London - Can you buy real people on eBay, my six-year-old asks? It’s his millionth bizarre question of the day. When I tell him impatiently that, no, you cannot buy “real people” online, even in these days of rampant consumerism, he seems unreasonably disappointed.
Who does he want to buy I wonder, or, more worryingly sell?
He leaps up and down excitedly and then jumps over the back of the sofa, deliberately landing on his elder siblings’ board game. Predictably, the two girls are outraged and a kerfuffle on the carpet is inevitable.
The watching toddler delightedly shouts her favourite new phrase “Stop it! Stop it!” and pulls down her brother’s pyjama bottoms as the eldest two try to drag him out of the room.
It’s like witnessing a badly choreographed panto.
You can’t blame the foursome for their unruly behaviour (on this occasion). They are stir crazy. Cabin fever has set in after two weeks of relentless rain over the festive holidays.
We haven’t even been able to visit the grandparents, as both sets have gone down with the norovirus and are themselves housebound — their only respite is to phone us with regular gory updates on their bodily functions in the manner of Jim from The Royle Family.
The dog is so desperate to go out for longer than ten minutes he would volunteer to come to the supermarket with me if he could talk.
We go to visit friends with children and it is clear that all of us have been brought to the end of our parenting tether by the downpour outside.
We’ve now played all the board games in the cupboard, the highlight of one marathon, two-hour session being our friends’ five-year-old’s response to the question: “Fairy-tale character, woken up by the kiss from a prince after a 100-year sleep”.
“Jesus,” he replied with confidence.
And we’ve also watched all the DVDs. Twice.
Now, after such prolonged and intense exposure to our children we’ve realised that although we love them deeply (and would, indeed, do anything to make them happy) we don’t always like them (blimey, I think I said that out loud).
I’m bored of shouting, “Don’t sit so close to the TV”, “turn it down”, and banishing them to their rooms for the escalating squabbles.
After they’ve gone to bed one night we ponder the confusing emotions of parenting, as we try to remove the fake tattoos we’re all covered in (a Christmas present to the eldest, which killed 20 minutes before tea).
The thing is, I want to love my children whatever they do, I want to be able to patiently and maturely shape them into adorable, happy human beings accepted by all the world. I vote for nurture over nature.
But two weeks stuck inside with them has meant I’ve witnessed a variety of misdemeanours which I rather wish I hadn’t seen. It’s not that they aren’t nice little people, because all kids are lovely at heart, it’s that they sometimes do things that aren’t nice. Things that momentarily make you question the way you’ve brought them up.
“And they don’t seem to appreciate us,” I conclude as we sit at the kitchen table together, having spent half an hour arguing with the eldest over how late they can stay up and listening to the middle one explain how she’s going to invent “fake teeth” which you put over your real teeth when you eat sugary food so you don’t have to clean your real teeth before bed.
“Of course they don’t appreciate us,” says Mr Candy wisely. “They are children.”
“You’ve got to just take the moments,” my friend Peter says. “Enjoy the amazing bits of parenting and ignore the trying bits.”
And, of course, there were some amazing times last year.
We started 2012 with a small baby, a five-year-old, a seven-year-old and nine-year-old.
Now in 2013 we have a ten-year-old pre-teen who is no longer a child, but a young girl; a six-year-old boy who can finally swim and whose new-found boisterous nature has at last taken over from his feminine alter-ego (you remember Princess Argentina don’t you, and the nighties?); a nearly nine-year-old who is almost as tall as me and can no longer be referred to as Gracie-in-the-middle because the baby isn’t a baby any more; and Mabel, who will be two in May.
I wonder what exciting new frontiers in parenthood 2013 will bring us? - Daily Mail