Twins in the Sticks

Just a quick one: can you sign this petition please?

Rural bus campaign

This poor twin Mum has come under a load of flack for this campaign, mostly by City Folk who don’t understand, or the disabled, who are mistakingly thinking this is a Minority A vs Minority B battle. Being disabled and trying to use public transport is sh*te; having infant twins and trying to use public transport is sh*te. If we joined forces, given we have the same request – physical and emotional accommodation of our needs, in order that we don’t become housebound and our mental health suffers accordingly – then things might actually change.

I have every sympathy with her. I had no idea how tough things would be when we moved up to the Wirral, which ain’t exactly the Faroes…

There have been a lot of quite London/big city-centric comments in the criticism of her campaign, with people ‘helpfully’ suggesting she walk/fold her buggy/get a smaller McClaren/wait for the next bus/ask passengers to help. But out in the sticks, if we get turfed off a bus, you sometimes have to wait 24 hours for the next one! There aren’t necessarily loads of people on board to help. I often share the bus with a couple of elderly ladies with walking sticks. I can’t use footpaths as they are narrow and not continuous. The roads are hedged, twisty, hilly, country lanes, not the South Circular. And yes I have got a McClaren too – for when we’re in town on flat roads. The 360 Nipper, which the petitioner has, copes much better with country terrain. The McClaren just gets stuck, or you can’t push/turn it, and it is impossible on hills when you’ve also got the twins’ weight to deal with. The 360 ‘folds’, but still takes up an area roughly the size of a small village, so it’s hardly worth it.

And that’s not to mention the sheer logistical danger of trying to hold two wriggling babies/toddler heffalumps whilst folding the buggy which, unlike a single, you can’t do one handed.

I’m very lucky in that I can now drive, which has revolutionised our lives (and I’m not exaggerating) but before then we were often housebound, and that’s really hard, both logistically, and also in terms of your mental health.

So, please sign. Let’s try to get it over the 1000 threshold today so that people have to take notice.

Sisterly love

This post from fellow twin Mum Trouble Doubled worries me. It worries me a lot!

Sisterly love

Will do update soon I promise when I emerge from the maelstrom of shower wastes (who knew you needed one and it doesn’t come with the tray, as if someone would have a shower tray and NOT need the water to disappear), trying to ensure my son is not without wifi for a second, workmen wrangling, being able to do the Ikea/B&Q/John Lewis driving circuit in my sleep, and working out how the blazes I do this whole house moving thing without melting, Wicked Witch style. I actually dreamed of bathroom tiles last night. They were quite nice ones.

Suffice to say R can stand unaided for FOUR MINUTES but is still not propelling herself forwards, and C’s new words are cuckoo and PIE (we have discovered pork pie, we are happy about this).

Laters.

 

 

Now we are (almost) two

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As we inch ever closer to our second birthday, I thought an update was in order. With my new career hat on I am in danger of treating my children as psychological subjects (and their father too, whom I have diagnosed with conductive aphasia, largely based on the fact he can’t repeat what I’ve said, mere minutes afterwards; of course this could simply be due to NOT LISTENING!!!)

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And as such, I have diagnosed them as exceptional children, naturally. This is because they seem already to be developing theory of mind, which doesn’t usually happen till 3 or 4. This is a fancy pants term for knowing that a) there are people other than you and b) they may be thinking and feeling different things, have their own mind, which is in possession of different facts than yours. Evidence? Their demonstrative concern over their twin when they’re hurt or poorly or just throwing a paddy. They’ll shuffle over and proffer some milk or a pat or a cuddly toy. And it also extends to us – Jon will get loving massages when his back’s hurting. I imagine it’s a twin thing; the continuing presence of their other half reinforces the concept  of ‘other’, whereas a singleton remains the centre of the universe – in fact, they are their universe – for much longer.

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In contrast, THEY ARE STILL NOT WALKING! Jesus Christ on a bendy bus. We are perfectly stable and content walking along holding one hand, but we just won’t let go. Except when I tricked Romilly the other day and she took three steps without noticing my dastardly plan. When she did, she promptly had a small existential crisis and collapsed. I am concentrating jolly hard on not worrying, knowing full well my worry would, by osmosis, infect them.  And, after all, there is still time for them to walk before two!

But they are motoring around in other ways. We love stairs. Mummy doesn’t. Because we now insist on going up and down stairs ourselves, which adds another ten minutes to any activity as they get distracted by fluff, SPIDERS (we are still obsessed with spiders, this may be a reflection on my cleaning) and trying to squeeze our heads through the banisters. I have developed a technique of standing behind both of them, trying to cover the whole step with my body in case of plunges to doom, but throwing various tempting objects in front of them to encourage forwards movement.

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Romilly is fearless and will gravitate to the slide at Mini Monsters soft play. Charlotte is initially more cautious with everything, using her sister as an advance scouting party, but will then hurl herself up and down everything with gay abandon. She’s still VERY affectionate. We love her cuddles. But Romilly’s heart is melting now too, and our favourite time of the day is when we all snuggle under the Poorly Blanket to have our milk before bedtime. I have one of them either side, their heads tilted into me, thumbs in mouths, and I never want it to end.

They’re (thank God) more kind to each other now than they are violent. We’re having a lot of stroking and hugging, but it can sometimes morph. There was great hilarity at bath time last night when Romilly started rubbing her sister’s sticky out tummy, and they both cackled away, until Charlotte decided to do the same but, bigger as she is, managed to push her sister over. Oh, and her sister is called ‘RoRo’. The first time she did that my heart just oozed through my socks.

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Charlotte’s vocabulary is extraordinary. She will repeat pretty much everything I say, but working words now include pate, bamboo, rainbow, SPIDER, label (we love labels and look for them on everything, they’re so silky!), pizza and yoghurt. She’s putting words together, so yesterday I was told the armchair was ‘too big’ for her to climb onto. We can also sign (they learn at nursery). It took me a while to realise that patting their hands and then their chins meant ‘more, please’. How telling that the two signs they remember are the ones which enable them to get more cake.

Romilly’s comprehension takes me by surprise. There is a daily battle over whom Mummy sits next to at mealtimes (sitting in between both would be far too simple). The other day I was next to Charlotte and Miss Bossy Pants (she has developed a bit of a Madam streak of late!) was shouting ‘There! There! Mummy there!’ to get me next to her instead. I said that Charlotte had a poorly ear, so I needed to be with her to help her. Romilly stared at me, and you could almost see her little brain cogs turning. A minute later, she pointed to her own ear going ‘ow’ and smiling and indicating the chair next to her. So along with Theory of Mind, she has also developed the ability to LIE, the minx! Oh, and she can blow bubbles with a wand. And we love going ‘abra’ and waving our arms around wildly to make things magically appear. Usually food.

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We’re also anthropomorphising, and making up little stories and games. So being a monkey involves putting our hands in our armpits, going ‘oo, oo, oo’ and shouting ‘babana, babana!’ We love pretending to be pirates and going ‘arrrr!’, playing with our tea sets and going through the rituals of pouring and adding sugar and stirring, and Sleeping Bunnies (oh sweet joy) is our favourite game. In fact, I can get them to be quiet on command by pointing out Toy X is sleeping and then they’ll put their fingers to their lips and say ‘sshhhhh’. We love putting dollies to bed and getting our teddies to cuddle each other. They were good as gold at our Church Farm the other day when they each got given four week old bunnies to stroke. I don’t think they moved or uttered a sound for a good five minutes. Hmm. There’s an idea. They even helped collect eggs from the hen house WITHOUT DROPPING THEM. Dumbfounding.

Daddy and our Giant Brother ‘Tcho’ are just The Best. Joe was up from Uni (Big Nursery) for his birthday last weekend (20! Good God! My son is in his third decade!!!) and they literally screamed when they saw him. It gives me a bit of a break from the Mummy Cult because he is definitely more exciting, and they fight over his lap rather than mine and groom his hair like baby chimps and show off a flurry of tricks. Daddy has been away a lot. I really feel for him; when Joe was the age the girls are now I felt physically sick sometimes when I left for work and he was holding onto my foot. I am so lucky that I get to be here each day and see all the little evolutionary steps, and soak up all the love. He had to go to another Pirate Island to look for treasure and fish (the lucky b*gger was visiting their Seychelles factories) and we missed him lots, although they do sometimes get very confused and think he’s sleeping, so we have to be ‘sshhhh’ whenever we go past the bedroom door. But we’ve got a lovely, uncharacteristically free weekend ahead of us, and that’ll be fab.

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Nursery trumps Mummy too. After those early agonising weeks of shaking with sobs and clinging onto my ankles, they now get hyper when they realise it’s a nursery morning and I don’t even get a wave goodbye when I drop them off as it’s just all too interesting. We’ve been so lucky with Marigold. Our gut feel – that it’s a happy, homely place, staffed by people who genuinely love children – was proved correct. It’s so sad we’re having to move! I did seriously consider whether they could commute back from Chester, but that would be silly. We’ve found them a new place on an old converted farm. It has a wood behind it to play in. They do tennis and swimming and French and Spanish. Most importantly though they have chickens. It was the chickens which swung it. Fingers crossed Ash Grove will be a little home from home too.

Right. I must away. We have to make a card for Miss Dawn, the nursery dinner lady, who is retiring. We are VERY sad about this. She is easily Charlotte’s favourite person at nursery; she cottoned on very early that charming her would result in seconds and thirds of dessert. There will be a whole new person to train now in Charlotte’s dietary requirements (sweet, and lots of it). This could spell disaster for the four weeks they have left. Wot, no sticky toffee pudding?!

Oo and very last finally, honest…herewith their CBeebies card for the 20th. The BBC are not showing the birthday slots on iPlayer anymore which means I need to record THE ENTIRE DAY and fastforward through it to see if we’re featured, gadzooks. If anyone spots them, a heads up would be appreciated!!

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The things they (never) say

Gosh Mummy, what a lot of time and effort you have put into this delicious looking repast. Even if it transpires it is not entirely to my taste, I will certainly try a few spoonfuls to show my appreciation for your labours.

Quiet time? Good plan.

If my sister jumped off a cliff, no, I wouldn’t jump too. I understand your analogy mother, and I will apply it to the current situation, so I won’t be tipping my bowl of spaghetti on my head, just because she has.

Peppa Pig? Yawnsville.

Every single time you have taken my sister downstairs after our nap, you have come back and got me. Every single time. So why on earth would this time be different? No, of course it wouldn’t, so what’s the point in weeping into my teddy and screaming ‘Mummy! Mummy!’

Oh, is it hot? I’ll definitely give it a wide berth then.

I appreciate Playdough is not a food stuff. Nor is my sister.

I agree wholeheartedly that there is no earthly reason why, if we both sit on Mummy’s lap, we can’t read the same book.

Yes, dropping my teddy in the car, not being able to fit the lid back onto my toy teapot, and my sister taking the bit of blue lego I want (out of the ten pieces of blue lego that are all EXACTLY THE SAME) could be correctly defined as ‘first world problems’. I am very grateful indeed that I am not in a refugee camp, and the thought gives me some perspective.

I am almost two, and have a rudimentary grasp of numbers. I therefore understand that there are two of us, and only one of Mummy, and no amount of screaming is going to change the fact that she cannot pick us both up at the same time.

You’re quite right, I DID like this yesterday, I forgot. Silly me! So I will stop flinging it all over the walls in disgust.

I love brushing my teeth. I want them to be bright and clean and shiny like the tiger in my book.

On that note Mummy, PLEASE can we wash and detangle my hair tonight?

I’m a big girl now, and understand a bit about cause and effect, and also that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. That is why, after standing up ten times in a row in my cot, flinging myself backwards, and clonking my head, I will desist.

You’re right Mummy, the amount of food under my highchair COULD feed a small African village. The guilt that provokes will make me much more neat and tidy in future.

It’s Sunday morning. You could do with a nice easy start to the day Mummy. We’ll just play together quietly with the lego while you lie on the sofa and watch Sunday Brunch.

Dear Nice Doctor Man. I appreciate that your role is to diagnose what is wrong with me, and to do this you need to do things involving thermometers and peering in my ear and throat. I will cooperate, and won’t start screaming like a banshee the instant I round the corner into your surgery, burying my face in Mummy’s shoulder, and digging my claws into her neck sobbing ‘no! no! no!’ I realise, of course, that the light the thermometer throws on my forehead will simply bounce back and tell you how hot I am. It will not bore into my brain. You are not Darth Vader. I know that the medicine you prescribe is to make me better, and I will gulp it down greedily, instead of gurning and gagging and spitting it in Mummy’s eye. It tastes of banana after all. I like bananas, so I like banana medicine. I am consistent like that.

Daddy, please stop burping in front of us. It isn’t funny.

I would never draw on anything apart from paper. That would be naughty.

It’s been almost two years now that we’ve been weaned. In that whole time Mummy has never put us in our highchairs, strapped us in, put our aprons on and then NOT given us food. So I will sit patiently and wait for my sister to be ready before Mummy serves our meal. I know that whinging and banging the table is not going to make it come any quicker.

Dangerous you say? Well, I certainly won’t be touching that again!

If I had a tail, I wouldn’t like someone grabbing it, so there is NO WAY I would do that to my lovely cat.

The blue cup is exactly the same as the pink cup, apart from the colour. They both have the same amount of milk in them, see? That’s why I am not at all fussed which one you give me.

Mummy is not a vulnerable territory and I am not Napoleon. I do not need to seize possession of her and ward off my sister shouting ‘no! no! Mummy! Me! Me!’

Oh dear, is my sister poorly? You can certainly give her more attention.

I couldn’t possibly have more pudding. I didn’t finish my main course after all.

I love my twin. I am truly blessed to have her. I have the precious, and rare gift of a soulmate for life. Why the blazes would I want to pull her hair?

Sockets and cables? Dull, dull, dull.

Seeing as my vocabulary is advanced enough to include ‘pate’ and ‘bamboo’ I will definitely be asking for things quietly and by name, rather than screaming like a torture victim on the rack and flinging my arms around randomly expecting Mummy to guess. I know that the former approach is much more likely to lead to a swift and positive outcome whereas the latter simply leads to long drawn out frustration all round.

Is it my sister’s turn? OK. I’ll wait till she’s finished playing with it then. I have 1001 other toys after all.

Yes.

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A (b)log post

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????Things I never thought I’d say: I am spectacularly adept at catching poohs. Twice it has happened now. In the bath. I hasten to add, these are not my own poohs.

Charlotte just gets so over excited she doesn’t drink at nursery, despite their best efforts. Places to go, things to do, toys to break. So she has frequent constipation. The warm relaxation of the bath works its magic. I have a split second warning, when she kneels up and her face contracts like a mathematician trying to work it out with a pencil. Fortunately, because of the dehydration, they are shapely and easy to hold (and surprisingly huge, last one was easily six inches!) so in one graceful movement I can catch it and flip it into the adjacent loo, while Jon gazes on at me with naked admiration. Skills.

I am slightly worried that this has now become a bit of a game for Charlotte too. She can shout ‘pooh! Pooh!’ and giggle. Flatulence has also, ever so cutely, been termed ‘bubbles’ by them both, which I think is actually rather smartly onomatopoeic. But the fact they are now aware of their bowels means one thing and one thing only: toilet training is round the corner. OH. MY. GOD. Am so tempted to wait till the summer and just have them naked in the garden. Or at least until they’re walking.

Icing snowmen biscuits

Icing snowmen biscuits

Er...eating the icing

Er…eating the icing

Ah yes, walking. Hmmm. This is still not happening. They are perfectly happy to walk with a human stabiliser. Both of them can do it one handed, and we have races down the corridor with them running and giggling delightedly. So there’s clearly nothing physiologically wrong with them (plus, as twins, they had their hips scanned at birth). But they just won’t let go of my hand. I think part of the problem is because they’ve left it so late they’re that much more switched on mentally and know about consequences ie if they let go, they might fall, and that might be sore…

I know twins are later. And they were premature, so that compounds it. And I don’t know a single able-bodied grown up who hasn’t learnt how to do it eventually (apart from tourists on Oxford Street). But am in two minds about whether I confess to the health visitor and get a Physio appointment. The Wisdom of Crowds (ie Mumsnet) is divided: singletons think they are shockingly late and something must be amiss and I need to get them to a doctor now; multiples parents say chillax.

(As an aside, I do wonder whether twin parents on the whole are perforce less precious. It would be interesting to chart things like amount of mess/dirt/noise allowed by number of children!)

???????????????????????????????Anyhows. We are all – well, mostly me – super excited about Christmas. The house just looks twinkly and gorgeous, the blister I gave myself cutting out 72 paper snowflakes notwithstanding. The girls love tinsel. It’s so tickly! Especially on your twin’s chin…

I have restrained myself on the outfit front this year so no more all-in-one elf costumes, but I did get these gorgeous dresses from Little Wild Things.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????We have met Santa not just once but TWICE (he has a thing for the Wirral, must be our Viking heritage). Once at the Nursery party, and then again on the Santa Express. Royden Park near us has a miniature railway, which the girls loved. And they were also very cheery with the Elves. But as soon as we rounded the corner and met Santa himself we had screaming in stereo and I had to apologise to the bearded one and beat a hasty retreat! I imagine it’s because they’re still so focussed on facial recognition, and Santa’s a bit covered what with his hat and beard…

In Santa's sleigh!

In Santa’s sleigh!

???????????????????????????????Talking of beards, their Giant Brother is home! I picked him up from Nottingham in the car! This involved four motorways!!! Get me.

The ladies are hilarious with him. It’s show off central. Apparently Joe will be very impressed if we fling the contents of our dinner on the floor and giggle. He also really enjoys it when he’s busy on his computer next door and gets summoned to the table with screams of ‘Tcho! Tcho!’ As soon as he dutifully comes to say hello, they both wave him off saying ‘bye’. And repeat. And repeat. Or if we offer him our teddies and then snatch them back going ‘no! Mummy no Tcho!’ and laugh ourselves silly.

But our bestest game in the whole world is combing his hair. Joe has got into the festive spirit and come home for the holidays dressed as Jesus, with a mane easily as long as mine. We luffs our brother’s hair.

DSC05202Right. I have 200 apples from the garden to process (I am not joking). And my tenth Tesco trip of the week. I am well and truly a victim of The Twitch aka that nagging sense that, despite your best efforts, you just don’t have quite enough STUFF. I found myself buying a third roll of cling film yesterday. I now have 120m of cling film. The shops are only shut for a day. Quite what I am intending to do that involves 5 metres of cling film an hour I do not know. Maybe a Christo-esque wrapping of our house?

I imagine there will be a bit of a festive lull on the blog front (though not on the log front!) so I wish you luck, laughter and love for 2014. This has been a difficult year on many fronts, but also a complete joy. It feels like my life is starting over, what with getting better, driving, jobs, Uni (both me and Joe) etc. I fall ever  more in love with the girls each day. I am beyond proud of Joe (did I mention he got a First for EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF WORK AT UNI?!) and Jon, well…for those of you who know me, my track record with men hasn’t been a complete success, but I seem to have found myself the kindest, funniest (don’t tell him I said that), best at DIY (nor that), most supportive, snuggliest man in the world, and just the most loving father possible. I am constantly on the verge of tears wondering at the extent of his adoration. He finishes work today (thank God, have hardly seen him this month, I keep forgetting which country he is actually in!) and we are soooo looking forward to a whole two weeks taking a long swim in Lake Daddy.

???????????????????????????????I hope you all have a wonderful time too. And may all your Yule Logs be of the chocolate and edible variety xxx

When Twins Attack

onlyoneDuomaieusiophobia is the fear of twins. Apparently it’s quite common. I have some empathy.

Toddler tantrums are bad enough, but when you have two, and the rage is directed at each other, ‘fear’ would be putting it politely. The violence largely takes the form of scratching, thumping, pushing and biting. Sometimes there is an obvious cause – a snatched book – and sometimes it’s simply displaced internal fury and frustration. But mostly it’s about me. Mummy is MINE!

I know they’re going through the Mummy-centric phase, and, at times, it’s lovely to be positively worshipped. There is nothing quite so delicious as two tiny arms being flung around your neck and a downy head being nuzzled into you. But the problem is there’s only one of me, and two of them, and we have not yet fully accepted the concept of sharing. Charlotte is wonderfully affectionate, and cuddles are easily her favourite thing on the planet (well, after Welsh Cakes) but she has twin radar and, even with her back turned, will be aware that I’m daring to snuggle her sister, and try to push Romilly off my lap. Or thump her. Or she’ll just ooze her way onto me, ever so slowly till Romilly slides off the other side. Or if I’m cuddling her, she’ll spread herself out so much there’s no room.

HRH Charlotte

HRH Charlotte

No one else is allowed to cuddle her, so we can’t even divide and conquer. I think she would stitch herself onto me if she could.

The issue is, what with that and the violence, I am getting increasingly worried about Romilly. She appears to have accepted her lot. The crying when she’s scratched has almost stopped. If Charlotte comes near us when we’re cuddling, she’ll quietly remove herself. Most heartbreakingly, when we had a rare ten minutes on our own the other day, she was just so overjoyed. The happiness was bubbling out of her. She’s always been more independent than Charlotte, who personifies neediness, but I don’t want her to be passive and just think self reliance is her lot in life.

Charlotte meanwhile is just (sorry to say this about my child and obviously this is all qualified by the fact I love her and she’s only ickle and this is all understandable because IT’S MY FAULT for being evil and taking them to nursery) displaying classic bully tendencies, in that all of this behaviour is to disguise her own fear, especially over my absence. She hides from strangers, she quivers on the swings, she really doesn’t like going freestyle (ie not in a chair) in the bath…And in textbook domestic violence behaviour, overdoes it on the ‘sorrys’ and snuggles and going ‘ah’ to her sister afterwards, thinking that will make it all OK.

The calming power of Peppa

The calming power of Peppa

So it’s a twin strategy (geddit) of continuing with disciplining Charlotte (she gets shut in the playpen for two minutes and then we have a little talk about stroking and taking turns and sharing, pah, that may sink in at some point in the next two years) and then carving out time each day for Romilly on her own.

The thing which makes me feel even worse and emphasises the point that this is a Mummy Thing is that the nursery were genuinely surprised when I told them the cause of Romilly’s latest wound. Apparently Charlotte is good as gold there, and they’re always cuddling each other and playing together and making each other giggle and helping each other with lunch. Janus!

Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome

Talking of which, the ladies have got their next virus from nursery, a sort of conjunctivitis/earache/runny nose/general whinge cocktail. Ah the joys of ‘building up their immunity’. Yesterday was EXCELLENT. Whisking them off to the GP, two kindly old gents in the waiting room tried to entertain them, managing instead to reduce them both to utter meltdown. By the time we got into the doctor’s room, Romilly was pink and blotchy and breathing unevenly, and Charlotte had got so worked up that when the GP whisked out the stethoscope she promptly vommed all over me. Charlotte, that is, not the doctor.

The (understandable) whining and food flinging continued all day and, just when we were finishing off tea, and the bed time end was in sight (oh the bliss of then just SITTING in PEACE AND QUIET and having a double header of Simon Reeve and Gareth Malone!), the cat was sick on the floor and, forgetting this instantly, I stepped in it. In bare feet.

On a lighter note, the girls are enjoying their first sketch show (I use that term loosely, I find it worse than stepping in cat sick) Gigglebiz on CBeebies. Charlotte particularly likes the Farmer Dung character, pictured below, shouting ‘Daddy!’ excitedly and pointing. No comment…

dung

On Patience

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It’s such a worthy and passive virtue isn’t it? Up there with decency, tolerance and honour, especially when viewed through the lens of our young and active selves. I remember when I was in Adland and having to describe myself in three words, I’d choose between sexy adjectives like ambitious, courageous, spirited, driven, adventurous…

Jon has often commented on my patience with the girls, and I’ve just thanked him, and continued with whatever particularly tricky Lego construction I was working on with them. But I’ve been musing on Patience, and I’ve realised that actually it’s maybe the biggest compliment he could pay me.

Patience isn’t sighing and whisking a crying child into the buggy to walk off their upset; it’s taking the time to cuddle them and work out what they’re looking at, what they’re desperate to communicate but don’t have the words, and discovering – of course! – it’s because one of the toy spiders has fallen off the mantelpiece.

Patience is never ending a snuggle on the sofa yourself, but waiting for them to spy something more interesting than your arms.

Patience isn’t putting Radio 1 on full blast to drown out the distress on the back seat; it’s singing Incy Wincy 17,000 times, complete with actions, until the distress has turned into giggles.

It’s laughing along with them when they keep trying to post a square through a blatantly triangular hole, and gently showing them the error of their ways.

It’s holding two little hands and doing endless toddling circuits of the living room, until they decide it’s time to stop.

Patience is being in full agreement with the twins that going Peekaboo round the curtain of the den is as funny the hundredth time as it was the first, in the same way ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ deserves reading ten times in a row.

And it reaps its rewards. After a full month of the daily heartbreak of sobs as I abandon them at nursery in the morning (both mine and theirs) I was waved off this morning with smiles and blown kisses.

Essentially, Patience is revelling in the now. It’s not wishing the hours away, hours that crumble through your fingers like butterfly wings, forever gone. It’s resisting spending time thinking how lovely it will be when they can walk, when they’re at ballet, our first horse ride; Patience is looking at that smile – those little teeth that will only look exactly that way for this one moment in time – and grinning back at its transient beauty.

It’s therefore NOT the dictionary definition of enduring difficulties, because that would be to see the cries and the strops and the stumbles as a negative, when actually they are all little miracles of growth. My girls cry because they want to say or do something and they can’t. It’s their ambition, courage, spirit, drive and adventurousness in action, but frustrated.

But Patience has a remit beyond mothering, and applies equally to the adult world. It’s telling that, whilst there are Greek gods for everything down to messaging and metalwork, there was none for Patience. Because in ancient times it wasn’t a virtue you aspired to, you simply had to be. In fact, Old English had no word for Patience. Its nearest equivalent would be ‘belaefan’ or ‘to be living’, the very definition of the present continuous, in the now. And therefore it’s very close to believing: an acceptance that we’re not in control, and that, if we allow life time, it will fall into place.

patience3The reason I think it’s one of the greatest compliments Jon could pay me is that it’s a quality I generally struggle with. I have been ill for some time now but am finally on the mend. I have noticed, as I can feel normal service resuming, I am champing like an over excited horse to get out the gates. My things to do list stretches to pages. I have accepted not just one voluntary job but TWO (and for one of them I get to wear a genuine NHS badge, OMG!) I’ve bought practically every book going on Psychology and am already thinking beyond the MSc to what further courses and training I can do. I run the risk of being the most academically over qualified psychologist to never practice, though that doesn’t stop me fantasising about being promoted to Head of Department within a year of qualifying…I’m plotting redecoration schemes of multiple houses we might buy and garden offices and joining the WI and learning how to make the perfect apple pie and being a school governor and organising a theoretical babysitting circle in a village near a place we might move to and heck why stop at that, why not set up a whole Saughall Pound and then become a Councillor off the back of it. I’m whizzing round the Wirral in MY CAR and planning adventures I can go on. I’ve researched horse riding stables and walks and retracing the local Viking heritage and going on a Mummy and Joe trip to the Faroes or Ladakh in search of the snow leopard…STOP.

I am doing exactly what I have always done.

How many times did I wish that I could stay at home with four year old Joe and roll around on the carpet and make dens and paint our faces and just BE? To have the time to sketch murals on his wall and make cushions for the sofa and then just relax on those cushions and enjoy them? To finish the Sunday papers? To look long enough at a rainbow to realise it has a twin? To not be so focussed on the future that I was blind to the wonder of what was happening right here, right now?

None of this is to say I shouldn’t go back to work. I need to, and I will. But I have had so many lessons during my life on getting priorities right; it’s time I reread my notes. I should be there for the girls, and for Jon, and for Joe. Not just to make them happy, but to keep ME happy. That’s not simply about balancing family life and a career; it’s about balancing my brain, so that whilst I must – and will – plan, much more mental space is devoted to the need to ‘belaefan’.

It’s about growing up. Realising that Patience is infinitely more important than ambition, courage, spirit, drive and adventurousness. It’s actually the most active virtue there is.

Because what is Patience, but another word for Love?

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