Always Fighting Fire

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

16th March 2018
'Muuuuuuuum! I dunnnapooooo!' The yell comes from the downstairs loo to where my second smallest, Evie, disappeared a while ago. I'd forgotten she was there. I'm stirring porridge and trying to breast-feed my six month old, Oscar, who's strapped into a baby sling, at the same time. The twins are fighting over a toy car and Sara, my oldest girl, has the look of contempt she often wears on these crazy mornings; the look which says, Why did you keep having children, Mum?'

I shoot her an imploring glance and nod at the porridge but she rolls her eyes, shakes her head, and bends back down over her cereal. I can't blame her. Days like this I ask myself the same question: why did I? Then there are all the magic moments that make up for it, the happy family chaos that is the soundtrack to my days and nights.

Dean and I always wanted a big family - granted, that was before he got his latest job that involves much longer hours but we need the money and he needed the promotion so-


'I'm coming,' I call back, turn, and promptly trip over the toy car which has now been thrown to the floor. I manage to save Oscar from being squashed and swear, softly, from where I've landed on my knees. Oscar, ripped from his breakfast, starts up an accusatory wail. I swear again, louder.

'I heard that,' Sara whispers.

'Sorry,' I mutter.


'Jesus,' I say, hoisting myself and Oscar back upright. He latches back on and is silent. The twins choose that moment to break into fist fighting and I grab Tom, the biggest and haul him out to the hall.

'Time out,' I say, placing him on the stairs.

'It wasn't me!' he says, indignant four year old voice full of fight.

'It doesn't matter, you two need separating.' I say, trying to be the firm but fair mum, when really I want to yell.


'MMMUUUUUMMMMMM!!!' Evie's voice has this incredible volume. It can make the hair on the back of your neck jump to attention. In supermarkets it's particularly effective at getting me to the front of queues.

'I'm here,' I say, managing the final two metres to the downstairs loo.

'My poo is huge!' she says, sitting sideways to show me and wiping poo onto the toilet seat. 'And I didded it in the toilet!'

'Evie-' I sigh, and bend over the loo. 'Well done.'

The clean up job is made more awkward by Oscar's hungry guzzling, but I manage it.

'Porridge is burning,' Sara calls flatly form the kitchen.

'Could you stir it?' I yell back.

'No,' she says. 'I hate porridge.'


'I told you, Mum, I didn't ask to be born into this madness.' She has the voice of a world leader when she wants to. She stalks past me and up the stairs.

'I'll remember that when you ask me for a lift to the park later,' I mutter, just loud enough for her to hear. I can't blame her, though. For eight years it was just her, and now she has four siblings under four. One day she'll love it, I tell myself, over and over.

The twins are rolling on the floor when I get back in and they scare the cat who runs under my feet at just the right angle for me to tread on her tail. She yowls, which makes Oscar cry. The porridge looks like a huge geyser, puffing itself about in the pan. The smell tells me it's beyond saving.

'Cereal!' I say to the room and grab all the boxes, several bowls and spoons and plonk them on the table. I take the burning pan outside and place it on the doormat where the chicken immediately appear, looking at me expectantly. 'Don't eat that yet, it's hot,' I tell them and lift it to the top of the log store. They'll get up there eventually but not until it's cool enough.

I turn to go back in and see two of the chickens behind me, running towards the cat's food bowl. One of them poops on the way.

'For goodness sake!' I say. Oscar has finished and is playing with my hair. I put him in his baby-bouncer and grab the kitchen roll, wiping up the chicken mess and chucking the kitchen roll in the bin in one smooth movement.

'Poo-pro,' I tell myself, and laugh. You've got to laugh. I tell Dean that often at weekends, when he has to face the chaos he's largely away from during the week.

The twins have got hold of the Frosties which means-

-Frosties all over the floor.

I open the back door again and in come the chickens, squabbling over the spilt food. I guess Frosties will be like speed to them but who cares. 'Express eggs,' I mutter, and laugh again.

'I'm glad you find this funny,' says Sara from the door. 'It's just... why couldn't I have stayed an only child?' She steps over the chickens and crunches through the Frostie mess and puts on her shoes.

'Have a lovely day, sweetheart,' I say.

'I will, because I'll be away from this,' she says, voice so full of disdain it drips off her tongue.

'I love you, Sara,' I say, fighting the urge to snap at her. As my friend Faye, mother of two teens tells me, this stage will only last for another six years...

Sara sighs and gives me a rare smile. 'I love you, Mum,' she says. 'Good luck.'

I'm still reeling in shock as she leaves for the school bus. She told me she loves me. A moment as rare as a hen's tooth, as Dean says. I smile. I'm doing something right, after all.

I step on light feet to the table to where Evie has poured milk everywhere except into her bowl, the twins are squabbling over the packet of cornflakes and Oscar has almost bounced himself off the edge of the table. I give myself a mental slap, lift him down and look for my coffee in the mess. I grab it and take two life-giving gulps. I glance at the clock.


Only 12 hours until the day ends...

After the twins have been dropped at Playgroup and Evie at Twos Time, I go home to deal with the chaos. Oscar falls asleep in the car so I park in the drive and leave the monitor on - safe in our small village - and go inside to sort out the house.

I make beds
wash dishes
hoover carpets
and make a coffee, all before Oscar wakes. I bring him inside to a slightly less crazy house and play with him for a bit. Then it's time to pick up the other three and make lunch for us all.

It's a nice day and a picnic is always less mess so I put the chickens in the coop, pick the least chicken poopy bit of grass and spread out a rug. I bring out various healthy snacks, giving the twins and Evie jobs to do, regretting it instantly as Evie drops the apple slices, the twins spill the plastic jugs of juice and Petey, the younger twin, sits in the spilt juice to make mud pies.

I decides singing is the way to sanity so begin a slightly manic rendition of the Wheels on the Bus, to which my rabble join in at the top of their lungs.

By some miracle, I get enough food in them all to keep them going for the afternoon. They're all looking sleepy by now so I strap Oscar into the sling, stick the other three in front of the TV (I was never going to be the kind of mother who stuck kids in front of the TV but my God, the TV is my sanity). Then I face the clear up. I tip the rug's crumby contents onto the grass and let the chickens out again. I throw all the plastic plates into the dishwasher and switch it on. I remember there are some e-mails I have to send so whilst everyone's asleep or TV-drugged I grab my tablet and settle on the battered sofa in the kitchen with Oscar snoozing against my chest.

Whilst I'm typing I'm beginning to feel sleepy and I think, a quick nap never hurt anyone. I feel myself slipping away into the most delicious doze when...

'Muuuuummmmm! I dunnnnaaapoooooooo!'


I'm glad Oscar can't understand but I apologise to him anyway. He is woken by Evie's yells too, so I take him through to the lounge to place him on his rug where the sight I'm greeted with makes me want to swear Even More. Put it this way, the kids weren't sitting quietly watching TV.

The chocolate is everywhere. On mouths, hands, sofa, carpet.

Tom looks at me, brown smile gooey and happy. 'Yum yum,' he says.

'Where did you...?' And then I remember: last night Dean and I had left a family bar of dairy milk on the windowsill, after nibbling at it whilst watching a movie, during which we both fell asleep. I meant to put it away this morning but the there was porridge and Sara and poo and fighting...


'I'm coming,' I yell.

I grab the remaining stump of sucked-on chocolate and give the twins a wet-wipe each. There are wipes placed all over my house, always within reach.

'Clean. It. Up,' I say in my scariest voice.

Gulping, the twins grab a wipe each and wipe their faces and hands. It helps, a little.

'MMMUUUUUUUUUMMMMM!' We're back up to supermarket level. I run to the loo.

'Look at this one and I didded it in the-'

'Oh that's lovely now don't- Okay. Never mind!' I wipe my daughter, the loo seat, her bum. I wash my hands and her hands. I look at myself in the mirror for the first time all day and see I've still got yesterday's mascara decorating the area under my eyes.

'Bloody hell,' I mutter. I've been out like this. I take off my specs -
which makes me realise how dirty they are - and wash my face.

'Muuuuuuummmmm! Tommy done sick everywhere!' yells his brother from the lounge.


Somehow, I survive the rest of the afternoon. At around three I remember I've not got tea on and in a fit of domestic goddessness I conjure up a beef casserole. We eat it, I clear up the aftermath. Then it's another hoover, clothes in the wash, milk for everyone, Oscar to bed, Evie to bed, the twins to bed, all at different times with different stories.

Sara gets home from Drama in the middle of this and takes one look at me and pours me a glass of wine. I don't know whether to hug her or worry about what my daughter thinks of me but I don't bloody care because wine is exactly what I need. With the other four asleep I sit with Sara and look at her homework and talk about her day. With peace around her, Sara is lovely and chatty and my gorgeous loving daughter again. These are some of the best bits of my day. I'm doing okay, I remind myself. I can do this.

She goes up to have a shower and I fall into the battered kitchen sofa. The room is tidy; it smells like the house of a mother who cooks healthy food; everyone's still alive. I pour myself another glass and toast myself, put my feet up and lean back.

Dean arrives home in a flurry of cool air and practicality.

'Hello love,' I say.

He looks at me. 'Well, at least one of us has had an easy day,' he huffs. 'My day's been awful. I've never stopped. Wish I could just sit there with my feet up. You've no idea...'