dare you, take me to pre-school in my pyjamas".
You present her with an outfit: the tights are too tight, the cardigan is unbearably uncomfortable for some undefinable reason and she's most definitely not wearing that dress. What's the point if it doesn't sparkle so intensely it can be seen from space?
The only garment she will wear without fuss is in the wash. It's always in the wash. She's also started feeling poorly again.
As time speeds up for you, your child starts to exist entirely in slow-motion. She puts her shoes on the wrong feet – probably deliberately – and her coat suddenly becomes the most complex puzzle in the known universe, even Einstein would struggle to get it on.
You step out of the front door and step back in when you realise you've forgotten to clean her teeth.
You gave up brushing her hair weeks ago.
"But what about my teddy!" she cries, you know the one you haven't seen for months? That's the one – she's not leaving without it. You don't have time for a debate so you roar through the house emptying drawers, toppling bunk beds and ripping off wardrobe doors in a frantic search. Once you've found it she decides she actually wants her spotty dog. And her doctor's kit. You leave home so laden with goods you can't shut your front door or open the car.
As you pull out of the drive you realise she has smuggled an unidentified stain on to your trousers in a desperate last bid to force you back inside. You decide it will be easier to spend all day covering up the stain with your bag.
That's the sequence of events in my house, and it's one that is repeated up and down the country every day. At least I hope it is – this can't just be happening to me?
Once I finally arrive at pre-school with my daughter, typically hours later than everybody else, she clings ferociously to my legs, refusing to let go. But I'm pretty sure as soon as I leave she gathers all her co-conspirators around to compare havoc-making tales and high-five each other.
We're teetering on the brink of chaos and our children know it. Stay vigilant people.
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