I open my eyes slowly, letting them adjust to the gloom of the bedroom. I stretch, gently waking my limbs from sleep and decide to have another five minutes. I close my eyes and as thoughts eddy gently through my mind and the heavy silence of the room lulls me back into a doze, I smile.
Yeah, right. This has literally NEVER happened in the morning since having kids. You sacrifice a lot as a parent and that is part of the deal. (You know the deal I am talking about. The one where you decide to have kids, sign up to it, but you are not allowed to see the nine hundred and thirty two pages of Terms and Conditions that come with it? Yes, that one). It is just that some sacrifices are harder than others. Like not being allowed to wake up in a humane manner.
Take this morning, for instance. At half past five. Yes, Half past bloody five. Just that fact is enough to make me want to chew my own fists off in desperation. B starts to shout, in a way only a nearly-two-year old can shout. You know that strange fact about babies that they can breathe and swallow simultaneously? Well, it is a little known fact* that toddlers can shout and breathe simultaneously . I mean, why waste valuable shouting time inhaling? “DADDYDADDYDADDYDADDYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMY”
Given that B shouted for M first, the parenting rules states that it is M that must tend to him. Our parenting is pretty much defined by these rules. Not that they are written down anywhere. Oh no. They exist only in our heads. Or maybe just mine. But rules they most definitely are. Like, for example, those pertaining to nappy changes. Such as: He who smells it, changes it. If you have the misfortune to get a whiff of a full nappy, it is you who has to don the chemical warfare suit and clean it up. Which does lead to some erroneous ailment claims, such as ‘oh really? He’s had a poo, you say? How strange. He’s been sitting on my lap for an hour and I didn’t smell it. I think I have a blocked nose,” despite the fact your eyes are watering and your eyebrows are starting to melt due to the overpowering smell of baby shit fumes. So it is M who has to leave the warmth of the duvet and extract said child from his cot and sleeping suit.
“Hello mummy,” B says as M dumps him between us in the bed. I keep my eyes closed and pretend I am somewhere else. Anywhere else, in fact, that is not in close proximity to a very awake toddler.
“Hello mummy,” he repeats and grinds his nose into my cheek. I mistake this temporarily for a sign of affection, until I realise he is using it to transfer a night’s worth of nose drippings onto my face. There is nothing quite like the feel of warm slimy mucus with added gritty bits to give you an inordinate sense of wellbeing first thing in the morning.
“It’s half past five. Lay down and go to sleep,” I say to my son. This instruction is what is known in the trade, I think, as an utter waste of oxygen. To my surprise though, B does lay down. But not in any way that a normal person would lay down. Oh no. Because small children have a genetic abnormality meaning that they can only sleep horizontally in their parents’ bed. (The Horizontal Sleep Gene, as scientists -or me – have called it, does recede with age, making its final appearance in teen-hood, when, triggered by an excess of alcopops, it produces further horizontal sleep, usually with the head end dangling off the side and hovering a few inches above a strategically-placed sick bowl).
So there we are, three quarters of the family, having a smashing time not sleeping and not relaxing in bed. B is now using my face as a pillow, so I am inhaling nostrils full of fine toddler hair with every breath and pondering how much more weight my cheekbone can support before it snaps in two. At this point, I know I should just admit defeat and get up, but I am an idiot, so I don’t. Despite the impending crush injuries to my face, I do feel as if I am about to fall back to sleep, at which point B decides that staying still is for wimps and starts to use the bed as a trampoline. My head gently bounces up and down on my pillow and I grit my teeth.
Just get up, I urge myself. No way, I reply. Have you seen the fucking time? I will not leave this bed until the time starts with a six. But it’s not as if you are going to get any more sleep, is it? I might do, I respond to myself sulkily, as a small boy launches himself into the air and belly-flops onto my stomach, knocking seven shades of wind out of me. See, told you, I say with a smug smile. Oh sod off, will you? I reply.
Cue the door opening, and E pads in. He climbs onto the bed, grinding my left foot into the mattress with his knee before clambering up my legs and rolling across my torso to claim the one remaining strip of space left in between me, M and the flying acrobat formerly known as son number two.
“Can I get in?” he asks rhetorically, as he flings the duvet open. The cold air hits me and I stifle a small sob as he wriggles in beside me, trapping my right arm underneath him.
“Can I get out?” I ask, batting away a finger that is trying to gain access to my brain via my left nostril. At this point, I am not even sure whose bloody finger it is, although I am reasonably certain it is not mine.
For no discernible reason, B then leans over and wallops me on the forehead. “Ow!” I exclaim, but further protestations are lost under the peals of laughter that ensue.
I try to leave the bed, but it is somewhat difficult when a quarter of my limbs are being held hostage by the dead weight of a five year old. Then a monkey comes flying in from left field and lands on my face, a flailing paw catching me squarely across the cornea.
“Right, that is it,” I say through a mouthful of furry monkey and clenched teeth, and manage to extricate myself from the bed. I stumble to my feet, still partially winded, with one foot still throbbing in pain, one slightly numb arm dangling by my side, sporting a slightly enlarged left nostril, temporarily blind in one eye and with a stinging forehead. And so I go forth, fighting fit, ready to face the day.
*It’s a little known fact because I just made it up. But it should be true.
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