Rules

I reckon we’re generally pretty laid-back parents (well Dh is – I’m a nervy nightmare) but occasionally I wonder if we‘re a bit too strict. The girls are I were walking home from nursery tonight with some of their friends and a parent asked the girls if they were going to watch telly when they got home. I did a frantic ‘argh’ face over the girls’ heads toward the parent in question. Luckily he got the ‘parent code’ and changed the subject very quickly. Apparently all of the girls’ friends watch a bit of TV when they get home from nursery. We established a post-nursery routine for the girls very early on – home, snack, bathtime, stories, cuddles, bed – and it’s always worked. It hasn’t ever occurred to the girls that they could watch TV on nursery days as we don’t put it on in the morning either.

The other thing we discussed was bedtime stories. The girls get three stories if they’re really good (they choose one each and we choose one), two stories if it’s late (the girls choose one each), one story if they’re naughty (that Dh or I choose) and none at all if all hell breaks loose. R and G can get pretty boisterous at bath time and they absolutely love being read to so the ‘sliding scale of stories’ approach. I’ve been in charge this week as Dh is working late and the girls have made a big point of telling me that they are going to be really good (and continue to point out as they are doing so) so that they can get three stories.

It’s only when you describe our practices to others that you realise quite how tyrannical we sound. Inevitably I’m going to justify what we do but, quite simply, it works. It wouldn’t necessarily work for other people, but it works for us.

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Dr Jekyll and Ms G

Dr Jekyll

You can generally see it coming. G will take something you’ve said the wrong way, or someone will disagree with her, or one of us will refuse to do exactly what she wants and we know that we’re about to be in the eye of the storm.

When G decides to lose it there’s nothing on earth that will distract her. Heading her off at the pass is simply not an option. Anyone foolish enough to attempt to reason with her will be blasted with a stream of fury:

“YOU’RE NOT LISTENING TO WHAT I’M SAYING. TALK TO ME NICELY. DON’T LOOK AT ME WITH THAT FACE. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME. WHY AREN’T YOU TALKING TO ME? YOU’RE NOT MY BEST FRIEND!”.

The only thing we can do is silently carry her wriggling, screaming, contorted body upstairs, put her in time out in her bedroom for 4 minutes and cling on to the handle while she flicks the light on and off repeatedly until the bulb blows (Dh has been known to take the bulb out when he senses an outburst coming) with one hand and rattles the handle, desperately trying to get out, with the other.

As I hold on to the handle, my hand going redder with every rattle, I silently watch the clock. G has a hell of a set of lungs on her. She never goes quiet in those four, long minutes. Sometimes she screams louder and louder until she reaches a crescendo of sobbing and shouting.

When the clock ticks over I quietly open the door. G stands there, a red-faced, tear-stained, snotty mess. She breathes heavily, gulping back yet more tears. I get down to her level, look her in the eye and tell her to say sorry. G looks back at me with defiance in her eyes. Finally, when she realises there is no other option, she whispers an apology at me. I take her by the hand and we head downstairs so that she can apologise to whoever was caught in her wake.

After a few minutes everything is calm and it’s like the outburst didn’t happen. I marvel at the fact that I managed to stay in control and didn’t do the one thing that would be so easy to do but extremely hard to take back later – I didn’t hit her*.

Ms G

G and I make cakes together and she loves licking out the bowl, often dipping a finger in before I’ve removed the mixture. She calls herself Mummy’s dancing queen as she throws shapes to Can’t Get You Out of My Head by Kylie. She draws an endless stream of pictures of Mummy, Daddy, R,  her favourite characters, animals and soft toys. She can write her name without help. She can copy words and sentences that I write out for her, her nose almost touching the paper as she scrawls out the letters in her wobbly left-handed writing. She tells us that she dreams of blue and pink puppies, yet has to sleep on her left side so that she can look out for monsters. She’s brilliant at board games and quietly takes the spoils while her hyper-competitive sister sulks about losing yet another game of Guess Who.

G is fantastically bossy and acts like R’s older sister, the one minute between them often feeling like more like a year. She has a tremendous sense of justice. She spotted R’s best friend at nursery (A) kicking mud at her. R didn’t want to tell tales on her friend so G marched up to her keyworker and ensured that A was made to say sorry to R. R worries too much about what other people think of her. G doesn’t care a jot.  She genuinely thinks that she is an additional keyworker at nursery and takes a register each morning (they now print out a list of names for her) and has a little notebook in which she writes everyone’s lunch orders.

G is incredibly confident and believes that everyone in the world is fundamentally good. She is absolutely fearless and doesn’t mind making herself look silly. She is a bit clumsy and falls over quite a lot, but she picks herself up and only makes a fuss if it really hurts. She is brilliant at putting outfits together (we call her Gok) and loves clothes shopping with me. She has excellent taste and selects outfits for R and herself. She’ll even dress R if her sister is in a contrary mood. This morning she laid out a t-shirt, boxers and socks for Dh, all perfectly co-ordinated.

G has a quirky worldview. We do a letter of the week and while we were queueing in the supermarket last week I asked the girls to think of things beginning with D. Without pausing to think she said in an extremely clear voice ‘DEAD’. I thought I’d misheard her so I asked her to repeat what’s she’d said. ‘DEAD’.I stifled a laugh and asked her to think of something else. G thought for a moment: ‘DYING’. I asked her if she meant ‘diving’. Apparently not**. The woman behind us in the queue waving a bunch of daffodils around in an effort to get R to notice an object beginning with D had to hide her face to mask her giggles.

G has a tremendous imagination. She takes R with her to another world, where sealions play with Sleeping Beauty and her toy doggy has a whole life of his own. I asked her once if she wanted to be a sealion trainer when she grew up. She fixed me with a very particular look – a ‘How stupid ARE you?!’ look – and replied: ‘No! I want to be a sealion’. As she colours in, she sings made-up songs to herself. She makes up games for the other children to play at nursery. She has a very slight lisp and people comment on her sweet little voice – when she chooses to use it as opposed to her usual bellow.

We all joke that she’ll probably win an Oscar one day…but will take Aunty J to the ceremony because she’s G’s idol. That, or she’ll be running the country. People underestimate G. They think she’s silly and fluffy but she’s got a mind like a steel trap. It all goes in and bits of information reappear at the oddest moments. I was told about space and flying to the moon over breakfast the other week. When A was our letter of the week she was most insistent that Owl began with an A and got incredibly cross when we kept correcting her.

How do we solve a problem like G?

I joke occasionally that we should just send G to school now, because she seems more than ready for it. While I don’t think she’s a genius I do think that she needs to be stretched a bit more, hence the letter of the week. I’ve also got the Oxford Reading Tree phonics books, which she refers to as her reading books. She’s nowhere near reading yet, but both girls seem to have inherited Dh’s practically photographic memory and can recall whole sections of books on only a second read-through. She also likes flashcards so I’ve bought a couple of sets and she likes (I know!!) me to test her on them.

When G is on-song she’s such a lovely child. A bit Lola-ish at times but basically very sweet. When she’s in Jekyll mode I want to walk out of the house and not come back. I honestly thought that once the terrible twos were out of the way we wouldn’t have to deal with tantrums any more. Yes, I was extremely naïve and stupid. Now the tantrums have context and guilt and wordplay and layers.

G is like this now. What ON EARTH is she going to be like as a teenager? A couple of our friends are also going through this with their preschool-age daughters. One phoned me up the other night and we compared notes. I tried (probably in vain) to offer some crumbs of comfort:

  1. You always take out your frustration on those you love the most
  2. They’re going to be strong, confident women who won’t take any shit from anyone.

I didn’t say it at the time, but there’s a third:

  1. No matter how awful G has been during the day, when she snuggles down in bed with her doggy, she always tells me she loves me.

Little sod.

*I haven’t ever hit R or G. Believe me though, there have been times where I’ve briefly considered it as an option. When the red mist descends I go into a different room to the girls and take out my frustration on an inanimate object.

**We’re waiting for her to become a goth or – heaven forbid – an emo.

Coffee confessions

Every Saturday morning during term-time a small group of four or five people drop their daughters off at ballet and tap class and traipse round to someone’s house for coffee. The coffee sessions only last three-quarters of an hour but the people use the time to swap stories from the front line of parenting.

They even have a motto: ‘What gets said in this house stays within these four walls’.

Of course, I’m referring to Dh and I and a small gang of parents whose children attend the same dance class. They all attended the same nursery until last September when three of the girls went off to prep schools. R and G are the only ones left at nursery, so they started doing Baby Ballet last term as a way of keeping in touch with some of their oldest friends.

All five of the girls moved up to ‘Twinkle Toes’, the combined ballet and tap class for children aged 4-5 in January. The Baby Ballet class was only half an hour so we used to rush through our drinks and head back to the class, which, handily is held in a church hall at the end of our road. Twinkle Toes is slightly longer so we now get to sup our drinks in a relatively languorous manner.

The gang tends to meet at our house because Dh has a rather fancy coffee machine. It’s his third baby, basically. I don’t drink coffee (or tea) but his wonder machine also makes hot chocolate (and cappuccino, espresso and mocha) so that’s my drink of choice. With the exception of one of the Dads who only drinks tea, the other parents nurse their expertly-made coffees.

Our girls were all born between December 2007 and April 2008, so we compare stories and swap parenting tips. We’ve all sat head in hands despairing about the tantrums our strong-willed, larger than life, forces-of-nature daughters continue to have well after the supposed ‘Terrible Twos’. We’ve swapped stories of depression, tablets and CBT therapies. We laugh at the funny things the girls say and compare notes on different education settings. We also weave grown-up topics into the discussion: this morning we discussed sporting allegiances and feisty parents, for example. The other week we talked about Apartheid. Sometimes we discuss rare nights out and the after-effects. It all depends on what we want – or need – to talk about.

I find the coffee chats incredibly reassuring. Dh and I have really been tearing our hair out over G for the last few months (I’ll say more on that in the next few days) and wondered what on earth we were doing wrong. The coffee confessions have revealed that we’re not alone in feeling helpless and that actually some of G’s more outlandish behaviour is pretty normal for a four year old girl (well, that or there’s something in the water round here that makes the girls super-feisty). As a parent, one of the best sentences you can hear is ‘We’re going through that too’. It instantly normalises a situation in which you thought you were totally alone, which is incredibly helpful.

At 10.10am we gather up the empty cups and trot back to the church hall where five little girls, all red-faced and excited, greet us with news of new tap moves, reward stickers and jelly sweets. Sometimes we pop round to the other houses to play for a bit. Sometimes they come to ours. Sometimes we all go our separate ways, but I think that all of the parents carry on with their day safe in the knowledge that their confessions won’t be shared outside the group. Whatever happens that week, they know they can let it all out at the coffee confession session the following Saturday.

Book Group

I have joined the mummy book group on our road. First meeting this evening. David Copperfield. No-one discussed the book, which was good as I had only read 2% of it and had been for post work drinks with colleagues before rocking up at Mum Who Seems To Disapprove Of Us’s house 3/4 of an hour late…no-one seemed to mind and being the only Mum Of Twins has a certain novelty. Our next book is War Horse. Learnt lots of local gossip. Good fun.

***Update. I banged out this post on my phone at 00.15 this morning. The book group was interesting, but also quite scary. I knew four of the women there through other contexts:

Woman 1. Her daughter used to attend the ballet class that the girls did last term. We were quickly able to drop the girls off and run home for coffee mornings with the ex-nursery gang. Her little girl hated being left so she had to stay and watch the class every week. She’s decided not to go back this term. Apparently R and G are ‘very confident’ (and bears do their business…)

Woman 2. Works where I used to work. Cue slightly awkward conversation about the place I worked at when I was young (basically, back when I was even more of an arse than I am now) and where she still works.

Woman 3. AKA Mum Who Seems to Disapprove of Us. (her children attend the same nursery as the girls and I don’t think she can quite work out Dh and I) I’m not sure last night did anything to improve relations between us but anyway…turns out she’s also a civil servant and works for the department that my organisation is likely to be transferring over to in the next 2-3 years. She asked who I worked for. I told her. She was silent for a couple of seconds before carefully saying ‘Oh’. I’ll wear her down. She’s my new project <rubs hands gleefully yet evilly together>

Woman 4. I really, really liked her and it turned out that she was really good friends with our landlords and used to come for playdates at our house before it became our house. I said she should bring her boys round to play with R and G.

I also learnt a lot of gossip about the residents of our road (tales of CCTV cameras, burglaries and naked sunbathing), we might apply to have a street party for the Diamond Jubilee, and the school that’s no. 2 on our list but is likely to be the one the girls go to doesn’t have an after school club for the Reception children.

Arsebollocks.

Apparently the local Catholic school has a really good after school club which takes the reception kids from oher local schools. I asked if they did anything Goddy with the children (in my minds eye I could see Dh-disciple-of-Dawkins) as that might be a little unusual for the girls (I left the ‘They haven’t even been christened’ coda unsaid) and a lady sitting on the floor piped up that Actually (yes THAT actually – the ‘Ahem you’re starting to offend me’ actually) she was a Catholic. Oops…

I think the lesson I take from this is that I should NEVER, under ANY circumstances go for a quick post-work drink before attempting a new book group in which I have to impress people. Oh! I needn’t have worried about turning up late either. Two other people arrived well after I did.

I’m going to download War Horse onto my Kindle and I will damn well read it before the next meeting in March so I can sound clever and knowledgeable. I absolutely won’t discuss Catholicism, even in really oblique terms. I most certainly won’t go for a drink beforehand.

Precious memories

R and G took part in their nativity at Christmas. I lost count of the number of people in the run up to the big day that asked me if we were allowed to photograph and film the play. It didn’t occur to me at any point that we wouldn’t be able to and I was proved right. Every single parent had their camera or phone out (in our case Dh had the video camera and I had the camera) and there were so many flashes that it was like a film premiere.

At the unofficial after-party one of the parents got out her laptop and we gathered round it to ooh and aah at our children. When we got home Dh put our video onto his computer and uploaded it to YouTube but made it a private video so that we could send the link to family and friends but no-one else could see it otherwise. I put the photos up on my (locked down) Facebook account, to be viewed by my friends only and I haven’t put any on HoT. I imagine that most of the other parents have done the same.

I’m quite horrified to hear that some parents demand (not ones that I know, but friends in other parts of the country have experienced this) that their little darlings faces are blanked or pixelated out of photos and videos…and I’m not talking things that are publicly available on YouTube here. These are things on locked-down social networking accounts. They are not available to the great unwashed that roam the wilds of the Internet looking for pictures of random cute children and doing god knows what with them.

There seems to be a tension between those parents that choose to put their child’s life online and those that refuse to. The former camp (and I include myself in this) are happy to blog and post photos and videos of their children, although I do have some self-imposed limits on the amount of information I put. For example, I rarely put the girls’ full names online, I don’t mention any of their friends explicitly and certainly not by name and I don’t mention the area we live in because, frankly, I don’t want to get burgled when we go on holiday. (In any case, the house isn’t ours and we don’t have anything worth stealing). I have set my own sharing parameters, based on what I feel comfortable with for my family

The latter camp includes some of the most tech-savvy people I know but they have made a decision to not put their child’s life online. This is sometimes done for perfectly sound reasons e.g. children that have been removed from their parents and are now in foster care placements or have been adopted, so it makes absolute sense for them to be wary about broadcasting a child’s life online. The same goes for fractured or estranged families. I’m talking about the ones who make a deliberate choice for their child without any of these caveats.

Do they genuinely think their child is more precious and special than other children? Are they saying that their child is so wonderful that they arrogantly assume that every single paedophile will be really, really interested in their offspring? Does it say more about the parents’ predilections than anything else? Taking this example to its logical conclusion, do these parents refuse to take their precious offspring to the supermarket for fear that a random stranger will dare to glance at them? Heaven forbid! I’m playing devil’s advocate here but you can probably see what I’m getting it.

I grew up in a world without social networking. I guess I could describe myself as an analogue/digital hybrid. Computers didn’t really feature in my life until I was about 8 years old. I didn’t get my own PC until I was 17. I typed my first year A-Level coursework on an electric typewriter after painstakingly writing it out in longhand. Facebook, Flicker, blogs and Twitter were all yet to come in an unimaginable future.

R and G were born into, and are growing up in, a world where the television programmes they want to watch are available on demand. They know that if Mummy takes a picture of them on her touch-screen phone, she will send it to Daddy and Nanny to see and they’ll probably reply in a matter of minutes. They know to swipe the screen of a smartphone to scroll through pictures of themselves. They can see pictures of their friends at parties on Mummy’s laptop (they’ve finally stopped calling it a Poncuter, sadly) and they’ve watched the hundreds of videos that we’ve taken of them over the last four years.

Of course, they don’t know that Mummy writes a warts ‘n’ all blog about them and that a random video of them babbling when they were 8 months old has had 669,000 views on YouTube in the last year, but there’s plenty of time for that. Their short lives have been documented through various social media platforms, but in a reasonably controlled way. How is Precious Child X going to feel when they reach the age where they understand social media and ask Mummy and Daddy why their faces were blanked out of that nativity video that all their little friends were in? At certain, more sensitive moments in my formative years I would have assumed that it was because I was so hideous that I had been hidden from view for my own good. What about their parents’ Facebook photos? There are lots of pictures of Mummy and Daddy and their family and friends, but the child doesn’t feature at all. I’d feel like I had been written out of my parents’ history.

The childhood narrative has changed since we were growing up. Our digital native offspring will expect to see their lives documented online in some form or other and if they aren’t, they are probably going to wonder why. I’m not arguing that the naysayers are necessarily wrong, but that they are going to have some interesting questions to deal with in a few years’ time. Childhood is changing and we as parents need to keep up with the latest developments.

Bye bye buggy

Me: It started with an e-mail from the local twins club…

My subconscious: The twins club? Don’t you have a long standing beef with the local twins clubs for being – let me get this right – elitist, cliquey, competitive, snobby and a whole host of expletives that aren’t suitable for family reading?

Me: Yup. They haven’t taken me off their mailing list even though I haven’t been anywhere near the playgroup for about three and a half years. I generally read their pleas for cash and cakes with my finger hovering over the delete button.

My subconscious: So you’d better explain the relevance of a twins club e-mail to the title of this blog entry then because I’m properly confused. Plus, this now reads like some hackneyed attempt at clever writing by an 11 year old.

Me

Anyway…there was an e-mail from the twins club. A midwife with a clinic at the local Sure-Start Children’s Centre had contacted the twins club because she was looking after a lady that was pregnant with twins, already had a nine year old son and was struggling to buy things for the babies, particularly a double buggy.

Our Nipper 360 has sat, unused and unloved, in the cupboard under the stairs since August 2010. I think I only used it then because I wanted to take the girls to the shop at the end of the day, Dh had taken the car to work and they were in A MOOD. It was such an occasion that I actually took a photo of it. We had always planned to sell the buggy when the girls eventually outgrew it. Realistically we could have done this a year ago but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the buggy just yet.

I’m a bit of a softy at heart and the e-mail did something to me. I spoke to Dh and asked him if he minded giving the Nipper away rather than selling it. He very sweetly agreed that he liked the idea of someone that really needed a buggy getting the benefit of it. I felt a little bit emotional and he gave me hug. I fired off a reply to the secretary of the Children’s Centre stating that we had a buggy and could they make use of it?

I got a very swift reply. The secretary thanked me for my offer and said she’d forward my details to the Midwife. The weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything. I figured that, as the appeal had gone to a fairly affluent set of women, someone had offered a properly amazing buggy like a Bugaboo Donkey or a Jane Powertwin and the Nipper wasn’t quite up to standard.

About six weeks later I got an e-mail from the Midwife. She had been overwhelmed by my offer and definitely wanted to take me up on it. I called her and we arranged to deliver the Nipper to the Children’s Centre.

Dh dug the buggy out of the cupboard, set it up and pumped up the tyres. I found the cosytoes in a wardrobe and between us we set the Nipper up for newborn babies. It felt very odd to wheel a fully-assembled yet devoid of babies buggy along. I was reminded why we chose the Nipper in the first place – it was so light and easy to push, turned on a sixpence, surprisingly narrow for a side-by-side buggy and had lots of places to shore bits and pieces (shopping and toys, mostly) and, in the red and black trim, pretty damn stylish. It had clearly been well-used. The hood was grubbier than I remembered, one of the straps on the cosytoes was broken (but easily fixable) and the raincover was a replacement for the first that fell apart far too quickly.

If the Nipper had a pedometer how many miles it would have covered since December 2007? I can’t even begin to imagine. When I was on maternity leave I took the girls out every day, either to the local shops or to the park. I later found out that I was probably doing at least four miles a day pushing two rapidly growing babies (plus paraphernalia) along some fairly hilly roads at times. No wonder I lost the baby weight relatively quickly! Even when I went back to work the buggy was in fairly constant use, particularly when the girls changed nurseries and it was easier to bundle them in the Nipper than try and walk two drunk-looking toddlers up the road.

We bumped into the Midwife on the way in and she was clearly delighted with the buggy. Dh gave her a quick demo of its features and an all-important lesson in how to fold it down and back up again. The woman gave birth to healthy boy/girl twins last week and they are already home. She doesn’t have a car so needs a really reliable, sturdy buggy, which the Nipper is. I hope she and the babies can get as much use out of it as we did.

The girls’ first trip in the buggy 21st December 2007

Their last buggy trip, 21st August 2010.

Interview with dh – deleted scenes

This is the very final part of my Interview with Dh series. When I transcribed the original interviews I noticed that I’d forgotten to ask him a few questions and that other things came up as a result of the first interview. I sat him down with a gin and tonic and recorded the conversation… (p.s. the stuff about boys is his opinion, not mine so you can shoot him if you want to…)

This is the deleted scenes – the extras – the out-takes, if you will. I’m hoping to put the interviews on the blog as an audio file at some point but for now a written transcript will have to do:

Me: Do you ever wish we’d had a boy?

Dh: No. Initially I would’ve liked boys but now I’m really pleased we’ve got girls. Boys are more naughty aren’t they? At this stage at least. More mischievous, especially twin boys. The girls are quite naughty… We’d thought of boys names and didn’t have boys names when we found out. We didn’t get a Tom and a Lewis.

I didn’t get my Freya either.

I really didn’t like Freya.

How do you feel about your wife writing a blog?

I quite like it. I always read it. It often makes me laugh. I know it helps you to talk about things as well. You don’t talk about me very much. It’s always based around the children.

It’s one of my rules. I don’t discuss you with my friends in ‘real life’ so I’m not going to do that on the Internet either. I really like our relationship and I think it should be kept as private as we can keep it. I hope everyone knows how much we love each other but it’s between us. I’ll happily discuss how weird I am but I won’t talk about you and I.

It’s your blog so you talk about what you want. I’m happy with what you write.  I know other people like reading it as well, so it obviously strikes a chord with them.

It’s always going to have quite a niche appeal I think.

I don’t know how many random people that don’t know us read it. Don’t you check your pageviews? It’s quite a lot isn’t it?

The other thing I wanted to talk about was our YouTube sensation. How many views are we up to now?

I checked today actually and it was 320,000 views. It’s just the girls in their playpen [about 8 months old] laughing and making noises at each other. It’s like they’re talking to each other but they aren’t. It’s made £18 in adverts this month so far [on the 16th of the month]. It’s made us £12-15 per month in ad revenue over the last few months.

We posted it up in August 2008 and no-one looked at it really. In the last 3-4 months it’s shot up from 20 views to over 300,000 views. It’s linked to a video that’s had millions of views, of the twin boys wearing nappies in the kitchen.

You can click on the stats for our video and most people discover our video through that one. It’s all through over twin videos. It’s amazing how quickly it’s gone up. I tried adding another video but no-one’s looked at it!

You say that the girls’ generation is the most videoed and photographed generation ever. Their legacy [of content] is going to be enormous.

My Mum sent me some photos to print out for My Dad’s 65th birthday and he’s got 10-20 photos of himself as a kid in total. We take 100 photos of the girls a month, often more. I love all the little videos of them doing stuff as well, especially now they’re chatting and you can hear their voices. It’s amazing…not just how much you record but the fact that it’s online so our parents can look at it and it’s updated pretty often, at least once a month.

How do you think the children will feel when they’re old enough to realise that I wrote about them?

It’s hard to know how they’ll react.

I have thought that maybe I should stop writing it when the hit their fifth birthday but I don’t know…

You were saying that you quite like reading blogs and form posts about teenagers but I guess that’s in secret and they probably don’t know. You don’t have to stop. There’s no need to.

I go through phases of wanting to stop. Especially if I’ve written something and someone has got really hacked off with me.

If you don’t like it, don’t read it! Equally there are people out there that love it.

I have my cheerleaders – two of them! Do you feel that you can offer advice to people now?

I don’t like to. If people ask I will but equally I don’t want to say too much. I’ll give my opinion but every baby is different so I can’t say ‘Oh you should do this…’ Instead I say ‘We did this and it worked..’. There are people that don’t necessarily agree with what we did…

…but they’re wrong!!

How did you feel when I was really involved with that parenting website?

I quite liked the website. It was really useful but there are some strange people on the forums.

I even met some of them!

Yes. Some were fine and some…weren’t…

Some I thought were fine and turned out not to be, which was quite painful. I don’t need it now.

It must be interesting to talk to other twin mums and see what they’re doing.

There are two sides. It connected me to other twin mums when I felt incredibly isolated. The flip side is that I beat myself up about silly things that didn’t matter, especially when I first went back to work, we were all weaning and they were producing beautiful home-cooked meals and purees and I tried to keep up. I judged myself against standards that were almost impossible to live up to. It also pushed me to be a better parent, or to try harder at least. Someone would post that they were deep-cleaning their cupboards and I would think ‘Oh my God! I must go and do that now! I’m a complete slob! It’s terrible and I’m disgusting’! There is more to life than deep-cleaning cupboards

I did find those websites useful to look up stuff, especially the paranoid stuff. The forums could be interesting but they were more haphazard. You had to filter through a lot of crap. I didn’t write anything or contact anyone.

You did once. You got set upon by several million hormonal women!

You get to the stage where you call someone a Nazi and it ends there! Are you still friends with any of them?

Yes. There are 3 or 4 I would regard as friends and the rest as good acquaintances and I’m not going to say who!

That’s fine though. If you meet 10 or 20 random people you will filter it down to the people you really like. It’s useful to know a few people in the same position as you.

I do find myself comparing though, and worrying if their children are doing something that mine aren’t. That’s probably just my competitive nature

Competitive parenting is such a big thing ‘Ooh they can write their name…they can write a sonnet…’

You’re very laid back about it all and I fret, especially in relation to the education stuff.

They’re 3!! There’s nothing they have to be doing at the moment. They should just be playing.

What do you think they’ll do when they grow up?

Ruth’s very serious. I think they’ll both go to university. I can see Grace doing drama classes, although I think she’s fairly typical of kids her age. I think Ruth’s more unusual in that she’s so aware of what people might think of her. She gets so embarrassed about things and worries about other people. I don’t know what Ruth’s going to do.

She’ll either channel all of this and be brilliant, or she’ll be incredibly frustrating and muck about at the back of the class.

She’s quite boisterous and likes being with older kids. She puts a lot less effort into doing things, but is good if she actually tries. She’s a bit of a Ronnie O’Sullivan character. Naturally clever, but can’t be arsed! I read an article where it said that you should praise the effort rather than the achievement and we try to do that, but it’s easy to praise something and say ‘Oh that’s good’. Especially when they’re small. They don’t really understand effort. I keep trying to explain to her that you have to practice to be good at things.

We’re going to look back on the last four years, and probably the next 14/15 years, when we get old and grey I think we’re going to be incredibly proud of what we did.

I hope so.

Do you think that having children is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

I think it’s actually quite easy but because it’s every day for years and years it’s difficult. If you look at an average day it’s easy. You feed them, etc. It’s the pressure of doing it all the time…it’s strange to do such a simple thing but we have to do it permanently. It’s the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to make up your own rules and systems.

It’s like having a piece of flat-pack furniture and not having any instructions or any idea what it’s for.

There’s no way of changing that. People can tell you what it’s like but it doesn’t actually help. That’s why I don’t like to give advice. It’s going to be hard and you have to work it out for yourself.

The thing that struck me about the transcript of the interview we did was that you sounded quite down. There was a lot of stuff about your lack of quiet time, it was hard work, they had a lot of tantrums, you were shouting at them and a lot of it was really downbeat and I felt quite sad.

I’m not sad overall. It’s hard work. I’m happy with the way it’s worked out now. Maybe not initially. It should get easier as they get older. I think it’s the same for everyone.

We chose it. It’s not like we were forced to have them.

I wouldn’t change it, no matter how hard it is. I didn’t mean to sound so down about them. I don’t think many people enjoy having babies to look after. They’re much more fun now. I love taking them out now that they can understand things, like going to the zoo – asking and answering questions.

They love you in a very unconditional way and equally you love them unconditionally. If they were a partner you would have kicked them out years ago! That’s the paradox of parenting.

I watched an episode of Top Gear where they do a silly challenge with rubbish cars [that’s pretty much every episode then] and end up falling in love with them. Jeremy Clarkson said that it’s a bit like a toddler – most of the time they’re quite annoying but if someone tried to take it away you’d kill them. You can be really annoyed with them but if they ran into the road or hurt themselves you’d worry about them. I love them really.