“Come in here,” Tracey whispered to me when I arrived home from one particularly exhausting solo expedition to the grandparents. She was indicating the bedroom.

Alright! I thought to myself, all tiredness swept aside in a rush of adrenaline.

“Kids! Watch the telly! Or play your DS! Or iPod!” Or play with matches! Or sniff paint! “Mum and I are going to have a nap and we don’t want to be disturbed for five whole minutes.” I tried to run some quick mental arithmetic before all the blood abandoned my skull. “Maybe four. It’s been a few days since I’ve had a nice nap.”

You know how sometimes when you get started on something like cleaning house and suddenly you have energy? Me either, but clearly this was the little miracle working it’s magic on Tracey.

In anticipation of the truckload of new toys coming into the house at Christmas, Tracey has been doing her best imitation of a ‘dose of salts’ and purging of the kids’ rooms.

Every crappy, broken or unused bit of toy is being relegated to either a garbage bag or a plastic box. The plastic boxes end up in the shed where they hibernate until someone small squeals because they can’t find their favourite Barbie lampshade or the kids need fresh stimulation on a rainy afternoon (or so I can play online). If they go long enough without being missed or called back to active duty, then they’re off to Vinnies.

Unending draws, pulling out boxes and foraging behind beds for last year’s must have Barbie or action figure may sound like Tracey’s drawn the short straw, I know, but I’m undertaking the toughest role – I’m keeping the kids out of her way.

And by ‘out of her way’ I mean ‘out of the house’ because it isn’t enough to have the kids sit in the living room watching telly – the moment they catch a hint of Mum tossing out a toy, that’s the moment hell seems like a nice, relaxing summer resort in which to spend eternity.

Mine was a thankless job, or at least I thought it was up until now.

“Lock the door,” Tracey said in a low voice.

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” I grinned as I skipped into the bedroom.

“Look at this!” said Tracey as I flicked the latch and turned to face her.

Sadly, she hadn’t stripped off her clothes but instead was indicating a huge pile of toys which beep and make noises. Or, at least, which used to. These days they don’t do much of anything except lie around unused, not getting played with. Yes, well it’s been that sort of week.

“Next year,” said Tracey, oblivious to the fact we were on different wavelengths, “we’re not buying toys for Christmas.”

“That’ll be fun,” I said. “You get to tell them.”

“Look at all these toys they don’t use!”

“You can’t be cross at the kids because they don’t play with some of this stuff.” I picked up a plastic toy computer we’d bought back in 2010. “They just need batteries,” I said.

“Exactly!” exclaimed Tracey triumphantly. “Next year, instead of toys,Santa can give the kids batteries.”

With the blood begrudgingly making it’s way back up to my head I did some more math. If we were to put new batteries in all those toys we couldn’t afford to buy presents as well. We were going to need hundreds. Plus full Kevlar body armour if we had a hope of surviving the mutiny which was sure to come in the aftermath of our kids reaching into their Christmas stockings and discovering a few packs of AAA’s apiece.

“I’m not saying your plan doesn’t have genuine merit,” I said to Tracey, “but lets hold off on cancelling Christmas until after I’ve died of natural causes.”

Anyway, the point of this is you know how sometimes when you get started on something like cleaning house and suddenly you have energy? Yeah, well turns out neither does Tracey.

Damn it.

Raising a family on little more than laughs

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