It was while I was fitting a Houdini clip to KD’s carseat that the Wee Man escaped.
The neighbour rang the doorbell and returned my free-spirited six year old – not for the first time.
“Your side gate is open,” she explained, smiling sympathetically.
“How did he…” I trailed off, laughing because I was embarrassed, torn between admiration for the Wee Man’s skills and sheer exasperation.
He had pulled over his bike, climbed up on it and pulled back the latch.
I am beginning to resign myself to the fact I have two sons.
It’s taken me six years, but three smashed tellies, four indelibly marked walls and a stained carpet later I’m losing my fight for domestic bliss. I can no longer afford to replace expensive things in the vain hope that destruction was a one-off accident. I’m getting fed up cleaning for hours only for mud to be traipsed through the house, juice to be dropped and Hula Hoops to be joyously stamped on the minute they come home from school and nursery. I’ve tried for years to discipline them, ration them, deprive them, ban them – my house still gets trashed.
Don’t misunderstand, I am no pushover. We have a zero tolerance policy on bad behaviour, a zealously-enforced naughty step procedure and a highly effective cold shoulder when all the low-level naughtiness mounts and I silently lose my shit. I say silently because I have found, over the years, that shouting at them only escalates a bad situation. It makes them cry louder, slam more and generally prolongs the hell.
I’m adjusting. Places like the playroom get a cursory tidy and a weekly hoover. Rooms like my bedroom get a lock. The kitchen is a constant sweep-wipe-mop cycle and the bathrooms get a daily spray and wipe due to two little toilet-trained willies now misfiring. Nothing gets left lying that has the potential to cause mischief (knives, pens, expensive digital equipment) and any work bags get dropped in the dining room, not the hall, as it too has a lock. The garden, much as I would love to landscape it, is their domain. They can drop gravel on the grass, stamp PlayDoh into the patio and pull out the remains of the daffodils to their hearts’ content. Why? Because they’re outside, happy and exploring in a safe environment – thanks to our expensive but effective new fence – and that means a few minutes of peace for me.
One day I will live in a house with white sofas, plush carpets and a ladies-only bathroom full of expensive products that no one will squirt down the toilet. But until that day, I shall muddle along in my noisy, vibrant semi-detached – which may not stand up to Instagram standards, but which is full of laughter and love.