As I write this, my children are downstairs. (I find that I do my best parenting when in an adjacent room, usually quickly scoffing leftover mince pies and chocolate coins before the kids find me.)
I can hear Jemima, who is only two, scolding her older brother Noah with the force of a thousand suns, because Noah is throwing his teddy bears around like that scene in Elf with the snowballs (you know which one I'm talking about). I know this because I can hear them clattering into Jemima's toys, hence the angry yelling in a voice which is fearsomely low and rasping for a child who's still in nappies.
And I know my eldest son, Isaac, isn't getting himself into any trouble because – well, he rarely does. He can usually be found with his head in a book, or constructing something intricate out of wooden blocks on Minecraft.
The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is reach for my phone, and this morning as I scrolled through my Twitter timeline through bleary eyes I noticed a clear split between parents who were dreading the day their children return to school after the holidays, and those who were desperate for them to go back so they could have some peace and quiet.
It sounds awful, but I'm very much in the latter camp.
I would struggle to be a stay-at-home parent. I enjoy my peace and quiet, adult conversation with adult people, and to be hon-
Hold on, Jemima's crying. One sec.
Okay, back. To be honest, I often don't think I'm cut out to be a full-time parent, and I have so much respect for those who are, and who seem to have endless patience. For me, the times of stress and exhaustion seem to outweigh the times when they're having fun, and laughing, and joking.
Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't change anything, and I'm not going to be one of those parents who puts their child half-jokingly on eBay. But during the holidays and weekends, there are moments when the constant aggravation can all feel a little overwhelming.
Taking three kids outside and trying to walk them along a pavement without one of them running into the road feels like herding sheep.
It's their constant need for attention, the times when all three of them are talking at me at once, their voices growing louder and louder as they compete, and I feel like my head is swelling to the point when it's just going to burst and spatter them with hot brain juice.
Noah, stop throwing your toys please.
It's the feeling that swells inside you when you can hear an argument between the children brewing, the one of stress as the volume of their voices rises together into one collective yell and you know that you're going to have to intervene and do some kind of Judge Judy-style mediation, even though they won't listen and in five minutes they'll be arguing again.
It's moments like these which make me look forward to their return to school. Reading this back, it sounds awful, and there have been so many wonderful moments with my kids over the Christmas break, but I can't deny that a chunk of me is looking forward to some peace and quiet.
Anyway, I'd better go. The mince pies are just crumbs and flecks of goo in my stubble now, and Jemima's doing that voice again. When's it bedtime?
Are you secretly relieved the holiday is nearly over? Or will you miss this family time?
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