“I’m being naughty in the kitchen mummy!” Midnight shouts.
He is torturing me. He knows I can’t come. I have been on hold to HMRC for 25 minutes but if I step out of the dining room I will lose reception and get cut off. I can hear ice cubes skidding across the kitchen floor as I wait to see if I have any gaps in my National Insurance contributions.
I find myself wondering if a hole in my pension is worth the cost of a packet of half thawed chicken Kievs.
When my call has finished the kitchen is quiet except for my husband who is washing up. This is not an unusual event but I do consider how he has managed to miss the food raiding activity.
There are little puddles on the floor where the ice cubes have perished, and a trail of peas leading out of the kitchen and upstairs. I open the freezer gingerly and an ice cream tub falls onto my foot.
My husband jumps. “You gave me a fright.”
I hop about a bit and put the ice cream back and shove a bag of peas closed. Nothing else seems to be missing. I open the fridge.
I am met with a trail of devastation. Midnight has taken several bites out of three apples and then balanced them precariously on top of a few regurgitated mushrooms.
The eggs are out of reach but he has managed to eat half a box of grapes leaving the skeleton of their buds quivering in the plastic container. There is humus smeared across one shelf and some cherry tomatoes have been released from their bag and have collected in a huddle in a puddle of milk.
I notice a chunk of cheese with teeth marks.
“He’s been at the cheese too,” I say exasperated.
My husband looks a little sheepish.
“You’ve been at the cheese.”
“No no…” He seems keen to scrub the roasting tin.
“This is why he doesn’t eat his dinner.”
“And why our food bills are so high,” says my husband grumpily.
“I don’t think we can blame a four year old for the Tories…”
“But he must be the only one in the country who is wasting food.”
“He never goes for the tofu.” I observe.
“No one goes for the tofu,” says my husband.
I look at the tofu sitting there neatly in its square packet, all healthy and smug. Your time will come, I think quietly.
Milk appears at the door. “Mayhem is crying about dinosaurs and Midnight is spitting food over my lego police station.” He sounds as if he has given up on ever saying a normal sentence again.
I stomp upstairs picking up detritus on the way.
I find Mayhem sobbing under his covers. “I was reading about dinosaurs and I got a paper cut and it’s the worst day EVER.”
I find it hard to see what is wrong with his thumb but I know I am on thin ice. If I don’t pay enough attention to the invisible injury, Mayhem will say I don’t care about him at all and that I love the other two more than him. He’s the middle one. He carries this baton fiercely.
Midnight catches wind of the situation. “Mayhem’s a baby,” he squeals gleefully.
And that’s when I notice Midnight is eating a red pepper as if it’s an apple, and the little white seeds are spilling into the lego box.
I wonder if anyone has invented a machine to remove pepper seeds from a box of Lego. Surely this isn’t just happening to us? Surely it is happening in millions of houses across the country at exactly this moment. Google suggests otherwise.
That night as I slide into bed my husband shrieks and kicks the covers off as if he is trying to escape.
“There’s something in the bed!”
“I’m a person. Not a something.” I sigh.
He fumbles around and then I hear a rare chuckle as he reveals three ice packs Midnight has stashed under the duvet.