It was my birthday yesterday and while the presses didn’t stop, my children were at least reminded to sing the hit tune written for the day, ‘Happy Birthday’. They sung it and sung it and sung it until it became painful to hear it again.

They loudly whispered their great plan to surprise me in bed from the kitchen all the way up the stairs and were still discussing it as they laid out my breakfast tray.

“I’ll sing Happy Birthday first and then you can sing it”

The presents came out and a fight quickly ensued between myself and the children over who would open them. I won. The baby helped by eating the wrapping paper. Of course children are cunning creatures and while I was happily opening my gifts they set to on the breakfast tray. I thought I had tea and toast. I thought I had orange juice. All that was left for me was tea, left because it was just too hot. Looking at my children, their cheeks covered in crumbs and filled with my toast I thought it time to get up and ready for the day.

Turns out birthdays aren’t what they used to be. They used to be lazy, indulgent days spent straightening my hair with the iron (before straighteners) and wondering which top to wear. Now they are just another day. Another day to put the washing on, another day to shout at my kids, squeeze my kids and squirt my vanish gun around various stained items in the house.

This year it landed on a Sunday which is a work day in our house. My husband had to leave for church and so it was down to me to organise the three children and dress, if I had time.

Thankfully baby was happy to play in her cot while I jumped in the shower. It didn’t take long for the boy to come in and ask to join me. Already clean and dressed I suggested he go play with his tractors. It wasn’t long after that interruption that the big girl came in to inform me that the boy had used her face as a road for his tractors. Screaming his name through the steam he popped his face in to be reprimanded for his actions. They both left heads hung low and I shut the shower doors. It can’t have been a full minute until another incident had happened that needed to be urgently reported.

I was reminded of a book I used to read as a child called, ‘Five minutes peace’ by Jill Murphy. It was a wonderful story of a family of elephants. A mother elephant who had three elephant children. The story tells of the mother elephant wanting five minutes peace away from the incessant noise, complaints and questions from her children.

I used to read this book laughing at the things the children would do to their mother, getting in the bath with her and even finishing her tea and toast that she’d made for her breakfast. Oh how I laughed at the – clearly made up – story of this elephant family. For a kick off elephants don’t live in houses nor to they walk on their back legs. Surely the rest of it was made up to? Oh to have my naive mind back. A mind if innocence and glee at having my tea and toast stolen.

I was reminded of this book on the CBeebies channel’s ‘bedtime hour’ slot. I sat the children down to listen to the wonderful, heartwarming tale of a family of elephants. I listened again to the words, the story of a mother who just wanted five minutes peace. My eyes started to fill with tears. I couldn’t listen to the horror anymore.

“Why did they get in the bath with her?” I cried. “Why couldn’t they just leave her alone for five minutes??”

By the end of the book, as the author read the last line, I had left the children sitting on the sofa and I was hunched up in front of the tv like I was watching a thriller; ‘Off she went downstairs where she had 3 minutes and 45 seconds of peace before they all came to join her”

“Oh thank goodness for that” I hadn’t realised I had been holding my breath.

The book I used to enjoy as a child has now become a cautionary tale to all whom give life to children. You never get any peace.

You’ll be glad to know the husband heard my cries and took me away for the night for my birthday and once I’d given the babysitters the kitchen sink and endless lists of things to do and not to do for each of them we drove off into the sunset.

Upon my return home every item in my household clamoured for attention, the cooker needs cleaning, the floor needs mopping, the clothes need washing, the grass needs mowing. It was the bottle of gin in the fridge that shouted the loudest followed by the sofa, wanting a safe landing of my bottom. So I obliged with gratitude, once my three little elephants were safely tucked into bed. Peace….until morning.

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