In between playing with loom bands, trying out their new outdoor trampoline and dressing up in skirts and tutus – a regular and amusing habit that, contrary to any rumours you may have heard, they have not inherited from their father – I am gratified to see how well our two boys are now playing together, both with each other and their little sister.
It’s everything we’ve always hoped for. There is a degree of sibling rivalry between the three of them but it’s mostly small stuff. The boys squabble over cars, table mats (they both want the one with the flags of the world on) and who gets to use the toilet first at bath-time (even though we have three of the things). And Kara isn’t afraid to assert herself physically – okay, make that scratch and punch – which, without trivialising or condoning it, we’re putting down to the ‘terrible twos’. But 85-90% of the time they’re not only peaceable but seem to actively enjoy each other’s company. I’m delighted.
While I’m a little nervous about the potential for three excitable children on the same trampoline at the same time to turn into an episode of Casualty, it has required minimal intervention from the grown-up anti-fun police (just call 666) for them to work out their own ground rules. In fact, both boys are particularly attentive to their little sister. In turn, Kara wants nothing more than to be bounced around as high and as violently as possible, whether under her own steam or being propelled skywards by her brothers’ jumps. There’s a real sense of three siblings playing together rather than doing their own thing. It’s lovely to watch.
The benefit for Heather and I is that we’re now able to sit out in the garden with a cup of tea with half an eye on the bounce-a-thon taking place a few metres away and have a proper uninterrupted (okay, only mildly interrupted) conversation. Next thing you know we’ll be out there sipping Pimms and reading the Sunday papers. Now there’s an idea …
The two boys are also increasingly good at quietly doing shared activities. Whether it’s dressing up, playing elaborate car games (mostly re-enacting Top Gear challenges) or just sitting quietly at the table drawing (mostly cars they’ve seen on Top Gear – see above), it’s not uncommon for them to occupy themselves unsupervised for half an hour or more at a time.
As parents who have spent virtually every waking moment of the last 6½ years dealing with incessant requests for entertainment, snacks and ceasefire/peace negotiations, I cannot begin to say how much of a relief it is to have even a few minutes’ downtime during the day, and hopefully this will continue to improve as Kara becomes increasingly self-sufficient.
There is finally light at the end of the tunnel – and I’m finally beginning to believe that it’s not an oncoming train. (Famous last words.)