For some reason - either the universe hating me or our timing when having kids - our three children have all reached irritating stages of development at the same time.
Isaac is six, but has started acting like he's 16, and in the midst of a perfect storm of hormones. Everything we ask him to do is met with a grumpy glare, and if we tell him off he responds by raising his voice and emphasising the last letter of the final word he bellows to a ridiculous degree.
"Go to your room," we'll say, firmly (with good reason, of course, and not just because we want some peace and quiet).
"I'm GOIN-GAH!" he'll yell in response, hunching his shoulders and stomping towards the staircase.
"Do this please, Isaac."
"I'm DOING I-TAH!"
You get the idea. The thing is, it's so hilarious to watch that it makes it really difficult to tell him off for being so rude. After all, it's hard to discipline your children when you're laughing at the same time. They tend not to take you seriously.
Noah, at three, has just reached the stage when he's discovered that he has...boy parts. As a result, he walks around clutching his groin like Michael Jackson, or a drunken football hooligan who has no sense of personal boundaries.
"Leave your willy alone!" I exclaim, for the fifth time that day.
"I'm not touching I-TAH!" comes a shout from the next room.
I (politely) inform Isaac that I was actually talking to someone else, and bat Noah's hand away from the front of his jeans with a swipe. At least he's wearing clothes, I tell myself, and I think back to the numerous times after getting in and out of the bath that Noah has stood naked in front of the mirror, gripped his willy and started dancing like a maniac. I hope he grows out of it, otherwise I can see us bailing him out of police cells after he's been arrested for indecent exposure.
Jemima's stage isn't really an irritating one; it's just the natural progression from crawling to walking which means that we have to lift everything breakable, sharp or hot by about a metre to prevent her from reaching them.
"Oh look, she's taking her first steps!" we squeal excitedly; joy which turns to despair in just a few days as she waddles towards cups of tea, mobile phones, small toys, her nappy-clad backside jutting out.
The lifting of everything out of arms' reach is made all the more important when you consider that our 15-month-old daughter has a vice-like grip which is far stronger than it should be. It's almost embarrassing when you find yourself struggling to pry something out of her hand when she doesn't even look like she's trying that hard to keep hold of it.
When I tell parents who have children older than ours about these stages, they just look at me through tired eyes and tell me with a semi-evil smile that it doesn't get any easier.
Oh, that's just brillian-TAH, I reply, my expression deadpan, and resist the urge to storm off, Isaac-style.
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