Most mornings in our household, you’ll hear a shrill female voice shouting something along the lines of:
Daddy, it’s time to go upstairs. Boys, BREAK-FAST!
Now, before you put two and two together and start accusing me of casting aspersions about my wife Heather, let me point out that I’m talking about Kara – all two years and eight months of her.
I’ve never been under any illusions about my position in the pecking order in our family. The children come first, then Heather, then the goldfish (we don’t actually have any goldfish, but I’m below them anyway), then pond scum and Daily Mail journalists and then – and only then – me.
That’s okay. I accept my role in life is to keep my family in the manner to which they have become accustomed, to be the chauffeur who does ‘fast starts’ in his car at the behest of his Top Gear-mad boys and to keep Costa coffee shops in profit by purchasing an endless stream of babyccinos and mini muffins from them.
It could be worse, I suppose.
What’s funny is to watch the way the power dynamics between our three children work.
As the oldest, Isaac (seven years old) naturally takes on a lot of responsibility. He’s the one who takes pride in being the big brother, the organiser, the one who ensures that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. If he could wear a hard hat and hi-vis jacket and carry a clipboard and a red pen, he would.
But he’s not the one in charge.
As the middle child, Toby (five) isn’t responsible for much more than getting himself dressed in the morning. He flits around independently, often in his own little world (when he’s being charming) or, alternatively, on a different planet (when he’s not). He’s a sweet kid, but when he wants to get his own way he will first whinge until his voice becomes so high that only dogs can hear him and then he will simply ignore instructions altogether. He can be as stubborn and willful as they come when he puts his mind to it.
But he’s not the one in charge either.
Oh no. If there’s one child who will boss both siblings and parents around with unparalleled forcefulness, it’s our little daughter.
And she knows she’s the one in charge too. She barks orders like a drill sergeant. She will march up to anyone who isn’t obeying, place her hands firmly on her hips and fix them with a hard stare that would make Paddington Bear proud. And if that doesn’t work, she isn’t afraid to take physical action to get what she wants.
“No, Daddy, I want Mummy to read tonight.”
“Isaac, come here now!”
“I don’t want to do it!” (Followed by a foot stomp that has been known to register on the Richter scale.)
You know the sort of thing.
She was like this even before she could form proper
commands sentences. She has a knack of forming temporary alliances to get what she wants, whether it’s ganging up on Toby with Isaac or running up to me with a big smile and a cuddle when she wants to do something Mummy has just told her she can’t. She knows exactly which buttons to push to get people to comply or in particular with Toby, who can be a bit on the gullible side, how to wind him up – a sport she pursues with great gusto.
But the fact remains that – bossy boots or not – both boys are protective of their little sister and love her dearly. The same goes for me. That’s just what big brothers and dads do, isn’t it?