If I had £60,000 for every time this week that someone has said to us: "Five! Boys! How do you cope?" I wouldn't have to worry about our enormous and overwhelming mortgage. The truth is, we don't always cope. We sat up until 1am talking about them and what a wonderful life we have with them last night. Conclusion? We're getting better at it, but it's bloody exhausting.
All five of the little darlings will scream and rage and tantrum at some point. But there is usually a limit to it and it's usually for a reason. It took us a while to work that one out, but the reason is either hunger or tiredness. They need to eat, or they need to rest. Thankfully, they very rarely all kick off at once and they tend not to fight with each other too much. Well, sometimes, but it's soon resolved.
The other cause of angst is they need to go to the toilet at the most inconvenient time. Like when we've just navigated through a crowded train with standing room only (where we stood from Reading to Paddington next to a toilet), through Paddington station, the tube station and it's two flights of stairs, up, then down again. On the platform two of them announce a minute before we're about to get on a tube to Westminster: "I'm really bursting for a wee." It's fine at Center Parcs, you just whip it out and have a wizz behind a tree. Don't you? Oh. We piled off at Gloucester Road where the nearest toilet is one of those pod things.
So, here are some lessons learned this week to make up for the lack of ten thoughts last week.
- Make them piss regularly. Stand over them and demand they try harder if it doesn't work first time. It usually does.
- They make their own fun. The more contrived the higher the expectation. The highlight of London for Matt was going on an underground train. Louis loved seeing Reading's stadium as we drove past it. The elder trio played football in St James' Park and Matt and Elliot made a maze in the daffodils. Never mind Buckingham Palace and all that.
- Give them adventures. A three bedroomed house at Center Parcs with the hated Jetix was much more stressful than all of us in one room at Travelodge.
- Musicals on CD are actually alright. They love Mary Poppins and Joseph.
- If there's a fight, let them resolve it between them. Unless skin is broken, or blood shed. Don't be an audience.
- Be prepared to queue at theme parks. Or just don't go. We lined up for an hour to mess about with a JCB for five poxy minutes. My Dad could have sorted an afternoon doing that with his mate Bobcat Pete.
- They don't remember the shit bits. They are grateful, they don't show it all the time, but they are absorbing the love and the experience.
- We don't remember how surly and ungrateful we were as kids. My Dad came up to Center Parcs for the day and just chuckled at our gasps of exasperation. Been there, done that, son.
- At a restaurant, organise two tables. One for us two and a table for the five kids. They get on with it then and we can relax a bit.
- They make a lot of noise, but isn't it sad to see families that don't talk to each other. We blank out other people now. You have to. Sounds selfish, but we can't apologise for overbreeding and most of all they are very happy.