15/05/2013 06:36 BST | Updated 14/07/2013 06:12 BST

Bigger Picture, Perennial Wisdom?


My two older girls are engaged in their fifth argument of the day, upstairs. I'm cracking up.

"What's going on up there?" I holler.

"I was going into the bathroom first to wash my hair and she went in in front of me and she won't get out," my 14 year-old daughter says.

"Is that true?" I ask her 13 year-old sister.

"She's lying to you, daddy. She always does. Why do you always believe her? You never believe me."

"Daddy, she did this the last time too and you did nothing on her. You only ever punish me."

"Right, get out of that bathroom and let your sister in!"

My 13 year-old hurtles out of the bathroom and shoulders her sister on passing, then goes into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her."

"Daddy, she took my towel!"

"Give her her towel back!" I yell.

No reply.

"You better get that towel back to her now or you'll be grounded."

She flings the towel out of her room and bangs her door again. "It's always about her. It's never about me! You only love her."

How did I ever get into this, I think? How did I ever let my life slide so far? I could have been a political science lecturer, a Japanese language interpreter, a writer who inspired millions, but here I am sorting out arguments between two teenagers. Where did it all go wrong?

I run upstairs and pick the towel up off the floor and give it to my eldest daughter.

"Now, get in there and get your hair washed. I'm sick of the two of you fighting."

Next thing, my 8 year-old daughter rushes into the house from outside.

"Daddy, can I go into my friend's house?" she says, running upstairs to me.

"Oh, my God! What's that on your shoes? Is that dog-pooh? My carpet! Get those off! Quickly!"

I carry the offending articles outside and pick the pooh off them with a stick, before rinsing them out and chucking them into the washing machine. Having washed the carpet next, I take out the vacuum-cleaner to vacuum it, but there's no suction. It's full to the brim, and I have no refill-bags. There's nothing for it but to empty it by hand. Seconds later, I am outside plucking the dirt of an entire winter and spring out of the vacuum bag - hair-clips, markers, coins, paper, elastic bands, any amount of the offenders' hair, of course, and Moshi Monsters - and dumping it into the wheelie bin when a neighbour passes by.

"How come one of the greatest minds of the 21st century ends up cleaning dog-pooh off shoes and plucking dirt from vacuum bags?" I say, looking for sympathy.

"It's called 'motherhood'," she says. "You just got the sex wrong."

I return indoors, chastened. I vacuum the carpet and start cooking dinner.

My youngest reappears.

"Daddy, you're just so creative," she says.

Finally, someone who recognises my talent, I think. I set the potato-peeler down.

"What do you mean?"

She raises three fingers.

"You created three girls. That's amazing."

Bigger picture. Perennial wisdom.

You can't argue with that.

Or can you?