In the darkness about ten feet away, I can see from the sighing outline – he’s lying there. Lying on the edge of a bed next to a three and nearly six year old, who both sleep like star fish. The lights went off at 9pm, because no one can be trusted to drift off with the TV on, or with someone reading a book.
Someone has been told off for being silly with over-enthusiastic fake snoring.
Another one has been chastised for loud wind-breaking.
The baby is almost at the bottom of her bottle of milk.
Nobody must speak. We are entering a critical phase and everyone must lie still for at least the next 20 minutes – or else we’re done for, seriously done for.
Encouraging pause. Raised hopes…
‘Daddy, he’s squashing me!’
‘Squashing you?! I’m on the edge and if I move any closer, I might die in the night you know. It’s a long way down…’
‘Shushhhha’ I can always tell when our eldest daughter is extra stroppy. She adds an ‘a’ to the end of her commands.
‘WILL BOTH OF YOU PLEASE BE QUIET, YOUR SISTER IS ABOUT TO FINISH HER MILK – IT IS HALF PAST 9 AND SHE NEEDS TO GO TO SLEEP!’
Stunned silence. Wow, he really went for it. Normally it’s mum who pulls out the big strop. Dad means business.
Sharing a hotel room with your three children is not a laughing matter…
Ten feet away, I’m cramped on the camp bed, not moving, trying not to breathe loudly, next to the milk-drinking baby, staring into the pitch black, willing the over-excited, windy and on-a-knife-edge trio to sleep.
Now is not a good time for the giggles. Do not, get, the giggles.
Flooding into my consciousness is every, sodding, funny thing I have ever witnessed. I’m suddenly that child in assembly, you know – during the serious ‘social issue’ assembly – who suddenly and inexplicably snorts through her nose and has great rolling tears of hysteria pouring down her cheeks?
I can hear the sigh from ten feet away. It makes it worse…
Without even trying, I suddenly remember the serious training session at work, where the leader said the most outrageously obvious and guffawingly hilarious innuendo that almost gave me a stroke trying to pretend I wasn’t amused.
A text. That’ll distract me. Yet as soon as I see the name on my screen, I have to ignore it as one of my Sarah/Kate combo group text is always a tea-down-the-nose-risk.
Even the mere fact that in an attempt to distract myself, I was writing a post on my phone and managed to accidentally press Siri at least seven times and post this accidentally another four before completion was eye-wateringly, pillow-stuffingly HILARIOUS.
I’m not even sure what’s funny. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re all sharing a room. Or maybe it’s that we’re all sleeping in the wrong beds than we had originally intended. Or maybe it’s the irony of the ‘Good Night Guaranteed’ motto of the hotel we are staying in.
All I keep thinking is – how did we get here? Not in an angry, resentful and grumpy way. I’m actually enjoying our weekend away with great enthusiasm and that – that in itself is pretty damn hilarious to me in the pitch black must-not-talk-or-dad-is-going-to-shout silence.
But seriously – if we had the chance to go back and talk to our former selves in 2002, the year we met – what would our advice be?
Advice to myself: laugh at yourself. You’re so bloody serious all the time. You’ve wasted so many fun opportunities over-thinking things and worrying. Embrace chaos and be a pebble – let it all wash over you. Always carry a roll of small bin liners in the car.
Advice to my husband: take turns to make the brews, let her have a nap every now and then – she’ll love you forever. Take about half of what she says seriously, but make sure it’s the right half.
Advice from my husband to himself: never resent the changes you have had to make to be a dad. Be proud of the changes and enjoy the ride.
Advice from my husband to me: stop moaning. Make changes to make yourself happy – don’t always think your happiness is selfish. Don’t take things so seriously. Stop leaving tea bags on the work top and shut the microwave.
Advice from our children: sleep now while you still can – you’re gonna need it later…