The atmosphere in the house is tense. Crackling. Febrile. Eldest, Middle and Youngest are going on holiday with Other Parent tomorrow and they can’t put off packing any longer.
Snatches of growling float downstairs from the boydults lair – “MY boxers…” and “They’re OBVIOUSLY my socks – you don’t have proper ones…” and “Getting a lock on my door…”, punctuated by the slamming of doors.
Meanwhile, down on our level, I find Youngest sitting amid a tangle of clothing in her room, and uncharacteristically het up.
“How many outfits should I take!?” she asks me, not having a sibling close enough in age to bicker with – I’ll have to do.
“Oh three, maybe,” I say forgetting who I’m talking to.
“Three! Three! For two weeks!”
“Well, it’s Portugal. It’ll be hot, you won’t need much and there will be a washing machine.” Eye roll.
“And I can’t get all my trainers in!” she says. “And sandals, and flip flops, and…”
“Just wear your trainers and pack some flip flops, that’ll be enou…”
“I AM wearing them! The black ones, but I want my nice peachy going out ones in case we go out, and my white ones, obviously.”
“Obviously,” I say, trying to get back in with her. She glares.
Time to retreat. Like Biggie Smalls, who has heaved himself off my bed and gone to sleep in the sink. It’s safe, cool, supportive, calm, with drink on tap. I’d follow his lead and lie down in the bath till they’ve gone but a mother’s role is to mediate, so I hover and every now and then step in, washing boxers, serving snacks to ward off hanger pangs, locating socks and passports, judging crop tops, all the while busying myself with a little desultory DIY so I’m on hand if things kick off.
“I’m staying out of the sibling bickering,” I tell my pal when she texts to ask what I’m up to. “Quietly grouting.”
“Sounds like a yoga pose,” she says.
I do my version of a half moon extended side angle as I reach up under cupboards to dab grout, and with the boys in warrior pose upstairs, Youngest in butterfly, fluttering amid a rainbow of clothing and Biggie in cat’s pose in the sink, it’s just a case of waiting for the oxytocin to hit. Namaste.