One moment they’re helpless little scraps of humanity, requiring constant attention, feeding every 20 minutes and a carefully-applied wipe to their extremities. The next, they are… oh, actually nothing much changes as children get older.
Now with the summer holidays in full swing, I’ve found that the kitchen cupboards are regularly cleared out as if a party of termites have set up residence beside the cereal packets.
No longer can I carefully monitor food consumption through the apportionment of packed lunches.
Nor can I be assured that the house will be empty of children for six or seven hours a day.
No, I have no choice but to allow full access to the entire home, including kitchen, to three growing humans.
Not only that, but I am out of the house for several hours each day when I am at work. Their working-from-home father is too busy engrossed in his computer to notice the ransacking of the kitchen. Either that or he is complicit in the crime.
Yet despite this, there are some obvious differences between the children as babies and as they are now.
For a start, they’re quite capable of wiping their own bottoms. And, at least one of them is well-versed in the art of tea-making.
My favourite difference, though, is that they are less needy when it comes to birthday parties.
Two of my children have summer birthdays, so we have just completed our annual stint of celebratory cakes and reduced bank accounts.
But thankfully my son was happy to visit the cinema with one friend to see a film that his two sisters had little or no interest in seeing – saving one child and one teen cinema ticket (about a fifth of our weekly shopping bill).
He then preferred to come home to eat, again, a much cheaper option than a meal for three at a restaurant at Gunwharf. All were happy.
My older daughter, who has just turned 14, was the easiest yet.
She invited a group of friends round to watch a film on DVD (Amazon, £6.99) and I provided some quick and easy food.
They amused themselves and my input was categorically not required. This turned out to be ‘the best party ever’, apparently.
At no point at either of these parties was I required to hire a bouncy castle, coerce an entertainer to perform in my house or, joy of all joys, provide a party bag.
I didn’t have to wear a rictus smile for two whole hours whilst I pretended to like all the small children in my house, leaving sticky fingerprints and refusing to say ‘thank you’ when I passed them the Cheesy Wotsits.
I wasn’t expected to instigate a round of pass-the-parcel which I had stayed up half the night preparing, making sure that every layer had a prize to avoid howling and long-term depression for the children who failed to win the magical crayons wrapped in the inner sanctum of old issues of The Guardian.
No, my children may have stomachs like bottomless pits, but at least they are old enough to enjoy a birthday party which requires me to sit back and let them get on with it.