I’ve called a family meeting. It's Sunday, approaching lunchtime. All three boys are sitting on the sofa in front of me.
“Right,” I say. “So, why do you think I’ve called this meeting?”
There’s silence. Youngest has a massive smile on his face. I don’t think he understands the severity of the situation.
“Because you’re really annoyed with us!” he beams.
Okay. He does.
“Well, yes,” I say, “but would anyone like to elaborate? Can anyone tell me what’s wrong?”
“We’re selfish and rude and unhelpful?” says Middle One, helpfully.
“Exactly,” I say. “Daddy is working really hard at the moment, on this new contract, he’s really tired. Do you think it’s fair that he should wash up every night while you three go and sit in the living room to watch the Simpsons?”
“You should do it,” says Youngest.
“Yeah, it’s your job,” says Eldest.
I resist the urge to lose my temper. It won’t help.
“I cook it.” I say, “and I’m usually putting Youngest to bed at that point, and I’m trying to work too. We need you guys to help out more.”
Then I correct this.
“We need you guys to help out.”
All three boys nod, sagely.
“I’ll go and clear up the breakfast things now!” says Youngest.
“Yes, that would be great,” I say, “but after we’ve had this little chat.
I turn to Eldest.
“What do you think has been wrong with your behaviour lately?”
“I don’t do much to help out?"
“And he’s rude as well!” Youngest chips in.
“Yes, thank you,” I say, “but can we just talk about your own behaviour, not about your brother's, please?”
“..and I’m sometimes a bit rude as well?” says Eldest.
“Yes.” I say. "Anything else?”
“Um…” He thinks for a minute. “My school work?”
“Yes.” I say, “that’s right. Daddy and I think you could be working harder…”
“In the upper 4th, I did two hours prep every night at your age,” says Husband.
We all turn to look at him.
“Yes,” I say, turning back, “and you need to work on your organisational skills, epecially with this Duke of Edinburgh thing at the moment, the camping trip…”
“That is just so badly organised! The teacher is rubbish!” says Eldest.
“Well, all your friends seem to know what’s going on.” I say.
“There was meant to be a meeting!” he says, “and it never even took place!”
“It did take place,” I say. “I rang the teacher.”
“It didn’t! I looked all over the school! And I wish you wouldn’t contact my teachers. It’s so embarrassing. Will you please stop ringing and emailing them…”
“If I didn’t ring them and email them I wouldn’t know what was going on.” I say. “Apparently there was a meeting, in the dining hall, the usual place. Everyone else in your camping group was there, and by the way, that was when they announced we could hire the equipment rather than buying it all, but it’s too late now. I spent £69 on Amazon.”
“Yes! Exactly! It’s just all so badly organised!” protests Eldest.
“No, it isn’t.” I say. “You are badly organised…you must stop blaming everyone else, you are never going to improve until you acknowledge there’s a problem. With you.”
“There isn’t a problem.”
“There is.” Husband and I chorus.
“Okay! Okay!” He surrenders. “I’m not very organised… and I’m sorry I broke the glass in your office window, I was only closing it...”
“You don’t know your own strength,” I sigh.
“...and I’m sorry we woke you up at 3.30 this morning.”
“Yes, well,” I say, “I said you could have that sleepover for your birthday on condition no one woke us up. We’re shattered, and that didn’t help”
I turn to the Middle One.
“And what about you?”
“Homework?” he says.
“Actually,” I say, “I think you’re okay at getting on with your homework but you have been rather rude recently, and not very helpful.”
“I offered to wash the car!”
“You offered to wash the car for money. That’s not the same. I think you should be helping out for free and you should keep your own room tidy and hang up your clothes when I ask you and not crash around the house all the time, just walk.
I turn to Youngest, who is still grinning.
“And what about you?”
“I should be less cryey and shouty all the time!” He suggests cheerfully.
“Yes.” I say. “Good. Daddy and I have found you very difficult this week. It’s been awful. You are always in a bad mood and shouting and moaning and crying about everything.”
“That’s because I have sleep problems. I’m tired.” says Youngest.
“Yes, I know” I say. “I don’t know what we can do about that, we put you to bed at a reasonable time. I want you to try to be calmer, and to do what Daddy and I ask you straight away. When we ask you to get in the shower, or get up in the morning, I want you to do it.”
“Right!’ says Youngest.
“Well, I think that’s it,” I say. “Anything you would like to add, Daddy?”
“I don’t think so,” says Husband. “I think you just said it all, very well.”
“Okay,” I say. “Let’s all go and clear up the breakfast things together.”
So we do.
Later, when I’m putting Eldest’s clean shirts away in his room, I find three dirty ones on the floor by his bed that he forgot, and when I go into Middle One’s room, to hang up his jumper, I find all the clean shirts I gave him earlier lying on the floor of his wardrobe. And at approximately 9.35 pm, an hour after Youngest went up to bed, as I finally treat myself to a sit down, he silently appears in the living room door way.
And after I take him back upstairs - all three flights of them - and lie next to him in the dark of his bedroom, stroking his hair and face and drinking in his lovely little boy smell (he still has it), he whispers -
“That was fun. Can we have a family meeting every week!”