Much as I love my two, I swear that as soon as their father goes off to work for a couple of days and the door closes behind him, they both hatch the latest plot entitled "let's you and me make mummy get mad and shout".
The basis of this game involves:-
* pretending not to understand basic life skills such as applying toothpaste to a brush, remembering to flush the toilet or brush their hair
* adopting "the voice" - a cross between a wheedle, a whine and a bleat. It's like being accosted by melancholic sheep wherever you turn.
* shouting for me at the top of their lungs like a machine gun "mum,mum,mum,mum". This is always done outside for full effect.
* having to be told at least 5 (count 'em) times to do anything
* completely ignoring the last 5 instructions and, when confronted, smirking - smirking!!! A red rag to a, er heffer, that one.
* developing weird physical symptoms and claiming to be in the throes of some odd fever or sickness. This is usually announced by "my tummy feels weird" and then behaving like an auditionee for Holby.
* endlessly (and I mean endlessly) using all those words that make you wince (especially when announced in the library). These words are often helpfully strung together - viz "bumfoofytodgetodgeboobiedoobiebum". N.B. trying to pass this off as the New Zealand Haka rarely works.
*appearing approximately 90 minutes after being put to bed, still wide awake but claiming to have had a dream in which somebody somewhere in some guise or other was being something or other and had upset them.
* announcing that nobody in this house loves them and they are leaving home. (So soon!)
* refusing to leave home before their bedtime milk and cuddle and then deciding to stay after all.
I know that they are testing the boundaries and that discipline (correctly applied - and no I'm not talking about physical discipline) should help them to feel loved, protected and safe but why does nobody tell you how awful it makes you feel?
After a day like today, I feel totally wrung out and like I've failed. Again. All those helpful childcare tomes focus on the desired results of discipline on the child, but rarely do we receive advice about what to do when your kids make you feel like Mother Gothel in Disney's Rapunzel.
It is an endless battle which we parents never know if we're winning or not because as soon as you feel the little darlings are behaving or they have an exemplary day, you can bet it will all go pear-shaped the next day.
Sometimes I wonder what on earth I'm teaching them. Do I actually believe the rules I'm setting are right, valid or effective? But then I remember that society needs us to bring our kids up right so that they are not screaming little banshees running amok in Tesco or irritating plane passengers. It's about encouraging individuality whilst ensuring our children fit in. Because, make no mistake, a lot of success in life boils down to 'fitting in'.
If I stop and listen, of course, the voices I hear are those of my parents. We're all just doing our best, aren't we?
Occasionally I wish I could be one of those chilled, macrobiotic types who operates entirely through the focus of mindfulness and universal love.
But I can't bear mess on the carpet, wet towels on beds and why in God's name does nobody EVER replace the toilet roll.
All is peaceful at the moment. There is a lull in hostilities while they snooze and I sit on the sofa and reflect how much I love them. The little buggers.