The car temperature gauge read minus one and the fields were enveloped in frost when I drove the children to the station this morning. There was barely any wind so, instead of our usual stomp across the fields and clifftop after the station run, I took the dog down to the beach. It was low tide and the sea seemed much farther out than usual. Cassie leapt about on the pebbles, enthusiastically jumping into patches of seaweed and snuffling through them searching for the really stinky bits. We were the only two on the beach and it was blissfully quiet, just the sound of the rippled wavelets gently breaking on the seaweed-covered rocks and the occasional cry of a gull overhead. I walked as far out as I could and stood with my back to the sea looking up at the shore. It was a serene moment.
Fast-forward to just after 4pm: the children burst through the door after school, dropped their bags, threw off their shoes and coats and crowded into the kitchen around the snack drawer. (Yes. We have a drawer containing foods that would not please the healthy eating police. There is a jar of chai seeds in there to salve my conscience.) There was a lot of pushing and shoving: my younger son asked if anyone wanted the last fruit bun; my eldest son grabbed the last giant cookie without asking anyone; my daughter calmly got on with making herself a sandwich. Seconds later we were all shouting at each other (mostly at my eldest). I may have even uttered a swear word or two. How does that happen?! One minute I was pleased to see them, asking after their day, the next I’m standing in the kitchen shouting like a deranged fishwife. Such are the joys of teenagers mixed with a menopausal mother. Really, we should be kept apart like they do with tricksy animals in the zoo; in one big enclosure but with doors to drop down and keep us apart if it all gets a bit feisty. I’d quite like that.