By the time husband arrived home at about 7pm last night I was almost crying with exhaustion. At first I couldn’t really understand why, because Sophia had (miracle of miracles) actually slept through the night before, therefore I’d had the Holy Grail of an uninterrupted 8 hours sleep. Then I reflected on the day. Lots of it is actually fairly standard stuff in the life of a SAHM – which actually goes some way to explaining why I haven’t managed to stay awake long enough to watch the 10 o’clock News in eight years.
Preparing for school was the normal fun. Anna now gets herself ready, by and large, but every single morning she seems astounded at being asked to do so. She finishes breakfast sinks onto the sofa with her book, still in PJs, and when I ask her to go upstairs, wash her face, clean her teeth, get dressed, brush her hair and so on, she looks at me with the not unwilling but startled and slightly sceptical air of someone who has been asked to borrow a giraffe from the zoo and teach it to play dominoes, rather than someone being asked to perform the same standard routine she does every single weekday. If I forget to mention a stage, hair brushing for example, then it is not carried out. Looking at her tangled bed-head I ask “have you brushed your hair?” and she gazes back all wide-eyed indignation “but you never told me to brush my hair”. Well, no. Maybe this morning I didn’t specifically mention it, but I’ve never yet let you go to school without your hair being brushed, so it perhaps wouldn’t have taken a super-human level of ingenuity to see that one coming.
Whereas Anna’s ultra-passive approach to the morning routine might irk, I still find it infinitely preferable to her sister’s very strong desire to play an active part in proceedings. The exclamation “No, Fia do it!” rings round our house from morning until night. We are barely permitted to do anything for her, regardless of whether or not she is capable of performing the activity for herself.
With teeth-cleaning I have the twice-daily choice of standing helplessly by while she contentedly chews her toothbrush for a few moments, or attempting to put her in a headlock whilst jabbing the brush in the vague direction of her mouth as she screams and writhes and kicks. As fast as I fasten one side of the nappy, she is unfastening the other side. I’m going to try potty training very soon, not because I have any evidence that she is ready, simply because I’m exhausted by the ongoing struggle to get a clean nappy onto her bottom. Getting her dressed is my morning workout, as she sprints from one end of the house to another in between each stage. One arm in vest – and she’s off. Chase, catch, other arm in vest. And she’s off. Chase, catch, one foot in tights…etc etc etc. I’m really looking forward to the warmer weather when there are fewer clothes to worry about.
Finally everyone is dressed and abluted to a halfway acceptable standard. We leave the house. It is pouring with rain. School is only a five minute walk away, but by the time we get there we are all drenched. Undaunted (well, only a little bit daunted), I press on with my plan to take Sophia to the library. Uncaged from her sopping wet buggy (she refuses to have the rain cover on and kicks it off if I am unwise enough to make the attempt), she proceeds to completely ignore all the books and treat the library as her own personal Olympic training ground – climbing, bouncing, running, jumping. In the split seconds between trying to coral Sophia, I managed to choose two picture books for her, and two chapter books for her sister. One of Anna’s books even tied in with her history topic for the term, so I think I get some extra mummy points for that. Even though I’m in minus points for allowing my toddler to use the little sofa in the children’s library as a trampoline.
Thankfully the rain has stopped, so I abandon any attempt to get Sophia back into the buggy and we walk home together, exclaiming at marvels like diggers and vans and puddles and discarded Happy Meal boxes as we go. If I’m not in a rush to get somewhere on time, I genuinely enjoy being forced to slow down to toddler pace and observe things I wouldn’t otherwise notice.
We get home, and I am about to prepare lunch when there is a knock on the door. Thankfully not an insatiably greedy tiger, but a charming man from Thames Water who wants to talk to me about the new meter that has just been installed, check the property for leaks, put water-saver things in our toilet cisterns and do a questionnaire on water usage with me.
“Shouldn’t take more than half an hour, Madam.”
Quickly insert Charlie and Lola DVD, and attempt to focus on all the Very Important Things being imparted, as well as ensuring that Sophia is still contentedly zombified in front of the telly, and not attempting any of her extreme gymnastics moves or tormenting the cat. Absorb fact that we’re going to be paying between £100 and £200 a year more for our water, and crack on making lunch.
Put Sophia down for her nap. SHE DOESN”T SLEEP! She’s quite happy playing in her cot, calling me back every few minutes for a little chat, but she is determinedly awake. Until ten minutes before we need to leave for the school-run when she falls into a deep and impenetrable slumber from which I have to almost shake her awake. She is tearful and grumpy, but we’re running late, and I’m also collecting two of Anna’s friends to come round for tea and play, so I have no choice but to dump her in buggy and dash off to school. It’s pouring down again, inevitably. Mid-sprint my dodgy hip joint decides it is not happy, and I have to limp-run the rest of the way.
Get home with Anna and her two friends, B and L. They have snacks and then go into the garden to play (it’s now stopped raining). I am reading to Sophia when I hear splashes and muffled giggles from the kitchen. I go to investigate and find the kitchen floor awash with muddy water and the three girls standing round the sink.
“What are you doing, girls?” I ask in the faux-honied tones you have to adopt when dealing with other people’s children.
“We’ve found some rocks in the garden, and are washing them in case they have silver or gold deposits in them.”
“Well, perhaps you could wash them outside, what do you think?”
Off they go again. Peace once more, until Anna and B arrive back.
“L is upset.” they inform me.
“Why is L upset?”
“Because she’s stuck.”
“Where is she stuck?”
“On the shed roof.”
Yes. Of course she is.
I abandon Sophia to their tender care and go to the rescue. Enquiries as to why L was on the shed roof are met with an eye-rolling world-weariness at my stupidity.
“Because we’re the Top of Roof Gang! So we have to be on the roof.”
I gently suggest alternative activities. One of which, heaven help me, is a continuation of rock washing. Inevitably they decide to use the hosepipe. Inevitably they are all drenched. I despatch them upstairs to get dry whilst I prepare dinner with a now exhausted and clingy Sophia clamped on one hip.
B and L’s dad arrives to collect them, just as Sophia (still surgically attached to me) does an enormous poo. Uncomfortably aware that she, I and indeed the whole house, now stink of human excrement I nonetheless make polite small talk and proffer an explanation as to why his daughters are now entirely clad in my daughter’s clothes. I manage to keep off the topic of shed roofs.
We then have the evening version of the morning wrestling match, this time to get Sophia out of her day clothes, cleaned up and into pyjamas and a sleeping bag. Then stories and into bed. Downstairs to do Anna’s nit-combing (she had them again recently, and while they seem to have cleared, I am so paranoid that I attack her with the Nitty Gritty comb and Vosene deterrent spray at every opportunity), before hearing the blissfully welcome sound of husband’s key in the lock. I delegate Anna’s bath and bedtime story to him, pour the vinegary remnants of a bottle of Chenin Blanc left over from the weekend into a glass, and sink down on the sofa to try and work out why I am so bloody exhausted.