For me, one of the turning points of parenthood was a few weeks before Marie's fourth birthday when she developed the ability to get out of bed in the morning without immediately finding some reason to come and wake Daddy. I was no longer required to help solve the mysteries of toilet paper, her brothers could switch on the TV for her and all of them could last an hour or two without breakfast. I rediscovered lie-ins.*
Even eighteen months later, this is still a joy. Admittedly, my beauty sleep is frequently disturbed by shrieks and squabbling but I can simply turn over, put a pillow over my head and doze off again until the actual screaming starts.
I think we may have recently reached another turning point. I was in the kitchen sorting through Marie's enormous stack of craft materials the other day and realised she's barely touched the stuff in months. The glue-stick is still crusted with glitter she used for making Christmas cards, and a half-completed necklace of beads lies long forgotten, patiently waiting for some unsuspecting housedad to pick it up by the wrong end while doing the tidying.
She's moved on. During previous holidays, she's nagged me every five minutes to help her with sticking or cutting or threading. If not that, she's insisted on going to the park and being pushed on the swing for an hour. This is no longer the case, however - she's learnt to
Suddenly, I can turn my attention to other things, despite the kids not having school. This opens up a whole new world of possibility. I could achieve all manner of projects.
The reason I was sorting through Marie's craft materials was because we're having a new kitchen fitted in a few weeks. This requires the room being emptied of everything from the pile of kiddie artwork to the Veggie Tales DVDs, the three dusty fondue sets and the fridge. There's an awful lot of stuff and I was thinning it a little in preparation.
Since then, matters have become more drastic. When the fitter came to measure up, he happened to mention in passing that the new units will be delivered ahead of the installation. We'll need somewhere to store them while the floor is laid - somewhere other than the kitchen.
The only other ground floor room we have is quite small. It's about big enough for a chair, a desk, an Xbox and a couple of chests of drawers. I know this because it's my study and that's what's in there at the moment. It'll have to be totally cleared out to make way for worktops.
I suppose there's a large cupboard under the stairs as well but that's full of junk already. It's also where the plumbing is. So that the fitters can get to all the pipes, the junk will need to find somewhere else to live for a couple of weeks... along with the fondue sets... and the drawers... and the desk... and the dining table... and the fridge...
The entire ground floor is going to have to be emptied. We'll have to turf Fraser out of his bedroom and turn it into our own version of the Room of Requirement in Hogwarts, crammed full of a mixture of treasure and tat. The overspill will be shoved into every spare corner of the house. There's a good chance will be using the tumble-dryer as a coffee table.
To make matters worse, in the midst of this chaos of upheaval and tradesmen, my safe place will have been dismantled. I won't have my quiet Xbox corner to retreat to. I'll be stuck in the lounge with the three children, huddled round the white goods, surviving on fondue until the cooker is reconnected...
So, yes, since Marie's learnt to entertain herself, I could be getting on with any number of things. I'm not, though. I'm taking the chance to hide with the Xbox while I can and finding any excuse to avoid moving furniture.
Maybe later I'll force Marie to do some gluing and then drag all three of them to the swing-park for some fresh air.
Yours in a woman's world,
*That's to say I can now stay in bed on the weekend until a time that I would have considered a bright and early start in my pre-fatherhood days. This may not technically count as a lie-in but it sure as heck beats being woken in darkness by plaintive cries of, 'I need my bottom wiped!'