There’s no denying the explosion in your life when you have children; it truly is like a grenade has gone off. Carefree days of going out, sleeping in, reading a book, having a relaxing bath, a quick nip out to the shops, all of it gone! And with it, levels of unfathomable tiredness you didn’t even know existed! You thought a weekend of back to back clubbing was hard – that’s nothing, compared to having a baby!
And as the baby becomes a toddler you realise the baby thing was the easy part. Sleepless nights and endless nappy changing becomes compounded by trying to walk and falling over, teething pains and red bums, tantrums over what clothes to wear, which activities to do, how much tablet time, which story not to read, and on it goes.
And just as you navigate your way through that quagmire, many of us decide to add another baby to the mix. Or in our case another two. Bonkers, for sure!
And so it starts, a budding family of chaos; a house filled with noise, with running and jumping, with crayons on the wall, spilt milk on the carpet (mustn’t cry over that one!), arguments, bickering, messy bedrooms, more clothes than you know what to do with, ever changing shoe sizes, fussy eating, pestering and nagging to the point of nausea. Children seem to be everywhere – forever hungry, forever too cold, forever too hot, forever struggling to get to sleep, forever being ill, forever being car sick. Your life has simply becoming a mopping-up, clearing-up, feeding, washing, cleaning machine. And you look at your partner with those loud eyes praying for a time when the baby sitter can come again, when the grandparents can take over for just a little while, when the children are at school, at a club, at someone’s house, just somewhere, anywhere, so the house is quiet and you can have some time to think, have some time to yourself, have some time with your partner as you used to before the hurricane of children descended.
Until that strange moment when the children all of a sudden – almost without you noticing – are old enough to each have a friend round after school. And off they go into their separate rooms (yes, we’re lucky enough to have a house where each child has their own room), each with their friend, each off into a world of play with their doors closed. And all of sudden the kitchen becomes quiet. There is no one around. There is no one asking for some food, or a drink, or bickering about which cartoon to watch; there is no one spilling milk, there are no crumbs on the sofa. And you finally have that Peace At Last moment. Ahh, you can have a cup of tea silence with your wife. The moment you have been waiting for has finally arrived. You’ve done your job; the children are all independent; they have friends; their rooms are being used. And everything is fine.
And that’s when everything becomes even stranger; because that’s the moment you realise how boring it is without your children around. You find yourselves alone and quiet. You find yourselves – dare we say it - twiddling your thumbs. There’s no one coming to ask you questions or nag or to pester or to hang around your ankles. Your children are off. They are busy. They don’t need you anymore. You’re done. And my wife and I find ourselves looking at each other with nothing to do; we’re not prepared for it. Dinner is in the oven. The table is laid. The house is still tidy. There are no clubs to whizz off to. And we’re left in this eerie place of nothingness with nothing to do.
And it’s boring. And too quiet. Almost lonesome. And we get our first glimpse of what it’s like when the children might eventually leave home. And we realise we actually like the chaos and the noise and the confusion. It’s what makes a house a home, having children running about and making a fuss and being loud. That is what our family is. And in truth we realise we never really want it to end.
Until, of course, the dinner is ready. And all at once children appear from every corner, double the usual amount, talking and singing and shouting and agitating; and immediately they jostle for places at the table and shout about who has the wrong fork and who doesn’t have a glass, who doesn’t like what and why and how and when.
And all at once we’re back to where we’re started. Wishing for the blissful peace. And wondering if it will ever come again. But this time we can sit back and enjoy every moment. Because secretly we never want it to stop.
But shh. Don’t tell the kids!