Oh the joys of the morning ritual.
Things are going well, everything is nice, I’m snorkelling in a small lagoon off the coast of North Africa, surface diving and swimming down deeper to investigate the underwater paradise. A school of fish swim by and say hello and I wave, well, it’d be rude not to. There is a small cave entrance on the sea bed, and because I haven’t run out of breath just yet, and the school of fish have stopped to egg me on, I decide to adventure further on down the watery rabbit’s hole.
I think, ‘I hope there really is a watery rabbit who lives down this hole, and that said rabbit is friendly.’ I imagine he would be, my fish buddies wouldn’t trick me like that.
And then a sort of whining sound.
Maybe the whining is the water rabbit so excited he has a guest he simply can’t get the words out to welcome me?
Yes the water rabbit can talk, of course he can, are you insane? I’ve fish goading me into a little seabed cave and you raise your eyebrow at a vocabularating water rabbit?
Anyway, down and down I swim and the whining is getting louder.
Oh shit, I know what that is.
‘Uhhhhh, come on,’ the voice says.
Those fucking fish, practically pushing me down this fucking hole. I’ll come back and skewer every last one of them!
‘Daddy wake up, I’m hungry.’
It’s Robin my four year old. Not playing in the rabbit’s watery water rabbit hole but standing the side of my bed sticking his finger in my eye and looking at me like it’s my fault it’s there.
‘I want breakfast.’
Of course you do. Morning, noon and night that’s all you want, Coco Pops, Cornflakes, Cheerios, Sugar Puffs, or your new favourite Cinnamon Grahams at thirty eight quid a box. You won’t eat real food will you, you won’t eat a sandwich or tuck into a Cornish pasty from Gregs.
‘Don’t like the black bits.’
That’s pepper not fucking cyanide kid!
I shouldn’t be so hard on him because what follows is far worse…
‘Ugh, dad, are you getting up? It’s ten past eleven and I’ll be late for school.’
Enter Sophie, my seven year old who has not yet started telling the time and so cannot yet fathom the fact that if it really was ten past eleven then she’d have been late for school just under two hours and ten minutes ago.
I check the time.
Are these kids on fucking drugs?
Elsie, the new addition to the morning ritual and at two years old a little slow off the mark, enters the room, climbs on the bed, stands on my face to get over me to where the beloved is still sleeping, cuddles up to her mum and then looks at me and announces almost heart broken, ‘where mummy?’
’Stop frowning at Elsie dad,’ Soph tells me in between more where mummy, where mummy.
’She’s right there Elsie, you can see her, you’re touching her, what do you mean where is she?’
Elsie frowns at me and then bursts out crying. Through the sobs she continues with her mantra until Jen groans, (obviously the fish forced her down the watery rabbit hole too) and snaps, ‘where do you think I am Elsie? Why are you crying, I’m here, right next to you, you’re nipple twisting me as I speak.’
‘I wwwwwaant muummmuuummmmmmmy.’
Sophie and Robin laugh and then so too does the nipple twisting parrot.
It’s all fun and games at 5:44am.
‘What time is it Rob?’ Jen asks, rolling back over to try and claw back sleep.
‘Quarter to six.’
She shoots up into a sitting position and checks her phone, ‘are you fucking kidding me? Right all of you out of this room now and come back in an hour and a half, it’s still the middle of the night!’
Robin points at the window and the sun beaming down from outside, telling us with the logic of a four year old that it’s morning time, it’s light.
The joys of British Summer Time, when the sun rises at half four in the morning and doesn’t set until half ten at night.
‘What do you mean it’s bed time? I think you need to check your watch again you liar, how can it possibly ten pm when it is still blue skies and kids are still playing out on their bikes?’
It’s ten o’fucking clock because I say it is and those kids playing on their bikes are the kind of kids you will not grow up to become.
By the same rule you’d think the little life sappers would sleep in until gone half eight and head off to bed at four in the afternoon come winter time but no, they don’t have rules like that, they prefer to mix it up, keep you on your toes, always guessing, slowly and deliberately killing you from sleep deprivation.
Quarter to six, I mean I didn’t get to bed until gone four because sometimes it’s nice to watch a film knowing none of them are going to barge in, and for that to happen you have to be sure all of them are asleep. At two in the morning they are all definitely asleep…or dead. That would be peaceful…
‘Dad I’m thirsty,’ Sophie announces.
‘Do you know where the glasses are?’
‘Do you know where the tap is?’
‘Improvise,’ I tell her.
She huffs, ‘so you’d let you’re seven year old child climb on the kitchen counter where loads of upturned knives are from washing up last night, then have her jump back down after getting a glass and jump back down with that glass in her hand? Dad of the year.’
Who the fuck is this kid?
‘If you didn’t survive would you be quiet?’ I ask her and she frowns.
‘I want a freezing freezing freezing freezing freezing cold glass of water, like the Atlantic Ocean.’
‘Add salt then,’ I tell her.
Why does she want water like an ocea…oh forget it, I’m going to have to fucking get up. Sophie will die of thirst, Robin has assured me a dozen times that it is in fact morning, and Elsie is still in bits because she can’t quite find the mother she is FUCKING SAT ON!
‘Not a chance, it’s your turn.’
Thought as much.
And so I get up, make her majesty her sea water, assure Robin that I am well aware it’s now morning, and prise Elsie away from the mummy she can’t find, and we head into the lounge.
‘What do you want for breakfast guys?’
‘Coco Pops,’ says Robin
’Toast and jam with lots of butter,’ says Sophie.
‘Where mummy?’ Says Elsie and then bursts out crying again.
They’re just wankers.
No, I’m sorry, I love them, I cherish and protect them, and I’d do anything for them, fight any and every of their battles for them, right or wrong, but what a bunch of early morning, crack of dawn just for the fuck of it pricks.
Why can’t they have the same breakfast?
Why did I even ask them? It’s my fault really, giving them a choice in the first place. I take it back, I am a wanker by association.
I make Robin and the lost child Coco Pops and sea girl her buttery jam toast then sneak off to the toilet just for some peace and quiet.
I’m not in there thirty seconds, haven’t even loaded up a pointless repetitive game to play on my phone, when there’s a knock at the door.
‘Dad what are you doing?’
‘Sophie, what do you think I am doing? There are two choices really.’
(There is actually three choices but as we are below the watershed and she’s seven, we’ll keep it relatively clean).
‘Ewww, you’re doing a poo, I can smell it,’ she laughs and then calls to the other two, ‘Robin, Elsie, daddy’s doing a poo.’
More laughter, more banging on the bathroom door, it’s just one big happy circus in the Radcliffe household this morning.
‘Have you finished your toast?’ I shout back to the orchestrator of my withering soul.
‘Well go and eat it.’
‘Am doing standing here,’ she laughs, banging continuously and telling me how she can smell my poo from where she’s stood.
I’m not even sat on the toilet, I’m sat on the edge of the bath (shorts up, I should add, I’m not into shitting in the bath before that enters your mind).
I finish my game on my phone and decide that if Sophie is old enough to camp out at the bathroom door and give me a running commentary on my fictitious number two, then she is old enough to watch the two and four year old for the next hour and make sure they don’t do anything which might kill them.
Back to bed. My alarm is still live, ticking slowly towards seven thirty, real morning time. The kids are feeding, they have drinks, the two year old has on a fresh nappy, the four and seven year olds are able to use the toilet, all their tablets are fully charged, the tv is on in the living room, the heating is on, there is absolutely nothing they need which can’t wait until half past seven now.
I lie back down in bed and sigh.
Jen opens one eye and looks at me, ‘where are they?’ She croaks.
’Not here,’ I tell her and she closes her eyes and smiles.
I too close my eyes…for exactly six seconds before I here Robin crying. Two more seconds later the bedroom door bursts open and it’s Sophie shouting, ‘I didn’t do anything, he’s lying.’
‘Sophie you need to wait until he’s told the lie before protesting your innocence otherwise by default it is in fact the truth.’
‘What’s default,’ she laughs, ‘does that mean it’s someone called Dee’s fault? Yes it was Dee’s fault not mine. Bye.’
She disappears and Robin comes in, tears streaming down his face like it’s the end of the world.
‘What’s the matter boy?’
‘Sophie being mean.’
‘What did she do?’
‘She said I’m not eating Coco Pops when I am.’
I sit back up in bed and look at his swollen eyes, the tears still rolling down his cheeks, and shake my head, ‘and this warrants a complete meltdown does it?’
‘It’s being mean,’ he offers, wiping his eyes at the moment Elsie toddles back into the bedroom and shouts to me, ‘mummy there,’ pointing to the mound of duvet cover beyond me.
‘Go and finish your breakfasts and you can have some chocolate,’ I tell them both. Where it came from, I’ve no idea but fuck it, it’s six am and I want another hour’s kip before actually having to get up. If it means cracking open a family size packet of assorted mini chocolates, tossing them into the middle of the floor in the lounge and allowing them to attack then so be it.
Once back in bed, everything now quiet in the lounge because they haven’t yet got down to the last mini chocolate bar and so have nothing to argue about, Jen opens an eye again and asks, ‘what are they doing? It’s quiet.’
I smile, ‘they’re eating chocolate.’
She nods, holding up a hand so I might hi-five her, ‘good shout, we’ll have to get some more in for tomorrow morning.’
Indeed we will.