They aren't perfect though - not by a long chalk. No1 child broke the rule about not taking valuables to school last week. The doghouse means over a week without his DS, which may be even more unbearable for his mother than for him. No2 child sulks and stomps whenever she doesn't get her own way (which means, of course, that she often does get her own way as her mother can't bear the moody tantrums).
This weekend we've had family friends visiting, adding another three children to the mix. They are also fantastic children! Despite that, we spent much of the time moaning about their behaviour, their apparent disrespect, their speed of eating (s l o w . . .), and battling with the seemingly incessant wailing, the high-pitched screams, the general noise-level, the boys emptying their room into the girls, fights, disputes and the cries of "I'm bored!" despite dawn-to-dusk parental attention (x4).
Parenting is an on-going trauma. Each stage appears worse than the next... until you reach that stage, when you would really prefer to be back where you were before. And I have a good relationship with both my children (which is why it hurts so much when they do something inexplicable or wrong). Others have much more difficulty even relating to their offspring, struggling with behaviour patterns that are incomprehensible. For them every day is a battle to get through. "Why," my friend asked despairingly, "why do we do it?"
And our daughters walked past, arm in arm, giggling away, before picking up armfuls of autumn leaves, running up behind the boys and throwing the leaves over their heads, before collapsing with laughter.
And that's why we do it.