Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

The January hang-dogs

If you look closely enough in any office, you can spot the parents back on board from holidays with the kids.

They're the ones looking utterly haggard. They're the only ones who have a spring in their step when asked to work overtime. They are alone in wanting to hear details, however dull, of a child-free break, because it reminds them of a time when holidays actually meant "having a break" rather than "relocating to a venue with the noise, bustle and effort of home, without the convenience. And usually, rather less sleep".

I happened to be one of those parents who spent a great deal of my "holidays" separating bickering toddlers.

If it had merely been my son and daughter at each other's throats all day, that would have been barely a difference from the rest of the year.

No, in fact, this time I had my sister, her husband and a four-year-old as a house guest.

The little girl would play sweetly with my children for roughly 10 minutes before pitiful wails would inevitably ring out.

Being of a like mind, my sister and I believe it's only right to pounce on our own children for causing a fuss.

In truth, it was my three-year-old and her four-year-old causing the trouble, at a proportion of roughly 50/50.

My one-year-old can't really be said to be instigating trouble just yet.

My sister's little girl was apt to scream at the top of her lungs when she didn't get her way (an interesting photo caught the culprit squealing full bore into my son's annoyed face as they attempted to share the remote DVD player, churning out the 50th stab at Monsters Inc for the day).

However, never let it be said that I think my own spawn angelic.

My son loves grabbing things out of other kids' hands, grimacing at them for no reason at all, refusing to share his toys and other assorted war crimes.

Interestingly, my niece - despite the frequent thumpings she sustained from my son in the five seconds I turned my back on him each day - claimed the best thing about her holiday was .... my son. She made up cute little names for him, sang songs about him, and generally pined for him when he wasn't there.

He, conversely, asked me every day when she was going back to Australia.

In the interests of complete disclosure, let the record show that I actually skipped out on the family holiday for three days and completed a work commitment in Wellington, where I would have been the one some might have seen skipping along Jervois Quay, dawdling over a sandwich, and even enjoying the Wellington sport of trying not to be blown into the harbour.

The work was intricate and ate up long days, and yet, the absence of screaming mee-mees in the background made them fly by.

On Saturday I went to pick up my family from the airport, returned from their extended stay.

My husband looked - unusually - unkempt and shrivelled, the way one often does having just completed a "holiday"with two toddlers and capped it off with a cross-country flight.

Yesterday, however, he appeared to have made a remarkable recovery. I could swear he had a twinkle in his eye as he skipped out the door!

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