At this stage, I think we qualify for the description, harried parents. Even haggard.

We have three children under six. Most days our three-year-old son looks like a nudist at a coal mine. Why’s he never got clothes on? And how do his feet get so black? Then there’s our eldest daughter, who’s showing signs of kleptomania. I drilled her the other day on the whereabouts of my missing credit cards and she looked at me and said, “I don’t know.” So I mollified my approach. “You won’t be in trouble or anything. Daddy just needs his credit cards.” Then she said, “Oh, I know.” And out it came, the story. Her brother took them and put them in her black wallet, which is in her purple handbag. Thank goodness, I thought. Then I thought, when did she ever get a wallet? And a handbag? She’s only five.

The youngest is involved in all of this as a five-month-old cooing bundle in our arms, getting heavier and heavier after two, three hours of holding her. Oh, the things I could do with two free hands.

Then my wife takes her. I have to take the dog out. A five minute breather for myself, I think. But my son is right behind, his shirt on but no trousers. He pulls on mismatching boots – each on the wrong foot. Off we go. Half a block along and he stops. He wants to go back. So we turn around. He follows and stops to draw in the sand. “Come on!” He walks. I walk. Then he’s dawdling again. Now squatting. Now poking his finger in something. “Come on!” But he’s not moving. I walk back and look down. He’s poking his finger in dog crap. Quick! Pick him up and race home. Wash his hands thoroughly. Where’s the nail brush?

My daughter is there. “You mean the elephant one?”

“Yeah, the new one, the one with the elephant on it. Have you seen it?”


And you know she’s got it. Your blood boils but you play it cool. “You won’t be in trouble or anything. Daddy just needs the nailbrush.”

She says, “Well, it was like this…”

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