Apart from providing me with hard evidence that I am definitely a city girl and a motorway sissy to boot, this week has also reminded me that children are extremely hard work.
Firstborn is much easier than the Small(er) One due to the fact that she is four, and so can be reasoned with 80% of the time or at least brought to heel by the threat of a stint on the 'thinking step' (a punishment worse than a week without Smarties, Firstborn's drug of choice).
The Small(er) One, on the other hand, is a chubby ball of rage and stubbornness with a penchant for mind-numbing repetition. She enjoys asking the same question 33,000 times, especially if it is of a stunningly mundane nature. Her favorite word is "NO!" (delivered at full volume, often emphasised by falling on the floor and screaming so loud her face turns puce). She takes an obvious pleasure in disagreeing with everything anyone says and is a natural rebel. On principle, she refuses to get dressed in anything practical (although fairy outfits and/or pyjamas worn with wellies are fine), eat anything other than peanut butter sandwices, have a bath, go to the loo, go to bed... in short, go anywhere or do anything suggested by anyone but her. She is a tyrant, a dictator and a bully, and she's only two years old.
Firstborn is having to resort to sneaky tactics. The Small(er) One used to have the upper hand due to her ear-splitting bellows and steely determination to get her own way. Now Firstborn has figured out that the Small(er) One might be meaner, but not only can she, Firstborn, run faster, she is also a dab hand at mounting and descending the stairs. The Small(er) One, on the other hand, runs like John Wayne after a three days on horseback and can only go down stairs on her bottom. This puts Firstborn at a significant advantage when it comes to maintaining possession of whatever toy it is an enraged Small(er) One has in her sights (usually anything Firstborn is playing with). My overriding memory of this week will be Firstborn racing past with a look of glee on her face with the Small(er) One in panting pursuit, screaming fit to burst.
When they're not fighting, they're plotting. Bedtimes are a hotbed of intrigue. Tonight I stood outside their bedroom door, trying to catch my breath after twenty minutes of threatening, cajoling and pleading, and finally wrestling them into bed. Blissful silence, until I hear Firstborn say, "You shout for Mummy, tell her you need a wee-wee." Dutifully, the Small(er) One bellows, "MUMMY! I WANT A WEE-WEE!". This goes on for a couple of minutes. Then Firstborn says, "Tell Mummy you want a drink." The Small(er) One bellows, "MUMMMMEEEEE! WATER!" And on it goes, interspersed with delighted giggles; the Small(er) One claims to be hungry, needs a poo, having nightmares, another wee-wee, milk, biscuits, a story... Until, that is, I pop my head around the door. Firstborn is sitting in the Small(er) One's travel cot looking smug and the Small(er) One is standing up, clutching her beloved bunny, with a huge grin plastered over her face. They see me and instantly look guilty, especially when I announce that they've been rumbled and a Smartie-free existence looks likely unless they go to sleep instantly. Not a word has been uttered since.
I raise my glass to full-time parents everywhere. You are the world's unsung heroes. I wish you the ultimate reward - a night of unbroken sleep.
Going back to work is starting to feel like the promise of an exotic holiday.