The general state of affairs between the hours of 5:30pm and 7:00pm is thus...
I've got this desire to be on time. It's a desire only. A desire that disappears the second I visit my Mum and Dad. I will always have teenage timekeeping when it comes visiting my folks. Them aside, I'm quite good. However, Martha and Ben have a habit of preventing punctuality. It's as if they have this chronological vortex around them that prevents time from properly functioning. It works in two ways.
Correct time: Martha is rarely, if ever, late for school. This is because of the potential of a late mark. Fear is a powerful motivator. Ben has never been late for nursery. Mainly because nursery starts fifteen minutes after Martha starts school and the nursery is a two minute walk. The smallest mention of either television or chocolate causes motion of inter-dimentional speeds. It is amazing how on time they can be when something they want is on offer or in the offing.
Incorrect time: When it comes to bedtimes or putting shoes and coats on, time is a non-event. I've known Martha wash her hands for fifteen minutes. This entailed fourteen minutes thirty seconds of analysing the taps and rocking back and forward on the porcelain, to test if she could bring the sink off the wall, and so she could experience her weight dropping through her arms. Then the final thirty seconds was washing her hands. She doesn't dry them on a towel. She uses me. A shirt tail, a jeaned leg or her favourite, my face.
It's easier to forgive Ben because he is two. However, he is showing the same signs. The "can you bring me your coat?" question is a regular one now that is met with either supersonic speed because we're headed to nursery or the park, or the speed of a deceased sloth. This is usually because Ben has found the fridge. He'll spend a good ten minutes taking things out and putting them back before deciding on whether he wants cheese or milk. At least he puts them back now. There was a time that I would retrieve the milk from a variety of milk unfriendly environments.
The inevitable result of these two states is incentivised time-keeping. I've mentioned the late mark of calamity. However, if Martha is dressed and ready to go on time, an episode of 'Ben and Holly' is on the cards. We've yet to offer rewards to Ben as he doesn't quite understand the premise. One TV dinner led to nearly a week of tantrums when it was not repeated.
I'm pinning all this poor time-keeping on my children. Cath and I are equally to blame for being crap with time. The buck must mainly stop with us. We're the ones who give them breakfast, we're the ones who should have packed any school bags or laid out a school uniform. If we've not delivered on our side of bargain, it's fair enough that they're late. It's certainly not their fault.
The nighttime routine is the most confusing passage of time in the universe. Surely, it's easy once they're in their pyjamas, teeth brushed and ready for a story or song. It has to be the time to just see it through and get some time to yourself!? No, no. For here is the hole of doom where the essence of time is sucked out of the world never to be seen again. Historians will question what happened between the hours of 5:30pm and 7:00pm. A new daily dark age where no records were kept. Those videos, pictures and FaceTime calls that made it to the record are sullied by wailing and nude running by either or both of the children. For those 90 minutes are the weirdest minutes of any day. If you blink, they're gone. If you stop, you'll fall asleep. If you try something new, it goes wrong, it's now 9pm and they're both still awake.
Worse still, in between those two time points, my guard is down. The right question from Martha or grunt from Ben will mean an extra story, a longer song, another glass of milk, or Iggle sodding Piggle.
My questions are thus. When will I regain the ability to judge time? When will I develop the strength to maintain control in the later afternoon? Why does my daughter persist on explaining her dreams before they've happened? Why does my son require cheese before bed?
There are no answers. They've been lost in the daily dark age. One day, I'll be able to be late because I made it so. One day, I'll have a lie in that doesn't include having my head impacted by two children.
One day, I'll miss this. But it is not this day!