The irritating thing about kids is that I can’t always control them. And that means that it may not actually be possible to consistently maintain a presentation that 1) my kids obey me 2) my kids love each other 3) my kids eat well 4) four kids? — why, it’s a breeze!

Of course, all four of the above are true. But at times they’re not. And it’s particularly tragic for a mother’s ego when all four standards slip at the same time — and while someone is visiting.

Jenny stopped by the house today, bringing lamingtons to win over the affection of all in the household. (That’s actually a word that my girls don’t know. They must be the only pre-schoolers in Australia who don’t know what a lamington is!)

Jenny and I used to work together. Well, we never actually worked together, but we worked for the same organisation and became friends that way. It’s been a lovely friendship, one of mutual edification and acceptance. Jenny’s son is almost thirteen (!), and I first met him when he was three. So she’s an old friend (old as in long-lasting, not old-aged — you know what I mean!).

Delaney, 3 months old, + Jenny, April 2010
I had a fantastic time catching up with Jenny.

And while Jenny and I were sitting together, maintaining the civilised practice of first drinking tea, then sharing a gourmet lunch and the (very modern) practice of looking at photos on her phone, my children decided to break down all my carefully-constructed happy-family artifices based on the four pillars of motherhood listed above.

First Calista engaged in some vicious hair-pulling, removing Brioni’s hair-clip and then twisting her fingers into B’s hair until she had accomplished something a macramé expert would be proud of. Brioni does not take this quietly, and although she does not retaliate physically, listening to her wailing is somewhat similar to being waterboarded.

While I prepared a fancy little lunch for my guest, the girls refused to eat nicely, loudly declaring it “yucky” and verbally dissecting the bits until they had identified the couscous, sultanas, feta, mackerel and sun-dried tomatoes. (Sound yum? Yes, it was, but my children did not think so.)

So the girls hated lunch, and could not be cajoled into eating it. And when I set a time goal for their completion (which they missed), the consequences were that they didn’t get to try one of the lovely lamingtons! And then Calista used her handy skills with the splendid new no-spill cup to actually fill her high-chair tray with water. Ugh.

Aisha melted down at the prospect of missing out on the lamingtons, flailing her legs around as she burst into tears, and Brioni just put her head down and may have actually fallen asleep instead of eating. Calista resented being put down for a siesta and protested very vocally, and Aisha insisted she didn’t need a rest.

And while all this was happening, Delaney, my perfect, little sleep-by-the-clock baby moaned and wailed and generally wouldn’t settle. So I was getting her up, putting her down again, picking her up, trying to burp her, and cuddling her to stop the crying, my praises of her routine (“yes, she sleeps though the night” and “oh, she’s on four four-hourly feeds”) sounded hollow to even my ears!

Thankfully, I know Jenny’s not one to judge me. She’s a single mother and has come victorious through circumstances in which I don’t think I’d cope. It was so fun to catch up, I hope my children haven’t scared her away forever!