There are some stages kids go through that are just so cute you want to burn them into your memory forever. You know that time passes so quickly that precious details are lost; hopefully the things that made you smile in between your tears and teeth-gnashing are thing that survive the trip to old age.
And then there are those stages that you long to forget - but suspect you never will. The getting-up-every-few-hours phase. The "night time is for play" phase. The phase, around the two to three year old mark, where meltdowns come thick and fast every day and seem to last an inordinately long time.
Currently we are in another phase that grates on the parental nerves. The phase where everyone is constantly telling on everyone else; where every insult, nudge and slap between siblings takes on the severity of a first-degree assault, and where the wailing that accompanies a stubbed toe could wake the dead.
It started when my son started school. I found myself, each day, confronted with two or three of his classmates telling me how naughty my son had been.
I'd then collar the teacher and ask if my son was being the little Beelzebub depicted by his tiny friends. She would roll her eyes, and explain that all day long she has one child or another narking on another for the most minor infraction - "Miss, he looked at me in a mean way""; "Miss, he touched my shoulder" and so on.
The problem for me was that my son brought this charming new quality home with him, and now he and his three-and-a-half year old sister are constantly running to me with the evidence of major crimes being committed over the plastic tea cups. That's if I don't hear the wailing first. Sometimes the weapon chosen can actually inflict some pain - and the contraband bin is now full of things like small baseball bats, plastic golf clubs, web slingers and even a wooden mallet. Word to the wise: a wooden mallet is not a great present for a three year old boy!
Other times, there's a fair element of ham acting involved. Sometimes insults have been traded. Still others, the wrong facial expression has been struck. Try as I might I find it hard to believe a Polly Pocket, a crayon or a soft toy with plastic eyes can actually wound. But all three of these last objects have been blamed for injuries sustained recently - all demanding lots of TLC, of course - and copious band aids. In one famous incident my son was brought to me on the arms of his father, howling like he'd just lost a limb in the battle of Britain, when in fact he'd knocked his toenail while jumping off his bed.
The ironic thing is that while children tend to make a mountain out of the smallest scrape, parents are often quite seriously injured discharging their parental duties and have not one person sympathetic, or often, even remotely interested. On Guy Fawkes night, for example, Ali went to light a rocket and put his knee down hard on the metal base of the clothesline that had been removed for the night. While he writhed around in agony for a good five minutes, clutching his knee and rolling on the grass while uttering profanities, a gaggle of four children simply stared at him with blank faces for several minutes before nagging him to get on with things.
And this weekend I was washing the shower when I stupidly put my hand on the wall to steady myself, and immediately slid off the wall sideways and thumped onto the ground, sending about 15 bottles of shampoo, conditioner and soap flying. The fall wasn't so bad but I landed on the lip of the shower, which is a hard metal barrier across the bottom of the cubicle, which (I thought, briefly) had implanted itself in my leg. The pain! I wanted to vomit, pass out and scream all at once. My daughter stood there agog at the drama while my son laughed so hard he almost had an asthma attack.
Somehow when the kids have even the smallest bruise they can milk it for a great deal - hugs and kisses, sometimes a little treat, other times a story. I'm sure I would have to be on my deathbed before I got even half as much empathy - and probably even then I'd still be trying to adjudicate on some minor skirmish involving Humungosaur, a glittery scrunchy and a preschooler who called her brother a "poo poo".